Asian actors on Asian Representation in Hollywood
by Ana Walia | Mon, 13 Dec 2021 22:22:48 GMT
Image Source: Rawpixel, Character Media, New York Film Academy,, Vulture

According to studies conducted, Asian Americans are usually either stereotyped or poorly represented on-screen, which eventually gives out the wrong message to the entire world by a community. Recently, it was reported that the Geena Davis Institute had analyzed about 100 of the top 100 grossing movies in the United States from 2010 to 2019 and 124 movies from studios and streaming services from 2017 to 2020, and the results showed that the movies that included female characters that were Asian and Pacific Islander were verbally and visually objectified compared to the female characters of other races.

One of the most famous and successful Asian stars, Sandra Oh, who became a household name after she starred as Cristina Yang in ABC’s "Grey’s Anatomy," has spoken up about how Asians are represented on-screen and how they should be given more credit for their work compared to what they currently receive. Sandra Oh went on to star in Killing Eve, post her Grey’s stint, and for her performance in Killing Eve, she was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama and became the first Asian actress to be nominated for a lead role.

Sandra Oh is the first Asian actress in 39 years to win the Golden Globe award for Best Lead. Image Source: VOX 

Sandra, in her Vanity Fair interview, said, "That's where I'm at." I can talk about the things that didn't come my way that I think should come my way, but it's just like—it's a fuckin' waste of time. " In her interview with Vulture, Sandra Oh shared that what breaks her is the revelations of internalized racism, and because of that, when the role of lead in Killing Eve was offered to her, she couldn’t understand that she was offered the lead role. She said, "I think about that moment a lot. Just going, how deep have I internalized this? After so many years of being seen [a certain way], it, deeply, deeply affects us. It's like, how does racism define your work? Oh my goodness, I didn't even assume when being offered something that I would be one of the central storytellers. Why? This is me talking, right? After being told to see things a certain way for decades, you realize, "Oh my god! They brainwashed me! ' I was brainwashed! So that was a revelation to me. "

Ross Butler rose to fame with his character Zach Dempsey in "Thirteen Reasons Why". Image Source:

Ross Butler, who rose to fame with his character Zach Dempsey in "Thirteen Reasons Why" and soon became a heartthrob, shared that when he had started acting, his agents would often send him on auditions for roles like "the geek", "the techie" or something that the industry had already stereotyped for Asian community actors. The actor shared, "It’s supposed to be kind of like a compliment: ‘Oh, you’re Asian, so you must be good at everything [academic].’ But it’s setting a lot of the Asian community up for failure, and it’s attributing our successes to genetics. I work just as hard to play the piano as everybody else — it’s not natural, it’s because I put the time in. That’s the battle I am fighting. For Asian or ethnic people [to play roles] not specifically written for people who are Asian. Having [more Asian representation] behind the camera is what we need to make broader changes."

Simu Liu, who is breaking barriers for the Asian community by starring as Marvel’s first Asian superhero, "Shang-Chi," mentioned to PEOPLE that he believes that as a community, the collective step would be to step into the spotlight and be unapologetic and unafraid of one’s greatness, and that is exactly what he is trying to do. He recently appeared at the 19th Unforgettable Gala, where the actor won the award for Breakout in Film Award. The award honors a rising talent who has impacted an audience around the world. The Unforgettable Gala is hosted to recognize and honor Asian and Pacific Islanders for their contributions to the arts, entertainment, and culture. While accepting the award, Simu Liu said, "I think I've been asked a million times over whether I feel like representing my community ever feels heavy, or like a burden, as if being a part of this community is something I can just turn on and off like a light switch. So to set the record straight — no, I'm not tired of being Asian. "

Being recognized by his own community is so important and a feeling like no other: Simu Liu. Image Source: PEOPLE

While appearing on the red carpet, Simu Liu said, "Crazy Rich Asians have just come out, and so it's a full-circle moment for me in a lot of ways now to be surrounded by the peers that I know and love, and I could spend forever just on this red carpet, shaking hands and hugging people and catching up. But it's just tremendously gratifying. Being recognized by his own community is so important and a feeling like no other. "

Actress Lana Condor, who rose to fame with her role as Lara Jean Covey in "To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before" opposite Noah Centineo, shared that when she read the script of the movie for the first time, she instantly knew that it was something out of the box, and she wanted to get the part. After the first part of the trilogy came out, Lana mentioned that for her the greatest blessing was the fact that the Asian community felt represented aptly, and people came up to her and said that watching the movie made them feel seen and not alone. Lana added, "I'm very calculated about the projects I take on now. I want to continue to show people who look like me that they can do whatever they want to, regardless of what someone might have told them. "

Lana Condor feels secure and happy that her work made the Asian community feel represented. Image Source: Allure 

Author Nancy Wang Yeun mentioned in her study, "Despite the greater visibility of Asians in popular consciousness in popular culture, they are still not just quantitatively underrepresented, but they are qualitatively tokenized, isolated, and stereotyped, unfortunately, and they're still not as complex as they could be."

It is pretty evident that representing a community on the big screen means a lot to the people of that specific community, and they feel seen and not alone. Hollywood is constantly trying to make changes, and 2021 saw a shift in the process as Asian directors Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland and Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite won the major awards at the Oscars. Yuh-Jung-Youn also won the award for best-supporting actress for "Minari". Chloe Zhao's dedication landed her a role in Marvel's "Eternals."

The Asian community strongly feels that their representation on the big screen is as important as any other character so that the audience can relate to and understand different cultures and communities because representation matters. Children and young adults who are heavily influenced by the media would start respecting and owning up to their culture, which is important.