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Episode 43: Asian Discrimination in Hollywood and Beyond with Rowena Chiu Ashley Chiu Angela Yeoh

It’s hard enough trying to make it in the entertainment industry. When you factor in discrimination against non-White actors the obstacles and challenges multiply. In today’s conversation we examine the barriers faced by Asian actors in Hollywood with my former guest, Rowena Chiu and her friends Angela Yeoh and Ashley Chiu who played her in the movie, She Said. From the lack of Asian roles and the phenomenon of White actors being cast as Asians, to decades of highly offensive portrayals and the commonplace dehumanizing of Asian women in entertainmentIt’s a fascinating and and important discussion because, as Rowena points out, these obstacles are a reflection of the wider context of living in a racist world.

Show Notes

https://ashleychiu.com/

Our beautiful theme song is written & performed by Maddie Morris and produced by Pete Ord at Haystack Records.

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Episode Transcirpt - Click to expand

Hi everyone, it’s Miranda coming to you on this last day of May, which is also Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

It’s hard enough trying to make it in the entertainment industry. When you factor in discrimination against non-White actors the obstacles and challenges multiply. In today’s conversation we examine the barriers faced by Asian actors in Hollywood with my former guest, Rowena Chiu and her friends Angela Yeoh and Ashley Chiu who played her in the movie, She Said. It’s a fascinating and and important discussion because, as Rowena points out, the obstacles they face are a reflection of the wider context of living in a racist world.

Rowena tells a story about a well-meaning but uninformed mom at her kids’ school that illustrates the missteps that any of us can and do make at times, however inadvertently. But because our mistakes have real effects, we are responsible for educating ourselves, listening, being thoughtful, owning our mistakes, and doing better.

On a personal note, I was not at my best in this discussion. I was freshly grieving my dog, Scout who you might remember hearing me talk about if you’ve listened to the podcast recently. She was 12 years old and had an enlarged heart but we, perhaps naively expected her to be with us for many more years. Sadly, she collapsed and died less than a week before we recorded this. I was still in a bit of shock and I had a hard time finding words or even concentrating. Our older dog, Charlie was also in his last days and he ended up dying a few days after we recorded. Thankfully, Rowena, Ashley, and Angela were patient with me and helped keep things running smoothly. And thank goodness for editing which allowed me to cut out my deer-in-the-headlight moments.

At the end of our conversation, Rowena addresses the recent overturn of Harvey Weinstein’s conviction in the New York Court of Appeals and, true to form, she makes thoughtful astute observations that are worth waiting for.

Hello and welcome to Truth & Consequences, a podcast about trauma and its aftermath. We talk about what happens, what hurts, and what helps us heal. I’m your host, Miranda Pacchiana. I am a writer and personal coach with a Masters in Social Work and the creator of the website and online platform, The Second Wound.

My guests today are Rowena Chiu, Ashley Chiu & Angela Yeoh. The seed for this conversation began with a suggestion Rowena made last year when she first came on the podcast, to come back and talk, along with Ashley and Angela, about anti-Asian discrimination and sexism in Hollywood.

There is a clear need to call attention to these longstanding issues and examine their implications for Asian Americans in and outside Hollywood, from the lack of Asian roles and the phenomenon of White actors being cast as Asians, to decades of highly offensive portrayals and the commonplace dehumanizing of Asian women in entertainment. All of these elements create deep, lasting effects both personally and culturally. So today, we’re going to talk about it.

Rowena Chiu is a former assistant and assault survivor of Harvey Weinstein. After she contributed anonymously to the New York Times investigation that ignited the #MeToo movement in 2019, Rowena went public with her story in Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey’s book, She Said, which became a major motion picture. Since leaving the film industry, Rowena has worked internationally in management consulting and international development, and she holds multiple advanced degrees.

Ashley Chiu portrayed the role of a young Rowena Chiu in She Said. Ashley is a New York City-based actress, singer, and dancer who believes in the power of storytelling to make the world a better place. She recently made her Broadway debut in Once Upon A One More Time, a new musical empowered by the hits of Britney Spears. Ashley holds a BFA in Drama from NYU Tisch with a Minor in Law & Society. Welcome, Ashley.

Angela Yeoh is an actor who played the more current version of Rowena Chiu in She Said. Angela is also a former journalist interested in highlighting underrepresented stories. She is enjoying being a busy working actor and is perhaps known best for her roles in Silo and The Batman.

Rowena Chiu: Although Ashley and Angela can speak more closely to what is happening currently in media and entertainment, and I very much want to give them the space to do that, um, I was going to remark that discrimination against Asian actors is, of course, something that’s not just confined to Hollywood and the current media space, um, but is very pervasive to other, channels of society and life in general. And so one thing I was going to set a context about is, I’m currently running for public office. And so I’ve gotten quite involved in local politics. And this is a new area to me. And it’s been interesting to me, how the dynamics of Asian voters connect with the voting public in general, and actually the assumptions that people make about Asians and why they vote or why they don’t vote.

And I think that that has its tentacles really in economics, in media, just in general, in terms of our engagement in civic society. And so I sort of see what happens in Hollywood as perhaps a microcosm of generally how Asians are portrayed and what their relationship with civil society is like. Anyway, the subject today is mainly about Asians in Hollywood. And so I’d love to hand the time to both Angela and Ashley, who’ve got very different experiences, of course, in terms of the particular sectors of media that they’re in. And generationally, they may experience a very different experience perception of Asians in media, as I did when I worked in media almost two decades ago. You know, I was thinking that when I worked in film, I worked in the context of the fifth-generation film directors, as in the Asian movies that were big in the imagination at the time when I worked in film were Farewell My Concubine and Raise a Red Lantern.

And at the time I spoke a lot about the fetishization of Asian characters in film, how they didn’t do ordinary things. But what’s fascinating about what is happening with Angela and Ashley currently is they are in a different era of the way Asians are portrayed in media. And now sort of regular people, are portrayed as, you know, there’s, crazy rich Asians and Asian people are portrayed as, admittedly wealthily, but doing ordinary things like driving cars and having cool relationships and cool clothes and going shopping and so on.

And that already is a huge departure from where things were, you know, a couple of decades ago.

Miranda: Yeah, I’d be so interested to hear your experiences, professionally and personally to both of you. So whoever would like to get started.

Ashley Chiu: As a New York-based actress, um, I’ve been in New York for about 10 years. My goal has always been to be on Broadway. And so I did that last year. And as I’m getting ready to get married this year, and we’re looking at a move west, what I’m realizing is, while I am so grateful and, thankful that I had the experience I had on Broadway, I do feel like I’ve hit the bamboo ceiling out here, unfortunately. And I was in a show in which I’m playing in an ensemble of six comedically funny women. And I feel like I have the opportunity to continue to audition for roles that feel semi-lateral to that, like a friend that’s funny. I like to lean into the comedy at least at this point in my life. But I don’t see leading ladies that are Asian. I’m starting to see leading ladies that are African American and a lot of the auditions I’m getting, I will get and I immediately know they’re looking for a person of color, but they’re usually looking for an African American person. So it doesn’t feel like really being considered. It feels often like I am an option. Um, I went in recently for Betty Boop in the fall and I called my agent. I said, I’m pretty sure they’re looking for like an African American jazz singer. They’re trying to right the wrong with the fact that Betty Boop is like based off of African American jazz singers.

Miranda: yeah.

