“Elemental” star Leah Lewis recently revealed why she’s excited to work with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) filmmakers, actors and other creatives.
A thriving Hollywood career: Adopted from a Shanghai orphanage at the age of eight months, the Chinese American actress has made a name for herself in the entertainment industry for her appearances on “The Voice” and “Nancy Drew,” as well as her starring role in “The Half of It.”
In the animated film “Elemental,” Lewis lends her voice to Ember, a fire-type residing in Element City, a world where inhabitants embody fire, water, air and land.
On working with AAPI creatives: As an Asian American growing up in a Caucasian household, Lewis has embarked on a journey of “cultural identity-searching.”
Sharing her enthusiasm for collaborating with AAPI creatives in an interview with CNBC, she emphasized the significance of representation in media and the opportunity to tell stories that have long been unheard.
I am just so jazzed to work with AAPI creatives, directors, writers, actors — anything — because of what it means for representation. Between “The Half of It” and “Elemental,” these projects are actually really quite similar in the way they lead with such honesty and vulnerability. They represent a community that, for so long, hasn’t really been able to speak out to tell their stories. There’s a bit of tenderness that goes on when it comes to telling these stories, because they can be so underrepresented.
On the power of dreaming bigger: Talking about the best career advice she’s ever been given as an Asian American female, Lewis revealed to CNBC she was told to “not be afraid to dream bigger.”
There have been times growing up when I felt, “I could never play that role.” Or, “They’d never make a role for a Chinese girl like me.” But now, it’s happening in real time. So any kind of limits you have on yourself based off of the way you were raised or what you look like — just throw that in the garbage, and dream bigger and take up that space. It’s weird what the power of dreaming bigger can really do for you. The playing field just gets larger and larger, and the opportunities just start to open up more and more, but only if you really believe that you can.
On being “seen”: Lewis similarly touched on the changing landscape of the entertainment industry back in 2021, during a roundtable discussion called “The Revolution Will Be Televised.”
“It’s such a beautiful time to be alive and working right now,” she said then. “One of the biggest things in the feedback that I’ve received was just, ‘I feel seen and I haven’t felt seen in a very long time,’ and that was a repeating comment.”
On “Elemental”‘s universal themes: In a recent interview with NextShark, Lewis emphasized how everyone can draw something from her new film.
“To be able to be part of a project that really highlights all the intricacies, nuances and even difficulties, sometimes, with family… It’s just an honor because I feel so strongly about my family,” she said.