Simu Liu, Henry Golding and what it means to be Asian in Hollywood
Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu, who played Marvel’s first Asian superhero Shang-Chi last year, inadvertently sparked an online outcry when he revealed he had lost roles in another film bankable: “Crazy Rich Asians”.
Although Liu only expressed disappointment at not getting a role, social media users were quick to use his comments to resurface questions about Malaysian-British actor Henry Golding’s casting as the character. principal – and to debate whether Liu had been considered “too Asian”. “looking for the movie.
“In 2017 or early 2016, there were rumors in the community that there was going to be a ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ movie, and I, being Asian, was very, very excited,” Liu said during from an interview last week on Apple. “How To Fail With Elizabeth Day” podcast series.
But the actor – who was born in Harbin, northeast China, and emigrated to Canada as a child – ultimately lost roles in the Jon M. Chu-directed romantic drama, which starred featured an all-Asian cast and served as a breakthrough moment for Asian representation in Hollywood.
“I distinctly remember asking my agent … what I could have done,” he continued, adding, “And through some sort of broken phone, whether it was through a studio exec or a casting director before he came to our side, we had, ‘Well Simu doesn’t have the X factor, the ‘it’ factor.’ And it was such a crushing blow for me.
“I felt like I had already worked so hard and come so far as an actor…I just felt like someone was telling me I wasn’t good enough. , that I wasn’t likable. I didn’t have that thing that made people want to watch it,” he added. “At the time, it was very difficult for me. I was trying to figure out if I could be the main character or if I could only be a secondary character for my whole career.”
The actor revealed he auditioned for two roles in the 2018 film: Colin, Golding’s character’s best friend, and Michael, Gemma Chan’s character’s husband. And while Liu said Golding had, at the time, already been tapped to play history teacher Nick Young, the son of a hugely wealthy but fiercely traditional Singaporean family, social media users were quick to turn. to Twitter to speculate on why it was overlooked.
The cast of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ attends the film’s premiere on August 7, 2018 in Hollywood, California. Credit: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
The ensuing online debate explored the notion of what it means to look and be Asian, with social media users contributing perspectives from around the world.
“I’m not surprised the studio cast the dude who is only half-Asian to play the main love interest for marketing purposes,” one Twitter user said. Others have speculated that Liu was shunned for failing to meet “Western beauty standards.”
Representatives for Simu Liu, Henry Golding, Jon M. Chu and Warner Bros. did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment. (Warner Bros., like CNN, is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery.)
Asian representation in Hollywood has been extremely limited for decades. But while Chinese, Korean and Japanese actors have seen some increased visibility in TV series and movies in recent years, actors of South Asian descent — like Malaysian-born Golding — are rarely seen on the big screen.
Southeast Asia, one of the most diverse regions in the world, is home to hundreds of ethnic groups spread across 11 countries and speaking thousands of languages and dialects.
“No matter where I am, whether it’s Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Los Angeles or Toronto, I always find myself reliving those moments in my head and they have definitely etched their way into the kind of person I am now,” he told the magazine.
Henry Golding attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. Credit: Arturo Holmes/FilmMagic Inc/Getty Images
Golding’s cultural heritage, including the origins of his handmade tribal tattoos, is a matter of national pride for many Malaysians. So when her “Asianism” was questioned amid debate sparked by Liu’s comments, Malaysian fans rallied to her defense, arguing that her appearance was representative of many multi-ethnic people in Southeast Asia. “Henry Golding was born and raised in Betong, Sarawak,” one tweet read. “Who are you to erase that part of him?”
Others pointed out that Golding looked like men in places like Brunei and Indonesia, or said the argument shouldn’t be pitting one Asian actor against another.
“It’s just one of those things that you have to accept. It’s never going to change, even on the Asian side of the population. It’s grabbing what I believe and what I love about who I am and not really caring about other people’s misconceptions. And so for me, I’m proud to be Asian, I’m proud of my British heritage and I think that’s all you can ask of a person.”
He shared in the book passage that he is now friends with the film’s director Chu and said he “just wasn’t good” for any of the roles. Liu wrote that Chu remembers the comments “very differently,” but the way the post was interpreted would eventually motivate him to “hone my craft and become a better actor.”
“(The film) was a resounding victory for Asian American representation, featuring a perfectly cast ensemble of actors, from the achingly handsome Henry Golding to the supremely vulnerable Constance Wu…and many more,” said he added.
Top Image Caption: Simu Liu attends the 94th Annual Hollywood and Highland Academy Awards on March 27, 2022 in Hollywood, California.