Ashley Chiu: They were really considering me and they were like, they can’t say no, you know, because my agents want me to work and they believe in my talent, but they say a version of like, they can’t find what they’re looking for so you should just go in. And then when you turn around three months later and look at who they actually found and she was amazing and she got amazing reviews. So yes, she’s absolutely, it sounds like the right person for the job, but you wonder how much time as an actor you’ve spent kind of going out for parts that you’re hoping they see you in and maybe they’re not. Um, like I’ve had similar experiences auditioning for film and TV as well, where it feels like they have the Asian option, but again, they’re looking for a different type of like person of color to put in that moment.

And one of them was, they wanted a really thick New York accent. Like really thick. So I’m giving them, you know, guy, who drives a cab, like everything was in all caps, really thick accent. And then I was thinking to myself, I was like, they want like a Latina girl from the Bronx who has a New York accent. Like, Chinese people aren’t walking around on the street just being like, Hey, I’m walking here. Like when you get she image with that sound, it’s not realistic and it’s not what we’ve seen in media because that’s not what happens on the street because Chinese people are not portrayed that way, and I don’t really see Chinese people with an accent in that way.

So there’s a feeling and it’s not really spoken about, um, Because my representatives are not Asian. So I don’t think that they always perceive it. And then of course, a lot of this, industry is psychological. So there’s the illusion that like, you can do these things and you can like move up and you should. And like once in a while it happens. They just announced a Broadway show coming in the fall where Darren Crest, who is Filipino, a little bit Filipino. He’s playing opposite a love story of a Chinese girl, I believe, which is exciting and wonderful. And so these things do happen and I do see potential and then I get auditions and I feel potential, but then sometimes there’s this unspoken, like, I, I’m glad they’re considering me, but I don’t think they’re considering me and I’ll do my best work.

And it, you know, only sharpens my knives as an actor, but, um, There has been a feeling of that now that I’ve been here 10 years and I can sort of see what’s going on? I’ve been in many dance calls where they wanted a non-white person and I was the only Asian person and they were clearly calling back like black and Latina women but they had the option, so I feel that increasingly more as I look towards like principal roles And I’m not just woman number five dancing in the background, like I feel there’s a real intentionality into the choices of what kinds of people of color are being put on stage and screen.

Miranda: Do you ever get the sense that there’s even like an Asian quota that goes with auditions?

Ashley Chiu: Uh, yes, I do. And I’ve gone in for final callbacks and seen all the girls going in for final callbacks. And this role is clearly the African American track. This track is clearly, they want a Caucasian woman and this track is clearly the Asian track. That’s difficult becaus, there aren’t that many Asian women here in the industry in New York City, um, musical theater, I’m saying, and it has made it really difficult for me to have female friendships with Asian women because we are so often up against each other in these types of roles.

And when we get the roles, I’ve never experienced any nastiness. Like these are genuine supporters and friends of mine, but it can be really difficult to be like, Hey, here we are again. And I hope you get it, but I hope I get it. And either of us getting paid is a win, right, for us as a community, but I wish it wasn’t just us sitting here feeling like it’s just us that can do this or, you know, we are confined to having just this option.

Miranda: That makes so much sense, Ashley, and there’s just so many levels of frustration and kind of disadvantage that come with what you’re describing. I don’t know that term, bamboo ceiling, though it makes a lot of sense. What is it, about LA that feels like it will give you more opportunities than New York? I mean, you’ve explained a lot of it, especially because you’re talking about musical theater, but if you want to just expound on that.

Ashley Chiu: Um, in my mind and in my experience, film and TV projects come a lot faster. I think there’s just like more of them. There’s more money behind them. Like I’ve been attached to the show I brought to Broadway and it had been developed for eight years. You know, like an eight-year development process of a show still absolutely does not guarantee that it will run or be like a financial resource for you for very long and that is something I unfortunately experienced and so there’s a way in which I think you get paid a little bit better for film and TV like sometimes it’s less work if you’re doing like a smaller role it can be less days on set but you do get things like residuals and um, I would like to try it.

I don’t know definitively, but I’ve seen the development process of Broadway, and I think you have to have your fangs and so many different things to really make a living doing it and I’m hoping it’s a success. At least a little bit easier financially in the film and TV world.

Miranda: I can just imagine going out on auditions and you put your whole talent and heart into it You spend money, you spend so much time, and then to feel like there’s all these barriers against you in particular, being an Asian American woman, it’s just so, unfair.

Ashley Chiu: It is unfair. I’ve also seen it change. Like even in the 10 years that I’ve been here, I do think there’s more. I do think more is coming. The Crazy Rich Asians is coming to Broadway. There’s a way in which um I’m really grateful to my generation of creators that has really done a lot of work and not just those writing and directing, but I’m sure there are people behind the scenes who have opened their minds or hired more people of color who are opening their minds to telling these stories and putting real money behind them. Um, we’re not talking short film money. We’re talking like millions of dollars for a Broadway show or millions and millions of dollars for a movie so it is exciting. I do see movement and progress, I would like to get a little bit more swept into that progress and be a little bit, more active in like things that I get to work on.

Um, so it’s not for me to just view it as frustrating because as someone inside of it, I actively am like hopeful and trying to be excited about the future. I feel like with theater, it’s really hard because it’s a scarcity mindset. It’s like, you can see the grosses every week and people are sitting there and like, I’m really in the weeds of what goes on here in New York.

So it’s like 12 Broadway shows opened in nine days. Like there will be a bloodbath at the Tony Awards and people who don’t win Tony Awards, their shows will close and there’s only 30 spots, maybe, maximum in each show. A lot of shows are smaller because it’s really I don’t think it’s a super like financially, um, balanced budget.

I think those shows cost a lot of money and you have to fill the seats and it can be really difficult, especially with new work. And that’s another thing is a lot of Asian roles, canonically in theater, have come through work that is like classic in some way. We know Miss Saigon, we know King and I. Broadway faces a particularly unique challenge of having to like sell tickets every day and when there is not known IP and you’re competing against things like back to the future or Jukebox musical with Michael Jackson’s name attached to it, something with brand new, um, storytelling can often be really, really difficult to sell on Broadway, and it doesn’t blow up often the way that a movie can blow up or a Netflix series can blow up, and so I think theater faces a really unique set of challenges in that front.

Miranda: It does feel like there is a bit of a sea change, but I’m so interested to know, what are you still concerned about? How does it fit into kind of the history of, the way that Asian people have been represented.

Ashley Chiu: Well, I think, anytime I get a part, there’s a little bit of a natural filter that has developed as far as like, Is this essential to the story? Do I get to be like a real part of this or is it something that can end up on the cutting room floor? There’s a snippet of Sandra Oh talking about how when she went in for Grey’s Anatomy, she was at a point in her career where she was like, I don’t want to be going in for things that can end up on the cutting room floor. These characters have to be essential to the story. And so I think there’s a way in which there’s an investment from my end as an actor and as a creative person when I feel like this character has been invested in by the writer and is being invested in by the producers.

And then when you get to set, there’s a way in which you want to sort of advocate for your character. That’s really exciting. A way in which you get to play on screen and off screen with other characters and hope that, what you’re portraying is showing some audience member something new about what an Asian person can do or say or feel or experience in this lifetime, right?

Like I have played a lot of victims on camera here in New York City, and I think it’s, a little bit easy to see Asian women as victims and I’m really excited for the day I get to play the detective or the day I get to play the DA, and, these things I think are coming.

