The 2018 rom-com Crazy Rich Asians defied all expectations, wowing critics and earning tons of cash. As a result, many predicted that it would alter the Hollywood landscape. But did it? The answer is emphatically yes, and here’s how it happened.
British-Asian actress Gemma Chan plays the Singaporean socialite Astrid in Crazy Rich Asians. While growing up in the United Kingdom, Chan had limited chances to prove herself. She told Vogue in 2018,
"When I left drama school, I was told by the voice teacher, 'Be prepared that you are going to really struggle, most of the output from the UK is period drama and you won't get a look-in.' And for the first few years that really was the case. I didn't even get a chance to audition."
Chan eventually landed a role on the critically acclaimed British sci-fi series Humans, which proved to be her launching pad to Hollywood. In 2019, she appeared alongside Brie Larson in the MCU movie Captain Marvel, but Crazy Rich Asians was a far more pivotal moment for her, and for Asian actors in general. She told Deadline,
"I'm really happy that things seem to be shifting, and it feels like it's not just a trend; it feels like we're here to stay … I think all that anyone wants is equal opportunity and a seat at the table, and I feel that we're finally getting to that point. There's still work to be done. But yeah, I just feel really, very proud, very grateful to be part of this change."
For years and years, the parts typically offered to Asian actors have been largely stereotypical. As Fresh Off the Boat star Randall Park has noted,
"The roles weren't super offensive. But when you look back and realize how many doctors you play, you think, okay, that's how they see us."
But thanks to Crazy Rich Asians, that may very well be changing, especially the way Asian men are depicted on-screen. After all, the leading man in Crazy Rich Asians, played by Henry Golding, is a history professor, but he's not your typical Asian intellectual. Keep watching the video to see how Crazy Rich Asians changed Hollywood, and you didn't notice!
"A seat at the table" | 0:14
Representing sexy Asian men | 1:14
Opening new doors | 2:14
Reducing bias | 3:20
Making producers take notice | 4:20
Moving the bar | 5:05
A blueprint for the Asian rom-com | 5:54
Dispelling stereotypes | 6:48
Creating new stars | 7:54
An excess of Asian-centric projects | 8:46