Rise of Asian Actors in Hollywood

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You open Netflix and you see choices such as Bridgerton, Never Have I Ever, Wish Dragon, Crazy Rich Asians, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and more—all showshows that display authentic experiences through a multicultural lens.

It’s about time the Academy Awards recognized South Asian and Asian American talent. For decades, Hollywood has lacked the acknowledgment of Asian Americans in film and the media.

Karen Leong, an Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies and Asian Pacific American Studies at the School of Social Transformation agreed, stating,  “Asian Americans often are seen as Asian. They’re not understood as being American, and that contributes to this perception that Americans would not be able to identify with Asian Americans — and that’s the assumption by those who invest in films.” 

The movie Crazy Rich Asians was a huge hit in 2018, breaking box office records with a global total of $236 million, and became a well-known romantic comedy. Hollywood has been known for Asian Americans playing stereotypical characters. Crazy Rich Asians introduced Asians as authentic individuals that were relatable and beyond the predictable examples shown in mainstream films.

Actor Priyanka Chopra has been vocal about representation in Hollywood. Starting her rise in Quantico with Hollywood, she began getting roles in many Hollywood movies, such as Baywatch, Isn’t It Romantic, and The Matrix: Resurrection .Chopra said in an interview with Hindustan News Hub that, “I have been working in Hollywood for almost 10 years and now I am finally doing what I wanted to do. It takes a lot of effort to educate the world about the talent and identity that South Asian actors have.”

Many others have followed a similar notion, including more South Indian-led shows being produced. No more playing roles to satisfy the white audience. The Academy’s Asian members have formed a unified identity.

Mindy Kaling’s show, Never Have I Ever, welcomes  newcomer actor Maitreyi Ramakrishnan who has stolen the hearts of Netflix’s audience. In a Q&A with Elle, Mindy Kaling said, “When a story like that resonates all over the world, in Bulgaria and Ukraine and Brazil, it’s life-affirming. We underestimate audiences. They want to hear about other people outside of their own life, as long as the stories feel honest.”

On March 23th, Priyanka Chopra alongside Mindy Kaling and Kumail Nanjiani hosted a pre-Oscar event to celebrate South Asian Excellence in movies. The event was sponsored by UTA, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, Johnnie Walker, South Asian Arts Resiliency Fund of the India Center, and the Juggernaut. Some of the guests included Elizabeth Mirzaei, Joseph Patel, Riz Ahmed, and Aneril Karia

This event marked the beginning of the rise of Asian talent in Hollywood. Never before has an Asian American collective existed on such a large scale. More and more South Asian producers and executives are collaborating to bring forward stories. 

“The more positive role models we have, the more positive news and things that we have, the better that we can see ourselves reflected in society, and then that helps us elevate ourselves to a higher level,” said Jimmy Wong, star of Netflix’s Wish Dragon, in an interview for CNET’s Now What series.

As more actors push through the stereotypical narrative, those  like Maitreyi Ramakrishnan can shine in the otherwise white-dominated world of Hollywood.

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