And there are people out there like my agency has a woman who’s like very regularly on, you Law and Order and she’s a good detective, and those are so exciting to me and I met someone recently I was playing the victim but I had gone in for the detective and I think I’m just a little bit too young, but she was amazing and I got to spend the whole day with her on set and just hearing her talk about and interact with the crew. Like there’s a mentorship and a sort of being in community that I got to experience with her on set that day. That was so wonderful because there was more than one Asian on set and she’s much more of a veteran actor. So I got to see how she interacts with people and how she’s building these relationships on set in a personal and professional way, because I don’t get that on my own.

I don’t know that I’m, I’m a young actor. And so like that sort of stuff is really exciting to me when I get to like be in community in that way.

Rowena Chiu: I wanted to interject and say I was involved with a movie in Santa Cruz that was entirely crew and cast Asian women, and that was just a phenomenal experience for me. Um, everybody from the people that made the food to ran the cameras and did the sound, but also Asian women, so it wasn’t just women in front of the camera that were entirely a cast of Asian women. However, it was a film about Asian femininity. So, whilst I appreciated being on a set with all Asian American women, I also look forward to a time when Asian Americans can come together in that kind of community and aren’t just restricted to making movies about an identity crisis and about the reason why they don’t come together often.

Miranda, I don’t want to jump into the seat, but I’m hoping that we can also hear from Angela about, how things are, over in the London theatre scene, where I’m going to be later today, actually. I’m getting on a plane to London in three hours.

Miranda: Yeah, let’s give you the floor, Angela.

Angela Yeoh: Sure. It was really great to hear, about the Asian American experience from Ashley. And I don’t know where you’d like me to start, but, I feel like I’ve been really fortunate to land with an agency that’s really been pushing people from all sorts of backgrounds into roles that, you know, it’s written as a white man, why can’t it be a black woman? So yeah, it’s called Identity Agency Group, and there’s also Identity School of Acting, which was started by a founder who sort of had found that, predominantly white British industry was resulting in a lot of less diversity when it came to people who are actually being cast in roles.

So, there’s so much to speak to. Um, acting was never on my radar. I didn’t see people who look like me when I was growing up in Australia. I didn’t see people who look like me on stage or on screen, but I loved theater. I knew that I loved theater and that whether I was on stage or off stage, whether it was full of people, it was empty.

The creative possibilities for telling stories in this space was something that really excited me. Um, and the imagination, that, We are invited to use to, to think about how do we want the world to be a better place or how do we not want the world to be? I, it felt really exciting to me.

And so I guess working as a journalist, telling stories that way for a decade in my 20s, um, I realized that some of the stories I wanted to talk about, which included things around, themes that are important in your podcast, Miranda, about trauma and abuse and just conversations that felt really important that I wanted to have more creative ways to go into.

So I decided to go study theater to give myself more creative storytelling possibilities. Um, and that is a direction that I’d like to go in more because I feel like, just to speak to a few things that Ashley said about the kinds of roles that are possible. I know that at the start of my acting career, and I’ve been doing it a little bit less time than Ashley ‘cause it’s been a second career for me, but I’m very fortunate to land with a fantastic agency who are really fighting my corner.

Um, but most of my initial roles were playing doctors, which is frustrating. In that, that sort of model minority myth, which I know a lot of, both Asian American and British East Asian and Southeast Asian communities are working to, to overturn, but yeah, my show rule at one point was exclusively me playing various doctor roles.

Miranda: That’s limiting. But at the same time, I’m hearing Ashley say That the stereotype that’s persisting is the sort of passive, you know, pretty Asian girl, the victim. And that is something, obviously, we really need to move away from.

Angela Yeoh: Yeah, absolutely. And maybe because I’ve come to acting older, but that’s not a role that has really come up for me in my auditions. I did hear a wonderful interview with Sandra Oh, I can’t remember with which podcast it was, but she was speaking to her experience as a Asian Canadian actor who’s obviously been extremely successful. And she said, you know, first I let you play prostitutes and then doctors and then detectives. And then you get to play the more interesting stuff in her humorous way. And then I thought, yeah, I think I seem to skip the prostitute bits.

I’m on doctors. I’m auditioning for detectives. I got a recall for a detective. I’m, I’m, I’m on the cusp of like succeeding. And then I got an audition to play a prostitute. And it was for a Netflix show, I got a recall for it as well. So I was like, great, and it was really properly translated with the Cantonese and all that things. Anyway, it ended up being not my role to play. And the way I approach a lot of auditions these days is like, am I the right actor for this character to come to life through? And very much the person who got it was the right person. And I guess another thing, I’m auditioning alongside other people and I feel really fortunate that I actually have one, British Vietnamese, actor friend who we often have gone up for similar things and we’ve both been recalled and then, I’ve gone, this is so much more to ends role, or she’s gone, it’s so much more Angela’s role. And we have like often just ended up booking the role, but super happy for each other. And I feel blessed to have that. And I think it’s been particularly since the pandemic though, that British East and Southeast Asian community has gotten so much stronger.

There’s like a British East and Southeast Asian Heritage Month. There are so many community events and activist events and stuff around both healing and taking action and creating projects and celebrating food and culture that I felt so heartened by, which I know didn’t exist, to the extent that it does four or five years ago. So that’s felt really encouraging. And I think more projects will spring from that.

I think in terms of possibilities for Asian actors, where I have found more possibility has been in sci-fi projects. I guess some imagine time in the future when race doesn’t matter anymore. So,

Miranda: How interesting.

Angela Yeoh: Yeah, I’ve worked on an Apple TV series Silo.

Rowena Chiu: We love Silo. We always cheer when you come on Silo.

Miranda: I have to check it out.

Angela Yeoh: I play law enforcement and I also play a law enforcement role in the Batman. Um, and they’re both minor supporting roles. And I know that those roles are needed to create the world. And echoing what Ashley had said I do long for a role where I have more agency and a narrative arc. And maybe that’s something I’m going to have to write myself, but I am encouraged that in sci-fi projects, you do see more diversity.

Miranda: Why do you think that is? Is it because they are more free to reflect a culture that isn’t what is happening right now? I noticed that also about one of my favorite shows, Station Eleven. Even gender is so much more loosely defined, and I just found that so enjoyable and freeing to watch. But, what are your thoughts about that?

Angela Yeoh: Yeah, absolutely. It can just be now that we could just choose for it to be now. I mean, I know it’s harder to do.

Miranda: We reflect and both perpetuate at the same time.

Angela Yeoh: yeah. Whereas in a blank slate of, uh, fictional world we can just create it without having to like move anyone out of the way the, suppose.

Miranda: But we could do that now too. Right?

Angela Yeoh: I do long for that. I really do long for that. And, I will mention my favorite acting job so far was a theater role where it was a two-hander, just two actors, each playing five very different characters. it was a play called Rice by an amazing Asian Australian writer. Yeah. And she wrote it for two global majority female actors to have the chance to play a lot of roles they don’t normally get to play, which includes playing across gender, age, race accents.

And there’s something about that like how do we challenge what we believe this human form can be like my main character and that was to play an older Chinese migrant cleaner, which you could see I can make myself look older and like physically and the voice, but then I also got to play a sleazy white male Australian colleague, because I’m playing all the characters that inhabit the other characters’ world. And the other characters are young Indian Australian executive whose office I clean and it’s a, it’s an odd friendship that struck up between two women who normally wouldn’t become friends and it’s sort of proxy mother-daughter relationship as well.

