Awkwafina is here to shake things up. By "here" I mean Hollywood, and by "things" I mean preconceived notions of Asian-American actors, female comedians, and millennials who get famous off of YouTube. That's a lot of stereotypes to break through — and she's doing it all. She also just so happens to be extremely smart, driven, thirsty (in a good way), and part of an A-list cast for 2018's sure-to-be hit, Ocean's Eight.
She's a triple threat, and then some.
With her résumé building and personal growing (she recently premiered her 5th season of her own talk show, Tawk, with Astronauts Wanted), Awkwafina gave an insightful interview to Paper Magazine where she talks about how she avoids Asian casting stereotypes, and what it was like to be part of a feature film alongside of Sarah Paulson and Anne Hathaway (to name a few).
Awkwafina (whose real name is Nora Lum) is a native New Yorker, so filming the spinoff Ocean's film in the city felt like not only home, but also a dream. "I feel like I've had a lot of experiences in my life and Ocean's Eight was the coolest," the 28-year-old told the magazine. "Basically it was a dream come true. It was a dream. They took a chance on me." The movie, for those unacquainted, is a comedy stacked with eight female leads. On that topic, she said "Women can be funny. We can do the same thing. I think for Ocean's I can't imagine anyone not wanting to see that movie, I mean just the cast."
But when Awkwafina isn't involved in blockbusters, she is fighting to be part of a more inclusive Hollywood — one that doesn't require her to do Asian accents or play a fake Asian character. "Right now with the Internet culture, they call YouTube 'Asian Hollywood' because 10 years ago Asians weren't in movies or commercials, but I think Hollywood will feel the backlash now if it's not inclusive." She adds: "I want to be hired for being myself. I turned down roles that I felt were making a mockery of the Asian stereotype. I've walked out of auditions that have asked for accents. That I feel is racist."
Her comments on not being interested in falling into a mold to portray an Asian person brings to mind the recent Twitter blast from actor Kal Penn where he shared pictures of the most racist and stereotypical roles he was offered in his early acting years. From whitewashing to "Asian accents" there is a long way to go, as Penn remarks in a follow-up interview to his tweets. But influential entertainers, like Awkwafina and Aziz Ansari, are using their voice and prominence to show that not only are racist parts cliché and inaccurate — now they are going to say no to them, and just go out and write their own. That's the 2017 way to combat lazy, racist roles: be a triple threat and finally tell the diverse and inclusive stories not otherwise getting told.