Gemma Chan Shares Her Stance On Whitewashing In Film and Its Effect On History

Gemma Chan is a wonder. Aside from starring in some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters, she's lived through varied life experiences that can't possibly be contained within a single lifetime.

In an in-depth interview with Allure, we learned some interesting factoids about the 36-year-old. She was formerly a lawyer, almost became a professional violinist, and provided testimony in court after witnessing a stabbing.

She also shatters the stereotype of Asians not being able to hold their liquor. When interviewer Jessica Chia confided she could hold her liquor, Chan replied:

"I can really hold my liquor as well."

Similar to how she approaches her career choices, she's not one to stick to a mold.

The Crazy Rich Asians actress has a Chinese background, but describes her racial identity as "compound."

"I feel British, and European, and English, and Chinese, and Asian."

Maybe that's why some people had a problem over her role as Queen Elizabeth's confidante in Mary Queen of Scots.

The trolls took issue with seeing a non-white actress in the role and grumbled about her casting choice on the internet.

In response, Chan asked why actors with different cultural backgrounds should be invariably confined to certain roles.

"Why are actors of color, who have fewer opportunities anyway, only allowed to play their own race? And sometimes they're not even allowed to play their own race."

She mentioned Hollywood's history of non-traditional casting when it was only convenient for the casting directors.

"In the past, the role would be given to a white actor who would tape up their eyes and do the role in yellowface. John Wayne played Genghis Khan. If John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, I can play Bess of Hardwick."

But she is optimistic for the future of casting now that the tide is turning, with shows like Hamilton.

"I feel like Hamilton opened minds a lot. We have a black man playing George Washington. They describe it as 'America then, told by America now.' And I think our art should reflect life now."

Adding to the complexity of cultural representation in the entertainment industry, Chan mentioned a neglected bit of history: the little-known Chinese Labour Corps.

The 140,000 workers recruited by the British government to relieve front of line troops through manual labor with whom we would not have won the first world war is a topic that is left out of history books.

"I studied the First World War three times at school. And I never heard that there were 140,000 Chinese in the Allied effort," she said after learning about them through her involvement on a documentary.

"If we portray a pure white past, people start to believe that's how it was, and that's not how it was."

Chan also acknowledged the progress of representation in movies like Black Panther and BlacKKKlansmen, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe featuring Marvel's first stand-alone female superhero in Captain Marvel.

The interview also touches on U.K. politics in which she criticized the former leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron and his disconnect with the people living under government's policy.

"I'm so grateful for my work. But sometimes it feels almost absurd to be going onto a set to play kind of make-believe. There are so many things that demand our attention."

Find out more about the talented actress by reading the full Allure interview.

CW: Suicide

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