So I play the sleazy white male Australian colleague who comes onto this I play her American CEO boss, a very high-status male character. I play her hipster Indian Australian boyfriend, so lower status, but like cool. And then also her nemesis, who’s an Indian ministerial advisor, a very manipulative, ministerial advisor.

So, but just going back to what I mentioned about how I love about theater space is calling to people’s imaginations. ‘Cause we need to imagine a better world before we can create it. We need to imagine solutions before we can bring them into being.

So I think that imagination of like, what do you believe this human form can be? And it can be so many more things than you initially think, if you’ve been restricted to a certain way of looking at what does East Asian female of a certain age evoke. So yes, I can be a sleazy, entitled, abusive, narcissistic Australian man, or I can be an intellectual, very powerful CEO who this Chinese cleaner, if she’d had different circumstances, could have been a really powerful CEO, but she didn’t have those life circumstances.

So, hopefully we challenge people’s perceptions of what you believe this human can be. And what do you believe you yourself can be? Because we contain so many different possibilities and we can choose to go more towards the light or more towards the shadow.

But to embrace, to not, disown any of those parts, because sometimes the shadow does show us things. But yeah, I think, my longing is for there to be more projects where we do see a greater range of possibilities, which is why just to mention two projects from last year that just, as soon as I saw them, I was like, this is the best show of the year.

And this is the best film of the year. I don’t need to watch anything else. Of course I did watch other things, but I mean, Beef the show with Steven Yeun and Ali Wong. So much nuance in such an incredible Cast, of different Asian actors. And then, the film that I loved last year was Past Lives, which, was, you know, very, very small cast, but like, so,

Miranda: I loved that film.

Rowena Chiu: Yeah.

Angela Yeoh: to see projects like that happening, which were both driven by Asian creators who went, this is a story that I’m going to bring forward. And both of them were very different in ways that you might go, Oh, who knows whether this will be commercially viable because it doesn’t match anything that we can map as this will be a path to success. But I just feel really inspired by creators who are making things like that. And, yeah.

Rowena Chiu: May I ask a question? You know, the media talk a lot about colorblind casting in the post-Hamilton era, and I know that Ashley alluded to it briefly, um, and in fact I thought that Once Upon a Time One More Time was also colorblind casting in the style of Hamilton. So do you both feel that that hasn’t brought, uh, more mainstream colorblind roles to you, but more mainstream diverse and complex main, race fluid roles to you, um, because it sounds like, that’s both one narrative that colorblind casting means that literally color doesn’t matter, and therefore you can play these more complex, diverse, three dimensional roles, and or you’re still put in a niche, whether that’s doctor, prostitute, or etc.

And both those realities can’t be true, or that we sit between those two realities at the moment. I’m interested to hear both of your comments on that.

Ashley Chiu: I think we sit between. I don’t feel like it’s truly blind. I feel like it’s, um, slated, in my experience. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s slated so specifically that they want an actor of a certain race, but I do think they often have identified which role they are open to, a person of color. But that being said, I do get the opportunity to do juicier roles because it feels less defined racially sometimes.

And when it feels less defined racially, it’s just a person who just has quirks, who just is in a certain situation. And that’s when it feels freeing. When it feels like it’s been written for an Asian person or I feel like in the process of moving towards the role. That the team is really looking for an Asian person.

Like I have questions about like why it has to be an Asian person or why I couldn’t be a different character in this scenario. It gets like a little overcomplicated with me grappling with more than what’s on the page and what is actually my job. And that’s when things can get in the way. Um, but I do think both are true and we’re a little bit in between.

Rowena Chiu: Yeah, hopefully in some areas we are removed away from active discrimination, but then we’ve moved towards active affirmation in the sense that roles are specifically written for you due to your race. And I think the world that you want to get into is, it’s a role regardless of color that shows a diversity and a wider palette of talent and that you can play this role regardless of whether you’re Asian or black or Latino or white. And we rarely are in that sort of idealized space. Um, I wanted to go back to your comments earlier, actually, on the prevalence of roles for black and Latinos versus Asians.

Um, because it’s AAPI Heritage Month, I’ve been in a lot of conversations about how we are the invisible community. So going back again to relating, what happens in Hollywood and the media to what is happening in politics and life in general.

Um, it is true also in, say, political campaigning or political funding that there are specifically schemes to raise historically underrepresented communities into politics, but that somehow the Asian community falls in the gap between the white dominant narrative and the effort to raise historically underrepresented communities.

Because of course, Asians often aren’t seen as historically underrepresented, even though, the Vietnamese, uh, there are certain pockets of Asian identity that are very much historically underrepresented. We tend to be grouped into a homogenous Asian American that’s seen as economically advantaged and passing white.

And so I think that’s really complicated because it gives us this sense of invisibility, you know, that race relations in America has often been centered on, race. That clash between black and white and, that we, as Asian Americans don’t get written into history books or culture society.

We’re not part of this dialogue because we don’t sit comfortably within the sort of black-versus-white dynamic. And so we’re just not seen in that way. We’re not seen in terms of funding. We’re not seen in terms of opportunities. We don’t necessarily have a seat at the table because we’re smaller than the black versus white dialogue. And you see that pattern repeated in many industries, not just in media, in politics, also in C capital funding in here in Silicon Valley, in terms of what kind of C capital is available for black-led Latino-led companies. But Asians are seen as no, no, don’t worry about that.

We’ve got Jerry Yang and many other examples. So Asians can, in fact, look after themselves and they sort of pass white anyway. And I think that that dynamic transcribed is very complicated actually and is very much driving, uh, Asian American race relations at this time.

Angela Yeoh: Yeah. I might add that, yeah, there is so much in what both Ashley and Rowena just said, um, but just to speak to the question that you asking about colorblind casting. I think I’m aware of casting directors often looking more broadly, seeing breakdowns where they want, a non-white actor.

Um, But then also sometimes echoing Ashley that sometimes I’m like, yeah, I feel like they want a black actor here and not me, but also knowing that sometimes not to be discouraged by that. Because sometimes if you do go in and show something, maybe they do realize, oh, actually you are the one that we want.

But, but yeah, there have been times when I have felt a little bit disheartened looking at, I guess the breakdown and the script and then God, I really feel like you’re never, ever going to cast me. Um, or you’ve even written in the script that the parents of this person are blonde. Um, and so am I just being considered to say that you have considered lots of people?

And is my work here going to be a value? And I know sometimes it’s not necessarily about booking a job. It is about exercising the creative muscle and going, I’m just going to. treat this as a job. Auditioning is my job and, who knows what may come from it. Um, so to celebrate those casting directors who are looking broadly, who are genuinely looking more broadly and who are pushing the boundaries.

And then there’s, I guess, there’s another layer of decision-making, which is producers who may or may not believe that someone will work, or they can’t imagine that, someone can play this role, or they’re thinking about the commercial viability, will it be more commercially viable with someone who’s not of a certain background or fame in their career currently.

So, I’ve been lucky as well to work with, for example, a very forward looking director who directed a short film where I played an alcoholic piano teacher. And for her, she was like, I really want someone different in the lead role for this. And that was, probably my favorite and also one of my most challenging film roles to date because it was bringing a lot of layers to a character and their arc that felt rich and with a director who really wanted to give that more complex story to someone who we wouldn’t normally see in that role.

