Thinkers & Advocates

Constance WU

A TV star calls out the “whitewashing” of Hollywood.

Actor, Fresh Off the Boat

Wu, a Taiwanese-American who grew up in Virginia, has become an outspoken advocate against stereotyping and racism in Hollywood. She plays Taiwanese immigrant mom Jessica Huang in the acclaimed ABC comedy Fresh Off the Boat — the first prime-time sitcom in over two decades that stars an Asian-American family. According to a recent UCLA report, just 3 to 4 percent of scripted television roles go to Asian Americans.

For Wu, authenticity and confidence are the best defenses against stereotypes. “I think that’s something that we should be proud of,” says Wu, “the types of characters who know they don’t speak perfect English, who know they have different customs, who don’t think that that’s any reason for them to not have a voice.” Wu is careful to note “the difference between the Asian experience and the Asian-American experience.” But when it comes to Hollywood, which has increasingly tight ties to China, the two are not easy to separate; the breakout star has called out the makers of U.S.-China film co-production The Great Wall for “whitewashing” — replacing an Asian character with a white actor, a practice that denies jobs, prestige, and representation to Asian-Americans. Janet Yang, a producer at Tang Media Partners who has long been involved in connecting Hollywood with China and Chinese-American communities, told


that Wu “has given us the raw, authentic voice the Asian-American community has needed.”

(Photo credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

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