The #StarringConstanceWu social media campaign once envisioned a world in which the “Fresh Off the Boat” star, or any other talented Asian-American thespian, could reasonably expect a lead role in any of the box office smashes usually dominated by White men. Wu will get a chance to do just that when “Crazy Rich Asians” opens in theaters on August 17, and she couldn’t be happier.
“Since I’ve graduated from drama school, I never get to play the lead,” Wu told The Associated Press on Friday (April 27). “The fact that Asian Americans never get to center the narrative means that their parts are always going to be not as whole and fleshed-out.”
“Crazy Rich Asians” features Wu in the lead role of Rachel Chu, a college professor fighting for acceptance from the extremely wealthy family of her boyfreind Nick (Henry Golding in his first feature film). Wu added that the film and director Jon M. Chu (“Now You See Me 2”) showed something rarely seen in major studio movies: the different experiences that Asian Americans and those from Asia have in developing their identities.
“You show that our culture is more than just skin-deep,” Wu said. “You show our similarities and how we’re different.”
Chu elaborated on that aspect in his own comments to The AP. He said that the filming proved cathartic to Asian-American cast and crew members who, unlike some of the stars who were born and raised in Asia, felt deeply underrepresented in their country of birth’s cinema.
“Everyone had gone through the process of what it’s like to be an Asian American in Hollywood or around the world,” Chu noted. “You could see the difference between someone like Michelle Yeoh who literally said, ‘I’m the majority where I’m from, so I don’t understand the plight that you guys are going through.’ It was very shocking for her to see how it affected these young actors and how people would just cry on the set and how happy they were that they got to do this.”
Chu said that he hopes this film, an adaptation of Singaporean author Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel, will make an economic case for more movies with Asian casts.
“I guarantee four new stories of Asian Americans will be greenlit in two weeks if it comes out and does well,” he predicted. “That’s what’s on the line and that’s what I think is still up in the air.”