So yeah, I think it’s how can we expand the imagination for what is possible. And there are different layers of decision-makers in the industry who I think are making some of those moves, but they might have a layer of decision making above them that, it then just sort of filters it back to what we see predominantly, which is a shame. Which is why I think creating our own, projects is a way forward.

Rowena Chiu: I was going to say that I felt really conflicted when I worked on So To Speak, which was the film in Santa Cruz recently about the hypersexualization of Asian women because I think on the set I was thinking a combination between that this is really amazing and that was also really sad that it has to happen.

And I wondered do you think projects like that, that are specifically geared towards the lack of representation of Asian American women in media, and so I suppose the producer, writer, and director felt forced, if you like, to go out and make their own production because they were so frustrated at what they saw as a lack of representation in mainstream media. Do you think that actually helps? or exacerbates the problem because it seems to reemphasize this fact that we don’t have much representation. And so we’re pushed into these niche movies where we work together. Or do you think that it is a, uh, element of victory in the sense that if we don’t get adequate representation, damn it, we’ll just go out there and like create our own projects? During the week that I worked on that production, I felt both those feelings simultaneously and I’m kind of interested to hear your take on it.

Ashley Chiu: I think the victory is the times I’ve been in a room of Asian people and the creators are Asian and the root of the story, like, not that the content needs to be about that, but that it’s coming from a person who identifies more similarly to me. There is a victory in being in that space. Like the safety, the community, this unspoken thing where there’s a less performative way I can be in that room.

Then when I feel like my creators are not necessarily as aligned with me and it’s so much more comfortable, and I feel like as a creative, I can, be understood sometimes. And I don’t have to explain everything and I don’t have to like behave the way I have to like behave other times. And so I think that is a really big win in the creative process.

The fact that it has to happen in a silo and is not just something I can easily walk onto any set and feel, um, is sad. And I think I at least live in a world where I have to balance. Um, and I know people who are on tours and they’re like the only Asian person and that’s really sad. I’ve been that person on the tour who’s the only Asian person and, and I was alone in Detroit, Michigan on Chinese New Year, having a mental breakdown because nobody understood my experience and all the Chinese food was across the border in Windsor, Canada. And I was by myself having a breakdown at the Sheraton in downtown Detroit. And that can be a really, really lonely experience that contributes to my journey as an artist and my ability to sustain myself in the arts. So I do think there is a victory, Rowena in being on those sets where you feel comfortable. And then as you were saying that, I was thinking about things like Beef and Past Lives where you get both the community and a certain amount of commercial viability. And I do think the greater impact is, I don’t know if it’s greater, I guess the question is what is greater, the impact that it has on the artist in being in community and feeling hope and the possibility and the excitement of being on one of those sets or the greater impact that you can have on a much larger audience who will receive something because it’s mainstream?

Rowena Chiu: Yes, yes, and that’s a dichotomy. I guess I do take what you say about, the joy of being on a set where the story was originated by an Asian person and therefore related very much to her identity as was the case. However, I did also get a sense of the part of that dichotomy of what you just said is, in order to get a wider audience, even for this movie that I worked on, which was a student short and intended to be very niche, to some extent, we had to center the white gaze on this story, as in, it’s a story about, the hyper-sexualization of Asian women. But if you center that narrative, the hypersexualization of Asian women, the irony is you’re still centering the white, the dominant white gaze, just by saying those very words. So it was at once a story that was written by, created by, and the genesis of it, a story was within Asian identity and so therefore it was very encouraging to see Asians coming out and telling their stories finally and getting the funding to do that and certainly that was very evidently celebrated and obviously celebrated while we’re on the set but at the same time the irony of that whole set and that whole story is it was an existence because we were combating dominant white gaze.

And so I want to see a time when our identity is no longer the other and that we don’t other ourselves by centering that white dominant gaze. And I still think we’re quite far away from that. Angela, what would your take be on that?

Angela Yeoh: Yeah. Yeah. So super interesting. I feel like a story can be super specific and still connect with our shared humanity. I think those are the stories that touch me the most and seem to have the greatest success. But I think sometimes when we first look at one of those stories, it might be like, Whoa, this is like really niche or weird or like about a particular cultural race, such specific circumstances.

But I think sometimes when it’s done well, that story will contain all the cultural nuances and details for that community and also touch other humans because it is just really about our shared humanity. And it means so much to me to see projects mainstream or more independent get that authentic detail, whether it’s just a basic thing of like, if you want a character to speak in Mandarin or Cantonese or decide which is it Mandarin or is it Cantonese or sometimes it doesn’t matter.

And if you’re going to choose that , please translate it. with a proper translator. Don’t just put it in Google Translate because the number of hours I’ve spent correcting or having to either translate from scratch or having to correct what someone’s put through Google Translate.

It’s incredibly frustrating. And I think that I think that for me, and I know that not everyone necessarily thinks this way, but if I’m playing a doctor and I’m doing a postmortem, then I’m going to make sure my eyes look from this organ to this organ, even though most people won’t know that that organ is above the other one. I want to make sure I respect the truth of it by creating it in the role that I’m playing.

It just hurts me on the insides to see some very successful and otherwise shows to very much be celebrated, but I won’t name any shows, but I know that I’m sure people know the ones, a recent one that I’m talking about where the Cantonese is just horrendous. And sure, it’s only a tiny proportion of the audience that might realize that, but out of respect for all audiences, I think. But basically saying like, how do we connect to our shared humanity on all those details and whether or not those details are central to a story as artists, I feel it’s our responsibility to create something as truthfully as possible.

Rowena Chiu: You know, for a long time I’ve been complaining about language inauthenticity. So, you know, a very egregious example of that is I’ve watched several programs where one character is speaking Cantonese and the other character is speaking in Mandarin and they’re having a conversation with each other and they’re pretending that the audience doesn’t understand that they’re speaking entirely different languages, you know, and I always say to my white friends, how jarring would it be if you had a character speaking in Greek to someone speaking in Italian and they’re having a conversation together on set as though they understood each other perfectly, but they’re speaking two very different European languages and we can tell that they’re doing that.

Um, it’s a bit insulting to the audience. But I was going to say that related to that, but tangentially When I recently watched Expats, which, you know, is flawed on other levels, and I think we could get into an interesting conversation about Expats because I think as a cultural piece, it’s very interesting.

But one thing I think Expats did well, and Lulu Wang’s team did really well on Expats, is they didn’t Directly translate the bits that were in Cantonese and Mandarin, they colloquially translated them as in the subtitles in English were actually idiomatic, and they were actually a natural flow of what an English person would have said in that situation.

So they didn’t take the Cantonese and the Mandarin dialogue and, and as you say, run it through Google Translate, they didn’t do a literal translation of what was said in Cantonese and Mandarin. Instead, they actually had someone who’s a native English speaker, write colloquially, what somebody would have said in that situation, like what, what the language is expressing rather than what the words are.

And as someone who understands both English and Cantonese, I loved that moment because I was watching characters on stage speaking idiomatic Cantonese that was very evocative and emotional. And then I was reading the English subtitles and I was like, yes, that’s what they meant. That’s not what they said, but it’s what they meant.

And it was my first time actually having that relationship with subtitles, having had decades of being really frustrated by subtitles. So I think that was a really beautiful moment. Uh, even though eExpats as a cultural piece was in many ways, Interesting and flawed. Um, and if either of you have watched eExpats, and or lived in Hong Kong, in the different eras of Hong Kong in the 80s and the 90s and the present day, I’d be really curious to hear what your take is on Expats. You know, a lot of the overseas Chinese community, both love it and hate it.

