Thursday, June 23, 2016

TGIF FEATURE: Constance Wu - Outspoken, thoughtful, articulate, unafraid, true to herself

The opinionated actress Constance Wu is not afraid to speak her mind.
CONSTANCE WU is fast becoming the No. 1 choice for interviews regarding the need for more diversity -- especially for Asian/Americans -- in the entertainment industry.

Perhaps it is because she is one of the most visible Asian/Americans with her role as Jessica Huang in the successful sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, or more likely, it is because she is unafraid to speak her mind and tackle head on the bias ingrained into the industry's decision makers. 

"Let's talk about some race shit!" she says at the beginning of an interview by Vulture's E. Allen Jung. 

Wu is "the actor Asian America has been waiting for: funny, bold,analytical, and outspoken about Asian-American representation in Hollywood," writes Jung.

Read her first two responses to Jung's questions:
How do you feel about the end of the second season of the Fresh Off the Boat? I feel good about the second season. We straddled the line of having the show be influenced by Chinese things, but not having it always be about being Chinese. Because that is essentially how we work. Yes, I have issues that have to do with growing up Asian-American. But there are other things, like doing my taxes or whether or not I should go here for vacation or what my Halloween costume is going to be. Regular human experiences, which for the most part have been only allowed to be white experiences. You're either Asian-Asian or you're white American. The in-between has not been explored very much. 
How do you consider the trope of the tiger mom in relation to your character? That's something I never thought about until I had this part. So bless this for making me think about what it must be like to have a kid you are responsible for, especially if you came to a country and people gave you shit for your accent or decorum, and it felt bad, and you don't want your kids to feel that bad. Also, you kind of want to say "Fuck you!" to the haters who gave you shit. How do you do that? By saying "Well, you know what? My kid got a 1600 on his SATs, and he's better than yours." That's your way of showing up all the haters. So that's how you open up the stereotype into a person. I almost think it's impossible not to have a stereotype, except in white culture we call them "archetypes," right? It's true!
Good stuff, right? Read the entire Vulture interview

In a David Yi article with Mashable, the outspoken 34-year-old Wu said:
"For some reason, Hollywood thinks marginalizing or teasing Asians is acceptable because we do okay. There’s been a culture of invisibility and I think some people think that we don’t have the right to seek representation or to file complaint because many of us “do okay” in the socio-economic aspect. But that’s only valid if you think that true happiness is defined by a bank account and a social status."
Mashable interviewed eight Asian/American actors/performers. Besides Wu, the group included: comedian Margaret Cho, Ken Jeong of Dr. Ken, director John Chu, actor Waris Ahluwalia, rapper and actress Awkwafina, Crazy Ex-Girlfirend's Vincent Rodriguez III, and DKNY designer Dao-Yi Chow. 

Mainstream media also has learned that Wu is good for some interesting quotes. In a Time Magazine interview last year, Wu confronts the question of using an accent for her portrayal of Jessica Huang in FOtB:
"If there were jokes written about the accent, then that would certainly be harmful. But there aren’t jokes written about it. It’s not even talked about. It’s just a fact of life: immigrants have accents. Making the choice to have that is a way of not watering down the character and making it politically correct. It’s choosing authenticity over safety, and I think that’s bold."
Wu, among others, was interviewed by the august New York Times in an article titled "Asian-American actors fighting for visibility.
“An Asian person who is competing against white people, for an audience of white people, has to train for that opportunity like it’s the Olympics,” Ms. Wu said. “An incredibly talented Asian actor might be considered for a leading role maybe once or twice in a lifetime. That’s a highly pressured situation.”
With Fresh Off the Boat renewed for a third season and the viral #StarringConstanceWu, the female counterpart to #StarringJohnCho, both questioning Hollywood's bias against Asian/American actors in lead roles, Wu is sure to be the subject of more interviews.

If her career continues its upward trend, could she be the voice the AAPI needs to turn around the mindsets of Hollywood producers and casting agents to be more inclusive when making their creative decisions? 

Wu's name was at the top of the list of The Hollywood Reporter's dream cast for the upcoming film adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians. Wu has a good chance of being nominated for an Emmy as Best Actress in A Comedy Series this year amid some stiff competition. If she was to win, her stock and influence would skyrocket.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Earlier versions of this post incorrectly said that Constance Wu was nominated for an Emmy in 2015.
Whatever the future holds, she most certainly won't be afraid to rock the boat. “I'd rather lose all my stuff than lose myself,” Wu tells Vulture, “because I've done that before, and that feels way worse.”