Due to Hollywood’s rampant whitewashing, it often gets us cheering whenever an Asian actor gets cast in any movie or television series.
However, the recent casting of Kelsey Asbille (also Kelsey Chow) on the Paramount Network TV show “Yellowstone” has caused more backlash than celebration as she was tapped to portray a Native American woman, another group which lacks representation in the world’s biggest entertainment scene.
According to Deadline, Asbille will play “the Native American wife of (main protagonist) John Dutton’s son Cory whom she lives with on the reservation with their son.”
The 25-year-old actress, who has played roles in other TV shows such as “One Tree Hill”, “Teen Wolf” and “Embeds”, is known to be half-white/half-Taiwanese, although she was recently revealed to be of Eastern Band Cherokee descent as well, according to the New York Times.
When Asbille’s role was announced in July, Native American actor Adam Beach (of “Suicide Squad”) immediately expressed his disappointment, calling it a “Failure in Diversity”. In an Instagram post, he called upon his fellow Natives to boycott the project:
“I’m asking my Native Actors to stay away from this project. “Yellowstone” is telling the world that there are no Native actresses capable of leading a TV show. Unless your great-great-great grandparents are Cherokee.”
While Beach’s post was written in July, it has regained attention in the Native American community following the recent Ed Skrein whitewashing controversy. In the initial casting for the upcoming Hellboy film reboot, the British actor was tapped to play the Japanese American character of Major Ben Daimio. He has since decided to withdraw from the project.
Many have pointed out that Yellowstone’s casting, while not exactly “whitewashing”, contributes to Hollywood’s erasure of communities of color. The Native community in the entertainment scene has struggled not only with stereotyped casting, but also from being eliminated from it entirely.
Asbille’s Native ancestry is also questioned as her actual connection to the community stays unconfirmed.
“As an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, it is a common thing that we hear people claiming ancestry of our tribe,” a commenter on Beach’s post wrote. “We often hear that someone’s great great grandma was a princess, or their grandma has long black hair and high cheek bones, or they were adopted, the list goes on! It’s tiring!! The elders will tell you that if you are Cherokee “tsslagi” you know your family history. She’s from South Carolina so I’m surprised she’s not claiming her local tribal affiliation however since everyone claims Cherokee she might as well jump on the band wagon.”
“Funny they pretend to be us till you have to be us. Everyone’s “part” Native in this country but they can’t name their clans,” another netizen chimed in.
The 10-episode first season of “Yellowstone” is slated to go into production this fall and premiere in summer of 2018.