Ashley Chiu: I haven’t seen it, but the thought about subtitles is really interesting. Like, that’s maybe one of the ways in which we’ve contributed to, like, othering people who speak different languages because then it contributes to the narrative that someone with a Chinese accent doesn’t understand what you’re saying or isn’t smart enough to understand, right? Because when what’s being translated is so literal that the meaning is lost, that only pervades, what we think about the speaker.

Miranda: Really interesting. I appreciate the tangent. Because I’m learning a lot that I never have thought about before.

Angela Yeoh: I would just say one more thing about translations. I guess like knowing that, okay, this is a translation from that era as well. If it’s like a 19th-century person speaking, as opposed to 21st century. If you think about the number of drafts that any script goes through or any good script usually goes through to choose the exact right words for someone and to then say to an actor, here, just translate these words. It lacks care. And I really respect when creators do take care with these things. But my hope is that, yeah, a combination of, I guess, more forward-thinking writers, directors, producers, casting directors, together with creators who are just making their thing.

And maybe it is just a solo fringe show to start with, which is what Fleabag and Chewing Gum were by, um, you know, Phoebe Ulbrich and Michaela Cole, that just a solo show that then becomes a successful TV show where you do get to flesh it out with more characters. I think combination of those things, I hope will allow us to keep connecting to those stories that show our shared humanity as well as the, the cultural detail and nuance and truthfulness that all the richness of the different cultures that live on this world and different backgrounds that are represented in our world can, yeah, can be celebrated.

And, all those perspectives included, because, it is our wealth, diversity is. So much our wealth and, the more we can see each other as humans first. And it’s an ongoing thing because I think sometimes I don’t realize that I’ve been bracing myself or that I’ve, had to put on a shield just to say one moment where I think I was dealing with publicity, for a relatively high profile film and just a lot of, the microaggressions that were happening around it.

Then I got on a plane to fly via Korea somewhere and there’s mostly Asian people on the plane. I realized my whole being relaxed because I, not that any non-Asian people were a threat, but just because all the things that have been happening to me, with this project and with other projects of, of being left out of coverage or having names spelled wrong or, or just lots of little things that just showed a lack of care that I feel like it wouldn’t have happened to, um, a white actor. I don’t know. It’s um, I don’t want to always be too focused on that though. Cause I want to make sure that, you know, sometimes mistakes happen. It’s not always about race, but and at the same time, often it is. And we do need to call these things out and find a balance between when do I stand up and fight this. And when do I let it go and just create something that’s going to create more of an impact by just existing in a space and telling a story and having a voice. So, I really appreciate getting to explore all these things here.

Rowena Chiu: An Asian American activist said to me recently about the emotional labor in liminal spaces. And I think that phrase of the emotional labor in liminal spaces really describes that, juxtaposition that tension that you just talked about. I think often we go through life and we’re constantly on some subconscious level thinking, is this happening to me due to race?

Or maybe it’s not happening to me due to race, but the idea of having to sit there and think about that is this tension that in itself creates a lot of work and you can’t win because if you put it down to race. You’re victimizing and you’re using your race and so on and so forth. But if you operate without an eye to color, then you’re denying yourself and you are, pretending as a level playing field when you’re not. And so you’re there at a double disadvantage, um, due to that. So I’ve never really reconciled that tension. But I very much recognize that it, exists within me, and that is how I’ll go about my day when I finish this podcast, when I go to the airport, when I go on a plane, when I go through Heathrow, you know, that’s, definitely going to happen to me.

And it’s, a daily reality, which is really interesting because, when you sit in communities where everybody in the room is of the global majority, it’s easily recognized, but then if you talk to dominant communities. It’s not recognized at all. So it’s almost like living in a parallel universe, which a lot of time, that’s what racism is.

My experience of the world is radically different from someone who might be sitting right next to me on the bus or sitting in the same business meeting as me. And if we can come to realize that, then that is so much the better, but there’s still many pockets where people don’t, you know, for example, I’m involved in putting together our school district’s ethnic studies curriculum. And one really well-meaning white mother said to me recently about that, my son doesn’t see race at all. And so I hope that the ethnic studies curriculum will teach people not to see race. And I had to say, I think the whole point of the ethnic studies curriculum is to encourage people to see race, not to create a school district where. kids are unaware of it because I’m sorry but that statement can only come from white privilege. You know, a kid can only not be of aware of race if they’re of white privilege. For my kids that are Asian they need to be aware of race because that’s the world that they operate in.

You know, that was a kind of startling conversation for this parent because I think what they were trying to say is, I’m really liberated and progressive and therefore I’ve taught my child that there’s no such thing as race. And that she said that to me as an Asian person, because she thought I would think that that is wonderful. And she was waiting to be applauded for that. And I didn’t do that. So it was an awkward conversation, but necessary.

Miranda: And that is why we have to have these conversations and I am so appreciative of the three of you today being here and we’ve been talking for over an hour but I feel like we could keep going forever and I just want to give each of you a chance if there’s any, points that you feel like you still need to make or want to make before we wrap up I want to give you that opportunity and if you’re interested in answering this one thing that’s been I’m curious about the experience that both of you had of playing Rowena at different stages in her life and with her traumatic experiences in She Said. So I’m just going to throw it to the two of you and however you want to answer.

Ashley Chiu: Well, I wanted to make 1 more point about what Angela was saying about care, because. As an actor, we received the script or the sides, 15 people from inception to me, right? All these producers have seen it and okayed it the director, the writer has made more revisions and then the producer and director okayed it again. Then it gets to casting, then it gets to my agents and it gets to me. And you can very much feel the difference when 15 people ago and through 15 people, there has been care when it is translated correctly. When the character description feels free and open to an actor and a creative person’s interpretation as opposed to this is exactly what we’re looking for and we want you to be just this we’ve already defined for you what we want you to be.

Because there’s a certain collaboration and acceptance of the human who’s going to be acting that role that is more inviting when you can feel the care and you can always feel the care so I wanted to say that about what Angela was saying. Um, and I think that’s the most important thing.

I think it’s okay for us to have other people writing roles that they intend for Asian people to represent, as long as it’s done with a certain amount of care, maybe proper consultation, maybe don’t try to translate the Chinese by yourself, but you can feel that, and I think it’s totally fine for these roles to come to us.

Whether they come from our own community, about our own community’s trauma, something we’re grappling with, or from someone outside of the community, as long as it’s done with that care. Um, as far as playing Rowena, you were asking what was our experience?

Miranda: Just anything you might want to say about that, because I’m sure you’ve been asked that a lot of times, but if there’s anything important to you that you want to comment about,

Ashley Chiu: A lot of my experience shooting the film has been really different from meeting Rowena and hearing her talk about it. And there’s a way in which, um, Rowena’s story is not the main plot of the film, but I think Rowena’s story is just as interesting and actually I think even more complex than, than elements of the movie because there’s so much that Romina has experienced after the fact and in hindsight and so much she grapples with as she moves through the world. So I actually think the film is a really small, small slice of someone else’s version of her story. Um, and that’s, I think the thing I learned from the movie is like, It’s a minute of screen time, but this is an entire person’s life and they deal with this and Rowena walks through the world and experiences things and feels differently about it on a minute to minute basis.

