Fala Chen says she is only offered Chinese-speaking character roles since ‘Shang-Chi’ success

  • Following her role as Ying Li in Marvel’s 2021 hit “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Chinese American actor Fala Chen, 40, revealed she is still being typecast by being offered roles for Asian characters who can only speak Chinese.
  • “After Shang-Chi, we're getting more calls about me playing an Asian character who speaks only Chinese," Chen told AsiaOne on Tuesday. “I feel like I personally, as a human being, have a lot more to give. So it does feel like we're constantly fighting against that."
  • Before appearing in “Shang-Chi,” Chen was already an established star in Hong Kong television, most notably known for her roles in series such as “Steps” (2007) and “Triumph in the Skies II” (2013).
  • On being typecast, Chen told AsiaOne that she “would always have this feeling, like 'Why did they cast me in this particular role?’” She also mentioned that she “has been made to feel like a token Chinese or Asian before.”
  • “It does feel like there's still a limit to a lot of people's imagination [on] what an actor is capable of beyond the color of their skin,” Chen was quoted as saying.

After starring in Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Chinese American actor Fala Chen shared that she is still being typecast for potential movies and TV series.

Responding to reporters’ questions on Tuesday for the HBO limited series “Irma Vep,” Chen, 40, revealed that following her role as Ying Li in “Shang-Chi,” she has been offered roles for Asian characters who can only speak Chinese.

After Shang-Chi, we’re getting more calls about me playing an Asian character who speaks only Chinese,” Chen told AsiaOne. “I feel like I personally, as a human being, have a lot more to give. So it does feel like we’re constantly fighting against that.”

Before appearing in the 2021 Marvel hit, which features a predominantly Asian cast, Chen was already an established star in Hong Kong television, most notably known for her roles in series such as “Steps” (2007) and “Triumph in the Skies II” (2013).

Towards the end of my time doing TV shows in Hong Kong, I was hitting a bottleneck and I just knew I had to do something about it,” Chen told Harper’s Bazaar in September 2021. “I worked so hard for so long, filming literally 20 hours a day nonstop for several months. It was so tough — it really broke me psychologically.”

Chen left Hong Kong in 2014 and moved to the United States to study at The Juilliard School, where she earned her master of fine arts degree.

In “Shang-Chi,” Chen plays the titular character’s mother, Ying Li, who guards the mythical land of Ta Lo and later falls in love with Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung). In “Irma Vep,” Chen plays Cynthia Keng, a Hong Kong star handpicked by René Vidal (Vincent Macaigne) to appear alongside Mira (Alicia Vikander) in “Les Vampires,” the film within the show.

On being typecast, Chen told AsiaOne that she “would always have this feeling, like ‘Why did they cast me in this particular role?’” She also mentioned that she “has been made to feel like a token Chinese or Asian before.”

It does feel like there’s still a limit to a lot of people’s imagination [on] what an actor is capable of beyond the color of their skin,” Chen noted.

Recalling her massive fame back in Hong Kong, Chen said that what she went through there was “extremely costly,” explaining that she had to give up her privacy and name in the process.

With all of that aside, Chen will still continue acting, noting that she is “confident in [her] work]” even after transitioning from Hong Kong television to Hollywood.

I don’t feel like I need validation to prove myself,” Chen was quoted as saying. “But I think I’m ambitious and greedy – I am always looking for the next level, the next challenge and the next big project that interests me.”

 

Featured Image via HBO

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