I got into a discussion with someone the other day about Constance Wu’s acting skills. The consensus was we didn’t think she was that talented. While we debated who would be a suitable substitute for her roles, we couldn’t come up with many other well known Asian American actresses. The person I was speaking with asked why her roles just couldn’t just be filled by an actress from Asia. There were, afterall, so many talented Asian actors to pick from. This comment fired me up.
We are supposed to be celebrating the accomplishments of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders this month, but instead I find myself disappointed by the representation I see. To the unfamiliar, substituting as Asian actor to play a role meant for an Asian American seems to be a simple solution. But it’s not just about representing what someone looks like, it’s about representing who they are.