In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, this edition of Multicultural TV Talk features a panel of three actors from the AAPI community to discuss what performances made them feel represented growing up, the current state of AAPI representation in entertainment and media and what changes need to take place in order for progress to continue in a meaningful and positive way. Joining us for this roundtable are actress, model and advocate Julia Lee; star of the Paramount+ series School Spirits Kristian Ventura, and star of Netflix’s Sweet Tooth Aliza Vellani.
Lee shares that while the needle is moving in the right direction there is still a long way to go, as some Asian roles and Asian-led projects "take the idea of an Asian to the extreme. Why can’t Asians just exist as people and have their own backstory? [Netflix’s highly acclaimed revenge drama] Beef was so well done, every character in that show had a backstory and their own life that was brought forward. If you had put a Hispanic person or white people in those roles, it would have turned out just the same. It’s not because they’re Asian that made that series [work]." Ventura says it wasn’t until last year that he felt more seen and represented when he saw the billboard in Los Angeles for the film Easter Sunday, which starred Filipino comedian Jo Koy, and centered on a Filipino family during the Easter holiday. "I saw this huge billboard of a movie about Filipino people and I thought, 'That’s not real. Oh my God, it is real'!"
"When we say, 'writers need to write the story this way' or 'the director needs to do it this way' it puts so much responsibility on the department to take that burden as opposed to creating a collaborative space where we can find a way to tell stories differently. That's where representation becomes important," Vellani explains. "If you have inclusivity in all departments, all of a sudden you have the opportunity to learn more about the human experience and allow that to inform the characters you put forward in the story. That’s something we should be advocating for; representation not just in front of the camera about behind the camera."
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