And so, it’s been, interesting and healing as an actor who only got to do a minute to, to be like, there’s a whole other person and there’s so much more. And as someone who is an audience to stories, I think Rowena’s story is very. empowering, like to watch Rowena move through the world with the fullness that she has to be running for local council, running for local political office.

I mean, that kind of thing, to be so active and engaged is something that takes, I think, a lot of strength. And, and I’ve watched Rowena exhibit that as we’ve been friends for a couple of years now. So I think that is also a very interesting story and experience that she’s having.

Miranda: It speaks to the richness that, it brings to your experience to Ashley, that you not only know Rowena but that you’ve really gotten to know her and be friends with her. And that just, I would imagine, makes the whole experience deeper and more meaningful for both of you, for all three of you.

Ashley Chiu: I would like audiences to find a way to get more of what I’ve gotten from Rowena because I think that’s the more interesting experience.

Miranda: Yeah, Angela?

Angela Yeoh: Yeah, echoing that, that one of my frustrations, I guess, is like just knowing Rowena as this person who’s so full of life and humor and fun and resilience and intellect and these things that don’t, uh, I, understand that with a film that needs to look at lots of trauma, uh, survivors stories, that you’re just getting the trauma slice of each survivor’s story. So, um, which is why it’s so needed, like a podcast, like yours, Miranda, and just other stories where we get to understand more. Cause as someone who experienced, um, uh, abuse and trauma, whether it’s in family or relationship settings and has been on a healing journey from that, I feel like I just keep being surprised by the amount of misunderstanding around it. Um, I know we are having better conversations now, but, I think sometimes the fact that we don’t get to sometimes see as much of these survivors in their whole complex humanity contributes to ongoing misunderstanding. Um, so, I, I, knew that when I found out what the project was, that it was a huge responsibility.

It was a subject close to my heart that I wanted to give everything for it to be done as well as possible. If I was the right actor for the character to come to life through. And, um, I know that my former journalist was like, I’m just gonna talk to Rowena.

And I was lucky that to speak to me before I did any shooting. And so I guess the other thing I’ll mention is, since we’ve been speaking about scripts and care, I think, especially for something that is going to be immortalized and on film forever in that version, that getting the words right is super important.

I mean, obviously it’s much more complex than what you can fit into a three or four-minute, summary of the story, but I’m glad that. In the end, we were able to work together to make sure that, like some of the words that didn’t feel quite right, that we were able to adjust them.

But it did feel scary for me as an actor, who’s not, you know, Oscar-nominated, like sort of, of a certain standing in the industry. I was and still am relatively new to the industry in my second career, but to to celebrate that, yeah, we managed to work together to make sure that we could do the best in that moment to, put Rowena’s story forward.

But yeah, I know that Rowena is, working on other projects to hopefully be able to bring more of. The layers of her story to the world. And I know that a lot of people have been able to experience my, um, listens on this podcast and other things that she’s appeared on. Um, but yeah, it’s been a challenge and an honor and great fun as well. I mean, that’s to celebrate. There have been moments of fun when we got to do the red carpets together.

Rowena Chiu: Yeah, it was really fun. And posed a lot with red buses in freezing cold London weather.

Miranda: The true story behind the glamour!

Rowena Chiu: Exactly. I’m, I’m sure, you know, I’m always going to be incredibly grateful to She Said for introducing me to Angela and Ashley. Uh, I was expecting to have one lunch with them and just to talk a little bit about, you know, the movie and so on, but then we’d all go our separate ways. And so it’s been a huge joy to me to kind of have this ongoing relationship with them both and to see, what is happening with their careers and their personal lives. Ashley, we didn’t get to acknowledge that, but very much. Congratulations.

Miranda: Oh yes, Ashley. You’re getting married in August.

Ashley Chiu: Yeah, we’re getting married and I’m moving. Rowena lives just a few miles from where I grew up and so we share the bigger hood together and I’ll be moving back to California. So back to my Chius, but also Rowena Chiu, all the Chius.

Rowena Chiu: All the Chius in California. We’re all waiting with open arms to welcome you both. But, yeah, really thrilled that the three of us have been able to become friends through is entirely unexpected.

And I do want to pay homage to what Angela referred to, that both of them worked really hard to bring, even though it was a limited role and our screen time was limited because, as they said, the film had to deal with many stories of trauma for that. That I feel that they both worked very hard to bring this three-dimensionality to the story. When we were still in development meetings and envisaging She Said, and Universal asked me what is, what thing that would cause me to not want my story to be featured in this movie?

I said, the most important thing to me is cultural authenticity. That we find actresses that represent. My lived experience as a British Chinese person and now as a British Chinese person living in California. And I think that they did a tremendous job with finding both Angela and Ashley because they were able to, really lift the story from a flat two-dimensional story, which is very difficult to do in the limited time that we were given. I also want to, as we’re wrapping up, I also want to make some comments about the fact that, in choosing to play this role of my role in She Said, which was a secondary story to the primary story of Jodie Cantor and Megan Toohey, the journalists, what was difficult about the role is there’s a double victimization.

You’re playing a sexual assault survivor, which is always stereotypically played by a woman screaming or a woman crying or a woman in this situation of oppression and victimhood. But they’re also paying off the three survivors, the only survivor of color out of those three survivors. And so, for both Angela and Ashley, they were in a position of double victimhood on the screen.

And so I think it’s really difficult to lift that performance beyond. Um, it’s very easy to fall into that double trap of playing the victim of seeming passive or victimized or stereotyped. And so I think to be able to bring some heart and dimension to that is actually really hard. I know that we as a group as a community, the three of us as Asians as part of this production, for example, worked really hard to make sure that in podcasts that we appeared in together, we did not overemphasize that idea of the Asian character being more victimized and less strong than the white survivors and that that had to be an active thing that we had to advocate for, which is very interesting when you look at some ways in which say Laura and Zelda and I promoted the movie together or are portrayed in the movie together.

I think there was one example of where a screenshot of Laura being that strong person at the beach who’s kind of finally be standing up for herself or Zelda Perkins handing over documents at the but the image of me was Ashley in the corridor crying, and that we actually spoke up about that and said, no, hang on, because of the double victimization, you can’t have the only victim of color being the person crying, and the two white survivors standing for strength and speaking out and so on because there’s an unconscious bias there where you are creating, greater submission for the Asian character out of three.

And so the fact that we had the opportunity to speak about, and that there were three of us able to do that, really heartened me. You know, to go back to a theme that’s been pervasive in this podcast, it at once made me sad that was, it was necessary to speak up about that, but also empowering that the three of us were able to agree that, yeah, there can’t be this unconscious bias against our character because we’re the only Asian in this triumvirate of survivors.

Miranda: So, so important. I so appreciate that you spoke up, all of you, and that you got them to listen to you and it made a difference. I don’t know, I’m, I’m so not good at words today. I’m sorry, but that just touches me so much. I think it’s a really empowering story.

Angela Yeoh: I kind of just say one last thing of just, yeah, I’m really hopeful that we’re having these conversations. And, and I hope that yeah, for me it’s like part of the humanization is being able to find the humor or the unexpected light amidst all this. And so, the  kind of explorations that inspire me and the kind of work that I want to move towards is stuff that is more comedy and surprising I don’t know, there has to be the, of course the fights. And I remember, that conversation, trying to fight to get that image changed and how the blind spots and lack of understanding. I’m not saying that I don’t have blind spots. But I hope that by having these conversations and by being able to laugh about our mistakes and to introduce playfulness around the difficulty, especially around the difficulty, the playfulness can hopefully create some space for us to do better.

