‘You’d have the white actors tape up their eyes’: James Hong recalls Hollywood racism

  • With last Friday’s inaugural Celebration of Asian Pacific Cinema & Television fresh in his mind, veteran actor James Hong took the opportunity to look back at how far representation and inclusivity in entertainment have come.
  • The 93-year-old Hollywood veteran, who received the celebration’s Icon Award, recounted his experiences with racism during the beginning of his career.
  • According to Hong, today’s entertainment landscape stands in stark contrast to the one that of his youth, and he is in awe of the multiplicity of pathways available for aspiring Asian creatives.
  • Many younger awardees reflected his sentiment and are glad that their diverse creative voices are finally being recognized and embraced.

With last Friday’s inaugural Celebration of Asian Pacific Cinema & Television fresh in his mind, veteran actor James Hong took the opportunity to look back at how far representation and inclusivity in entertainment have come. 

The 93-year-old Hollywood veteran, who received the celebration’s Icon Award, recounted his experiences with racism during the beginning of his decades-long acting career.

“I started in 1953, so at that time, the industry didn’t take us seriously. They just said, ‘Oh, Asians are not qualified to be the top actors,’” Hong told Variety. “You’d have the white actors tape up their eyes.”

According to Hong, today’s entertainment landscape stands in stark contrast to that of his youth, and he is in awe of the multiplicity of pathways young Asian creatives can take.

“And now look where we are. We’re in Hollywood, and there’s people receiving Academy Awards — and even ‘Squid Game,’” said Hong. “So there’s a lot of avenues we can take now.”

Many younger awardees reflected his sentiment and expressed that they were glad that their diverse creative voices are finally being recognized and embraced.

“I think it’s incredible that the Critics Choice Association is putting this on. But there’s also a part of me that’s like, I wish we had this 20 years ago. I wish we had this 40 years ago,” said Frank Chi, recipient of the Documentary Short Award for the film “38 at the Garden.” “There’s been so much incredible talent for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that has not been highlighted throughout Hollywood’s history, and now that we’re finally doing it, it feels like we’re a part of the culture.”

“I definitely didn’t see a lot of Hawaiian, Pacific Islander representation on screen [growing up],” said Auli’i Cravalho, recipient of the Rising Star (Film) Award for “Crush,” while discussing her experience co-starring with Dwayne Johnson for 2016’s “Moana.” “To be able to meet that Goliath of a man — both literally and figuratively — I think brought out the best in me knowing that I could bring my heritage and the aloha spirit to these carpets and events, and to the workplace.”

Here is a full list of the awardees from the inaugural Celebration of Asian Pacific Cinema and Television:

Icon Award: James Hong

Trailblazer Award: Karyn Kusama

Director (Film): Park Chan-wook (MUBI’s “Decision to Leave”)

Director (Television): Hwang Dong-hyuk (Netflix’s “Squid Game”)

Animated Film Award: Domee Shi (Disney and Pixar’s “Turning Red”)

Showrunner: Soo Hugh (Apple TV+’s “Pachinko”)

Social Justice Award: David Siev (IFC Films’ “Bad Axe”)

Actor (Film): John Cho (Prime Video’s “Don’t Make Me Go”)

Actor (Television): Nick Mohammed (Apple TV’s “Ted Lasso”)

Actress (Television): Zoë Chao (Apple TV+’s “The Afterparty”)

Breakthrough Actor (Film): Joel Kim Booster (Searchlight’s “Fire Island”)

Breakthrough Actress (Film): Li Jun Li (Paramount’s “Babylon”)

Breakthrough Actress (Television): Élodie Yung (Fox/Warner Bros. Television’s “The Cleaning Lady”)

Ensemble Award (Television): Cast of Disney Plus’ “Ms. Marvel”

Rising Star (Film), presented by IMDbPro: Auli’i Cravalho (Hulu’s “Crush”)

Rising Star (Television), presented by IMDbPro: Park Eun-bin (Netflix’s “Extraordinary Attorney Woo”)

Documentary Short Award: Frank Chi

Comedy Award: Hasan Minhaj

 

Featured Image via YouTube

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