It’s been four days since the nominees were announced for the 2015 Oscars, and the dust has yet to settle on the controversy as it has been observed that every nominated actor in the Lead and Supporting categories — 20 actors in all — is white. As an Asian American actor, I can’t help but notice this as it is yet another reminder how much more work we have to go.
Now, just to be clear, I’m an advocate for the best actor to play the role as well as being painfully aware that casting a white named actor, at times, will be a safer financial bet than hiring an unknown non-white actor (even though I’m still peeved that Scarlett Johansson is playing a rather white sounding woman named Motoko Kusanagi even though it will come to be that the setting will change to NYC and her name will become Mary Kate). Promoting a film for the sake of diversity at the cost of quality is something I will constantly be wary of doing but as an actor who is aware of what is being cast and the roles being written, I am always reminded that how infrequently the leading roles will be given to actors of color.
So there’s of course a lot of angry talk. And venting. And shouting. “Hollywood is so racist!” “Why can’t we ever get a break?” “How can you forget about SELMA?” (SELMA was that one hopeful candidate everybody was putting their diversity card on but since it wasn’t even nominated, it brings into light why that was the ONLY film to even hold that diversity card.) Such questions like these spew out and I get it. I totally do. I would much rather play the complex romantic lead than the nerdy goofy Asian IT sales rep who says 3 lines (with one of them being in Korean). And since awards aren’t given out to those tiny roles before they disappear and are never seen again, it comes off as no surprise when it becomes difficult to select the actors that should even be nominated for these prestigious awards. Also, it is helpful to note that the Oscars voting committee is 94% white and 77% male.
I have my dreams that I wish one day will be fulfilled. For starters, I can’t wait to see when a fellow Asian like myself actually get nominated for Best Actor/Actress for an Oscar and be reminded that it’s actually possible for actors like us to be taken seriously. Yes, Asians have been nominated before and yes, Asians have won the Oscars before but you can seriously count it with two hands total on how many times they have either been nominated or won for the best acting category. And while we’re at it, I would love to see black actors be nominated for roles that doesn’t have them playing a slave or an underprivileged person living in the violent ghettos. Oh and more women directors. And writers. And roles for women where they’re not always playing the object of desire or the pinup figure to compel the male lead to figure out his destiny. Goodness, that is so overplayed.
Okay, going off topic. Whee.
All these questions swirl in my head like a thunderstorm and as much as I would like to shout out my own presumptuous opinion of what needs to be done, all I can really do is focus on myself and what I can do with my own hands. I can train and work my ass off to be the best actor I can be. To always be cognizant that I have what it takes but also know that I can always improve. To constantly network and work with likeminded reasonable individuals who trust in my talent and I in them. To be open to auditioning or even accepting what I deem to be stereotypical roles and put my own spin on how I want the character to be portrayed (and if they don’t like it, I can always turn it down due to creative differences or just bend over and take the role if it pays $1 million and use that to create a webseries about that character and portray him in an alternative light).
And most importantly, to always be hungry and be humble.
If I somehow get an Oscar nomination for the work that I do? Well that’ll be just grand.