Actor Hong Chau says in a new interview that she does not really know who she is now, as her “whole career” has been “about struggle.”
Chau, 43, has appeared in several projects throughout her career, from TV shows like “BoJack Horseman” and “Homecoming” to movies like “Inherent Vice” and the 2022 films “The Menu” and “The Whale,” the latter of which landed her an Academy Award nod for Best Supporting Actress.
While many actors would feel a rush of emotions after such recognition, Chau told The Independent her views on accolades changed after her experience in the 2017 Matt Damon-led film “Downsizing.”
In “Downsizing,” Chau plays a disabled Vietnamese political activist who is shrunk against her will and later falls in love with Damon’s character. Chau recalled to The Independent how people kept telling her that she would surely get an Oscar nomination for her role in the film, but the reality was far from what she had expected.
“Downsizing” received slightly average reviews when it premiered in theaters on Dec. 22, 2017 — IMDB users rated the Alexander Payne-directed movie a 5.8, while the film received a 48% Tomatometer and 23% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes
“And, of course, it didn’t happen,” she told The Independent. “I said to myself, ‘I don’t ever want to go through this again.’ So now, when people ask how it feels to be nominated, it’s strange. I really feel nothing. If I can be completely honest, it’s more like, ‘Oh dear.'”
While some critics described the character as “a hate crime” and an “icky, racist caricature,” Chau, who is Vietnamese American, defended the character, which she believed was groundbreaking.
It was the first time we’d ever seen a person with an accent – who was from a very working-class background and who didn’t have a college education – be the female lead of a big studio movie. I just wished that whatever people’s little qualms were about the film or my performance, that they could have acknowledged that a little bit more.
Commenting on the backlash she received for her portrayal of Ngoc Lan, Chau called the strong reactions “off base” and said that the comments came from “people who were not of [Ngoc Lan’s] background – including Asian people.”
I felt like the people who were really harping on the accent and her place within society… [came] from a more privileged background. Nobody went and asked what the ladies who work at the nail salon [thought about it], or the people who worked in the kitchens of all of these restaurants. Any time you’re getting an opinion about Asian Americans, it’s usually coming from a very wealthy, educated Asian person who has a very different background from what I grew up with.