Aloha once again has thrown in everyone’s face the issue of whitewashing. Let’s start by acknowledging that the problem rests with the people in power who make films and control decisions about the process including casting. It’s no secret this select group of people is mostly older white men who live in a much different world than that of today. It’s not the public demanding whitewashing or refusing to pay money for films if minorities are put in leading or supporting roles, apparently it’s just what these people in power think. The invasion is coming, the question is when and maybe it’s already underway.
While the world is rapidly becoming a diverse colorful world to be celebrated, conservative Hollywood is slow to catch-up to reality. Whitewashing will slowly decline but there are forces pushing the changes to happen faster. This younger generation is proving that the business of making money in Hollywood depends on diversity to reach the largest market possible. Asians on Film has as its primary focus Asian American talent, but there are also Asian non-Americans who are part of the changes in Hollywood. This is a few of those exceptionally talented industry professionals:
MacKenyu may have his roots planted firmly in Japan, but he was born in Los Angeles and graduated from Beverly Hills High School. As a teenager his acting was in demand, but school came first and his roles were few. High school graduation was the floodgate. At age 18 he is already an award winning actor with two feature films, a TV movie, a leading role in two TV mini-series, The Kindergarten Detective and Yume wo ataeru, two leading roles in American films Tadaima and Take a Chance and a lead role it the huge Japanese anime live action film, Kamen Ride Drive: Surprise Future as Kamen Rider Drive. He is the whole package with standout acting performances and his fame in Japan is only the stepping stone to his homecoming in LA to conquer Hollywood, not a rising star, a shooting star.
Simonas Pham is a name Hollywood doesn’t know, yet. Born in Lithuania to a Vietnamese father and Lithuanian mother, the camera was destined love him. He was discovered as a model at age 19 at a fashion week casting in Lithuania and his freckles, unique looks and camera presence landed him a spot as “Model of the Week” on models.com a month after debuting in New York. He has been all around the world since. Studying acting in New york and Los Angeles along with his perfect English has allowed him to target Hollywood and here he comes.
French Chinese actor Frédéric Siuen was born in Paris and his acting talent landed him at the prestigious Cours Florent drama school in Paris. His final two years were in “Classe libre” that only has a 2% acceptance rate. After graduating, he was accepted into the Conservatoire national superior d’art dramatique, the oldest acting school in continental Europe where only 15 actors and 15 actresses are accepted each year. This award winning young actor, is gaining recognition across Europe, and has significant roles in film and TV under his belt. Landing in Hollywood for the first time in March 2015, he has already gotten Hollywood’s attention.
Masa Yamaguchi was born in London, spent his younger years growing up in Tokyo and after attending Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Arts and graduating in 2001 became an Aussie whose acting talent and skills as a stuntman propelled him into the limelight in such films as Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and supporting roles in The Railway Man with Colin Firth and The Wolverine in the iconic bullet train scene fighting Hugh Jackman, both in 2013. Landing in Hollywood along Michelle Yeoh in Strike Back in 2015, Masa doesn’t have to come calling; Hollywood is already knocking on his door…loudly.
Fiona Li is a graduate of USC School of Cinematic Arts with an MFA in Producing. She represents another side of the Hollywood film industry, the movers and shakers behind the camera and with the backing of the greatest film school in the world, USC. What first caught the attention of the media was her phenomenal talent as a production designer that landed her in the upper echelons when Drone won an Academy Award nomination, a film that included her work. Her other films include Perfume, A Taste In the Afternoon, Christmas Night, Love Is Blind, No Fish On the First Try, A Mistake, Kite, Happy Birthday, and Beautiful Ending. You have to come up for air after reading the list of accomplishments in such a short period of time, and while the beauty of her films are captivating, it is her work as a producer that is taking her to new heights in Hollywood, a place she will be firmly planted and in a position that makes her an agent of change for diversity in Hollywood.