Celeste Wong has a supporting role in the film My Wedding and Other Secrets and we asked her about the film and her acting career.
My Wedding and Other Secrets will be screened at the San Diego Asian Film Festival on Oct. 22nd @ 12:30PM & Oct. 26th @ 4:00PM. For more information visit the website: SDAFF
#1. Tell us about your background as an actress and your experience working in the British film industry.
I come from a small town and a reasonably traditional Chinese family so becoming an actress was not a possibility I considered. I always wanted to be a singer or an artist, but I wasn’t allowed to – I had to study stuff like accounting and economics! When I finished my studies I sort of got into acting unexpectedly! I moved to a new country and my dreams started coming back to me. I started doing all sorts of workshops and classes, mainly at a local theatre company and at The Film Space. Then I started getting roles in short films, small parts in features and roles in TV programs. While I’ve not had any ‘formal’ training in terms of a prestigious acting school, I’ve done a lot learning from the jobs I get, reading and acting classes. I’m now in London where I have been able to do some workshops and classes at The Actors Temple and The Actors Centre. My career is just starting, but I’ve been able to do commercials, modeling, small parts in independent feature films and short films.
#2. You are the first Asian actor from the UK that we have interviewed! Do Asian actors there face the same obstacles as those in the American film industry, i.e., trying to break out of stereotypical roles and landing lead roles in film and TV?
Yes definitely! It’s just as hard if not harder here, as we’re even less represented in the media than in the US. I think the US is much more accepting of Asians, in general and especially in entertainment. It is very stereotyped here and reasonably difficult to break out of that mold. But it is slowly progressing. There are a lot of mixed race roles but the industry is very also very strict in regards to wanting ethnicly pure actors too. For example, many times I’ve been asked if I’m “full chinese” – am I sure?…ah yes. I’m used to it and find it funny now when asked and almost pre-empt the question. Oh and for the record, in the UK we’re classed as “oriental”!
Having said that, there are a couple of British/Asian actors who are starting to get higher profile work which is inspiring to see and there are some projects that are more specifically based around Asian stories so that is encouraging. But for the moment I feel we are still very much the token roles.
#3. “My Wedding and Other Secrets” was filmed in New Zealand, so how did you become involved in the film? Tell us about your character in the film.
Director Roseanne Liang heard of me through talented Director Toa Fraser. Rosanne contacted my agent and I auditioned. It was a really interesting process especially because I had to send tapes back and do numerous live video feed auditions. The time difference too was confusing and took a bit to co-ordinate. But we got there, and I’m pleased we did that, because it now makes auditioning for roles overseas much more possible.
In the film I play the lead characters sister, Melanie, who represents the “perfect” Chinese daughter. A good, straight-A student with a good Chinese boyfriend to boot! She has a very positive, sweet, sunny disposition with a can-do attitude and is her father’s favorite. My character does everything in an easy winning way so that you can’t really hold it against her, well at least I hope you don’t! She comes with her own experiences, but is just one of those people who accepts who she is and gets on with it! She was fun to play.
#4. Do you have plans work in Hollywood or other film industries or are you focused on working in the British film industry right now?
Oh yes, I definitely hope so! Basically I’m working on building up my experience and profile and of course it’s the ultimate dream to work in the US. I’d also love to work in Hong Kong – that’s such a cool city with a fierce film industry. However, I could be anywhere, as long as I’m working on an interesting, fun, creative project with great people and being paid to do so, that’s enough to make me happy!
#5. You are about to start work on a new British film. What can you tell us about the project and your role in the film?
Filming won’t start until early next year, but it’s a great edgy script, with a talented director and a really challenging role. Essentially it’s about empathy and whether that is created through nature or nurture. I play a tough South East Londoner who is stuck looking after a half-Chinese teenager who has borderline Asperger’s syndrome. It’s never really fully disclosed as to what their relationship is; an interesting aspect of the story. Am I her mother? Her sister?… It’s also exciting because the two leads are Asian, one being me! There are also some very wonderful big name English actors who may be making significant appearances in this film! Stay tuned!