Ken Jeong wanted to be in “Crazy Rich Asians” badly, similar to how he now feels about hosting the Oscars.
The blockbuster film, which was recently nominated for both the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards, is the first all-Asian picture to grace Hollywood in 25 years.
“I said, ‘Look, whether I’m in the movie or not, this is literally the most important Asian American movie since ‘The Joy Luck Club.’ I will do whatever you want me to do,’” he told his friend.
The 49-year-old actor’s intuition proved right as “Crazy Rich Asians” — which unapologetically swept the box office for weeks — somewhat changed Hollywood’s perception of Asians and Asian Americans for the better. He described the end result as more than just a movie, but “a movement.”
“Money talks. So when you are doing big business and we’re doing something like ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ that gets a worldwide box-office gross for $230 million, then everybody will want to get in that game.”
Jeong also recalled past experiences of being asked to do archaic Asian accents, which he always refused.
“I was very polite and very calm and I just said, ‘As we’ve said before, you know, I will not do that, but, however, if there’s another Asian American actor who maybe needs this part more than me, give it to them,’” he told Profile.
Needless to say, Jeong was not alone in his attempt to halt the perpetuation of such stereotypes.
“It’s not just me doing that. Every Asian American actor you know with some visibility has had to say that, and I think that’s just getting less with the success of projects like ‘Crazy Rich Asians.’”
“Crazy Rich Asians” is nominated for Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes. Constance Wu is nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical.
The film is also nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the SAG Awards.
Aside from his nominations as part of the cast, Jeong is being floated as a potential host to the upcoming Oscars, earning the endorsement of former host Whoopi Goldberg.