On the 22nd of October, the 25th Anniversary of CAPE, The Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, was celebrated by many Asian-American film and television actors and actresses. On the night they discussed the issue of whitewashing within Hollywood and what they can do to alleviate the casting of white actors in non-white roles.
For many years Hollywood has been putting Asian actors into supporting roles when it comes to casting for film and television. An early example of this was with the casting of Bruce Lee as the sidekick in the original TV show of The Green Hornet. When originally he was going to be cast as the lead they changed their minds because it would not be deemed appropriate to have an Asian actor as the lead. Two more recent examples of whitewashing are Ghost in the Shell with Scarlett Johansson, who was given the lead role originally played by Japanese actors in the manga series. The second was The Great Wall which tells a story around the construction of the Great Wall of China, which they cast Matt Damon as the lead. This proves how this has been an ongoing issue within Hollywood for years now.
A few of the actors believe to achieve diversity for Asian actors they need to start behind the camera. Daniel Dae Kim who has starred in TV shows like Lost and is currently starring in Hawaii Five-O, has started his own production company under CBS studios. He said this for the reason why?
“I just think it’s important for those of us who are in the position to create change to make that change. So many of us as we start out look for leaders in the community to help us and try to get a leg up. Now that I’ve had the experience — almost 20 years in the business — I’m glad I’m in a position where I might be part of that positive step.”
Daniel Dae Kim’s co-star Grace Park in Hawaii Five-O whom has Korean background but is of Canadian and American nationality had this to add:
“What we really need to do is get some of these stories made. You see the regurgitating of the same thing, they’re making the same movies again and again. Instead of going with what’s safe, what we know and what we’re familiar with, people want to see what’s different.”
These are the type of actors whom are actively trying to achieve change within their own background. Through their belief of change, it can only bring hope for others to start doing the same, no matter what race. Maybe we need to start doing the same, actively speaking about diversity within Hollywood.
Wenda Fong one of the co-founders of CAPE has a mission to “educate, connect, and empower people already in the industry but more importantly, the next generation.”
This is one of the purposes the event CAPE tries to achieve, through a connection between the Asian film and TV industry they are able to project their own opinions of equal opportunity when it comes to casting roles. Hopefully this will be achieved for them.
Events like these should be a waking call for Hollywood with how they are treating other races who are trying to succeed within their careers. This concern of diversity has always been an issue when it comes to casting choices. However, if Hollywood is able to connect they will become an industry of all nations and all backgrounds.
What is your opinion on this issue? Do you think Hollywood needs to change?