Rowena Chiu: Yes, and that’s why community is super important. You know, Ashley was talking about a breakdown in Detroit because she was the only Asian. So I think when it comes to representation, I know that the three of us have often been the only person in that room, the only person in that business meeting, the only person in that set.

And I think there actually is a huge difference between being the only, and being a very minority minority, you know, we three people who are involved, as she said, might have been three people among the thousands of people that were involved in, she said, but the three of us were able to build some community to really advocate for Asian representation.

And so I felt there was some strength in numbers, even though we were very much outnumbered, just having. one or two comrade in arms to engage in this conversation and to raise awareness about these issues is so deeply important. And so that’s really the kind of key to representation. We’re not going to be able to change a world where we’re in this idealistic Star Trek universe where we’re all colorblind and there’s colorblind casting and we will have equal opportunities and so on.

That isn’t the reality of the world that we currently live in. But if we create safe spaces where we can ally with one another in that need for representation. That’s deeply important because I think we all know that that experience of being the only person is a experience of deep weakness.

Whereas if you just have one or two other people, it endorses, your position and your story and gives you a platform from which to advocate. And so I think that’s deeply important and that’s been the privilege and the joy of being able to work with Angela and Ashley on She Said.

Miranda: And thank you for bringing this to the podcast today and to our audience because it is so important to see how empowered all of you are in your own ways and how when you work together, you strengthen each other even more. And we just have to all expand our minds and understand that there’s so much more dimension to every one of us.

Rowena Chiu: Yeah, and so I want to say to your podcast listeners, if you have not gone out and watched She Said, go and watch She Said, because that movie was now a while ago, you know, a couple of years ago, but I’d love to see a lasting legacy for She Said, because as a film, it represents so many different fights on so many different levels.

Of course, the main fight of the Me Too movement and the New York Times article, uh, bringing down Harvey Weinstein. But interestingly, that fight is layered with many sub-fights, and that sub-fight around Asian representation is something that we refer to. And so I hope that if you haven’t watched She Said yet, or if you have watched She Said, I hope you’ll go and watch it again with an eye to these different layers. And if you haven’t watched She Said, I hope that when you watch it, you’ll look out for these different layers of fights. that are built into that movie and that story.

Miranda: I second that. So, so important. Thank you all three of you so much for being here today.

Rowena Chiu: Yeah, it was great to see your face, Miranda. Angela, I hope I can catch you in London. I’m going to be in London for the next 13 days. I will send you a text. Ashley, I hope to hug you and congratulate you in person sometime. So maybe I’ll catch you at some point over the summer as you’re moving between East Coast and West Coast.

Ashley Chiu: Yeah, that sounds great.

Rowena Chiu: And I realized that we didn’t talk at all about the verdict overturn. but obviously–

Miranda: Oh yes, that was on my list.

Rowena Chiu: I was going to say, the Weinstein story has come back into the news because of the verdict overturn.

Miranda: Do you want to make any comments on it? On that very disturbing recent development with the Court of Appeals?

Rowena Chiu: I’ve been in lots of media interviews, including Piers Morgan, of all people. I talked to Piers Morgan about the verdict overturn, which was a very interesting experience for me. Along with, you know, not my first rodeo in having a co-interview with Donna Rotunno, but obviously, she’s Harvey’s lawyer and Harvey’s obviously female lawyer. And so it’s very interesting to have a woman, stand up in defense of Harvey and really work against other women. In her Piers Morgan interview, she said, I’m seen as a traitor to my own gender. And it’s fascinating she even used that sentence because I’m like, honey, you are a traitor to your own gender.

Miranda: Yeah, she’s the real victim here is the message, right?

Rowena Chiu: I was just kind of fascinated how she used that. Exactly. Sheused  that as a point of like, portraying herself as a victim, because women hated her for what she did. Uh, not just in defending Harvey, but the comments she makes about women. You know, things like, Well, if I were in that situation, I wouldn’t go up to the hotel room. Her way of judging the survivors, uh, is particularly nauseous. So, uh, I just think it’s really interesting because that sentence shows a lack of self awareness. By the way, before I go down a rabbit hole talking about Donna Rotunno, who I could talk about for a long time, I know we’re we’re past time, I’m just going to make a couple of really quick comments about the verdict overturn.

It is tempting for the world at large to kind of jump to the media soundbites. So as soon as the news came out of the verdict overturn, people were immediately saying things like, lock up those women, lock up those false accusers. You know, they brought down a family man, a decent man. They destroyed his reputation and career. So of course there are internet trolls that immediately jumped to, Oh, the verdict overturn has exonerated Harvey Weinstein. This is a really nuanced point, but it’s really important to remember that the verdict overturn was on a legal technicality, that actually it was saying that four judges out of seven judges on the New York Appeals Court decided that the DA was wrong to use secondary witnesses in the trial against Harvey Weinstein.

That’s a really nuanced legal point. The verdict overturn actually does not say anything about the guilt of Harvey Weinstein with regards to the crimes for which he was convicted. So I think one is really important to say actually the fact that he’s legal still stands, that verdict that he’s legal still stands, we couldn’t uphold the verdict going forward because of that legal technicality that’s separate from an exoneration of Harvey’s So that’s my point number one.

My point number two is even if the legal commentary understands the idea that Harvey’s guilt is separate from the use of secondary witnesses, when it comes to that point of the use of secondary witnesses, um, I actually disagree, I’m sorry, with those Honorable Judges on the New York Appeals Court. I actually feel that the New York DA was fully justified in the use of secondary witnesses. The reason being is, shockingly, despite the hundred plus women that have spoken out against Harvey due to the limitations of the legal system, the statute of limitations, the jurisdiction, the need for physical evidence, only a very small handful of women are able to testify at each criminal trial.

And so it is that in L. A., only four women were able to testify in New York. Only three women were able to test as primary witnesses. And so the idea that you would have three primary witnesses tell their stories, you know, Mimi and Jessica and so on and then, uh, only have three other women support their stories by offering a pattern of predation and circumstantial evidence, um, those three secondary witnesses, their role is actually really important because it’s to demonstrate to the jury that there’s a world of survivors out there, a whole sea of survivors, actually, that due to the limitations of the legal system, aren’t able to be in the courtroom on that day giving evidence about their own assaults.

But that these women, both the three primary witnesses and the three secondary witnesses, if you like stand in proxy for that wider sea of women who have been harmed by Harvey Weinstein. And so the idea that you would give that to the jury to say these three women aren’t just three women who’ve been wronged and they could all be false accusers, or there’s just an aberration and he was basically a good guy who slipped up perhaps three times in his life is to say No, there’s a wider pattern of predation there, and I think that that is very valid. I’m very happy that the Californian system does allow without any repercussion or reconsideration, the use of secondary witnesses, and therefore that the 16-year sentence that Harvey received an LA will not be overturned because of questions about the use of secondary witnesses.

Anyway, that is a long and complicated explanation as to the legal professions, but, obviously, we’ve been talking about that a lot recently.

Miranda: Such great points. And I always say when It comes to public cases, there is always so much more that you don’t know. And I think we all need to keep that in mind. So thank you for explaining that and pointing it out, Rowena. Really important. Okay, you all have a really wonderful day. And it was so great spending time with all

Rowena Chiu: Thank you Miranda, for the opportunity to get together with two of my favorite people in the world. It was a joy to talk to Angela and Ashley.