Elodie Yung on power of storytelling in shaping perspectives on undocumented immigrants in ‘The Cleaning Lady’

Elodie Yung on power of storytelling in shaping perspectives on undocumented immigrants in ‘The Cleaning Lady’
via FOX
Michelle De Pacina
March 8, 2024
The narrative of the Fox drama series “The Cleaning Lady,” focusing on the complex story of an undocumented immigrant in the U.S., has taken on a poignant resonance to the ongoing national dialogue surrounding immigration issues.
In the stakes of Season 3, Cambodian doctor Thony De La Rosa (portrayed Elodie Yung), who came to the U.S. for a medical treatment to save her ailing son, now finds herself in deeper association with a new dangerous drug cartel. The events follow the disappearance of her partner-in-crime Arman (Adan Canto) and the deportation of her Filipino sister-in-law, Fiona (Martha Millan), to the Philippines. Thony takes matters into her own hands to protect her family, including trying to smuggle Fiona back into the U.S.
The show’s spotlight of the struggles of undocumented immigrants coincides with the alarming real-life influx of Asian migrants — particularly Chinese and Indian nationals — illegally crossing the border to the U.S. According to Customs and Border Protection, 21,000 Chinese nationals have been encountered at the southern border near San Diego since the current fiscal year began in October, surpassing the number of Mexican nationals in recent months. 
Like Thony and Fiona in “The Cleaning Lady,” many migrants leave home in search of a better life for their families. 
via FOX
Yung, 43, acknowledges the show’s relevance amid this surge, emphasizing the power of storytelling in shaping public perspectives and noting that watching fiction can foster empathy. By portraying relatable characters and situations, the Cambodian French actress believes the show contributes to ongoing discussions on immigration.
“I think dialogue is the most important thing — it’s to carry on debating and conversing,” Yung tells NextShark. “The way I weigh in [as an actor] is an emotional impact, I believe, and people can then respond maybe less with their opinions, but more with their heart and emotions. I think it’s [important] to empathize and put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. I think that’s what this show offers.”
Yung sees her work as a form of activism, viewing art as a means to heal, open minds and offer different perspectives on real-world challenges.  
“We’re not talking politics, we are talking about a woman with a family who got deported,” Yung shares. “I think if [acting] is done right, if I relate to my character, people are going to relate and then maybe they will feel for someone who is fighting for her kid but doesn’t have access to medical care, or to Fiona’s character who has been deported and taken away from her children.”
via Jeff Neumann/FOX
Since the premiere of “The Cleaning Lady” in 2022, Yung has received positive reviews from the Southeast Asian community, who express gratitude for being represented in the media. 
“It was an eye opener for me,” Yung said. “I feel honored and responsible as well to represent the Cambodian community as much as I’m sure Martha feels the same for the Filipino [community]. Seeing the impact on people makes you realize that, ‘Oh, it was needed. I’m part of this and I need to stand up to it.’”
Yung expresses her strong bond with Filipino Australian co-actor Millan, emphasizing their genuine friendship and mutual support throughout the show’s journey. She highlights the on-screen chemistry, attributing it to their real connection and the family-like atmosphere created on set. Finally, she notes the importance of maintaining a light atmosphere amid the intense storyline, underscoring the need to “press the reset button to keep things real and fresh.”
via Jeff Neumann/FOX
This camaraderie extends with Yung’s other co-actors, including Mexican actor Canto, who died on Jan. 8 at the age of 42 after a battle with appendiceal cancer. While the Season 3 premiere of “The Cleaning Lady” was crafted with the hope of Canto’s return, the narrative had to be adjusted after his death.
“It’s been extremely challenging with more than anything the loss of our friend and colleague, Adan,” Yung admits. “We’ve all on a personal level been impacted by this tragedy. Within the story, at some point, it’s going to be extremely impactful on Thony. Something is going to happen, and it’s going to probably shift her trajectory.” 
via Jeff Neumann/FOX
According to Yung, Thony finds herself alone without Fiona nor Arman this season, forcing her to become even more resourceful. The actress emphasizes the importance of tracking her character’s journey, capturing the shifts and impacts of unexpected events. As production continues for the third season, Yung hopes viewers will embody empathy. 
“Let’s all keep our hearts open,” she says. “We need to carry on with this as people, and let’s put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to feel as this person is feeling it. I think it’s important to have empathy to understand each other better.”
“The Cleaning Lady” is produced by Warner Bros. Television and FOX Entertainment. New episodes air Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox.
 
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