(Photo illustration courtesy of Anya Thakur)
Liberty High School

Gemma Chan on empowerment and breaking boundaries in ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

“Crazy Rich Asians” star Gemma Chan, who plays captivating It-Girl Astrid in the film, has paved her way in Hollywood with hard work and dedication but she is not without a mischievous streak, and takes to characters who are self-possessed and strong yet playful women.

Gracing the red carpet alongside Emma Watson and other notables and bringing Laura Bates as an activist date to take part in the #Times Up movement, she is not only an accomplished and versatile actress, but also uses her platform to champion unheard voices and women’s empowerment and advocacy.

Graduating from the University of Oxford and deviating from the path her family expected by becoming an actress and saving up money through modeling work, she knew Asians in Hollywood were sparse, but she wanted to help drive change and move forward while pursuing her long-held passion.

She is doing just that in the film and when on the official red carpet by bringing Asian American viewpoints and stories to a tremendous audience, allowing many to see themselves represented and reflected on screen as well as in Hollywood and entertainment and the audience to learn about Asian culture and see Asian Americans in diverse roles. Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Awkwafina and many more star opposite Chan, poised for superstardom in what could be a breakthrough role.

The film is notable and has been lauded for its all-Asian cast, a rarity when many Asian actors have struggled with issues such as type casting and lack of opportunities. With empowered yet flawed and dimensional characters, and a cast passionate about Asian American representation and visibility, “Crazy Rich Asians” is packed with potential and is a game-changer in Hollywood, opening doors for underrepresented voices and minorities and allowing them hope that their stories may be told soon.

Rather than waiting for doors to open or the emergence of opportunities on the horizon, “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu built his own house, one that is shaping up to be a veritable mansion of sprawling grounds and camera flashes, teeming with possibility and rich in stories to share.

This time flaunting a sparkling gold dress covered completely in sequins and accentuated by silver designs and curlicues, tousled chocolate curls brushing the tops of her shoulders, Chan has turnt heads and has transformed the red carpet into a showcase of Asian designers.

Leaning back on the hood of a stoplight-red Ferrari in the same dress just hours before she graced the red carpet, both Chan’s star power and the waves made for representation in “Crazy Rich Asians” boast the power to stop traffic.

What follows below is an edited and condensed version of Access’s one-on-one interview with Chan on the official red carpet.

Q: [What did you do] on camera to nail that look?

A: She has to have that impact, that first entrance. I was trying to channel Audrey Hepburn.

Q: You were, the glasses and then the bun.

A: A little bit, yeah.

Q: Vanity Fair, you and Henry. I mean, come on.

A: I know, oh my gosh! [shows Vanity Fair photo of herself alongside Henry Golding]

Q: I have a question for you. Do you get tired of looking at it [the photo]?

A: Look at that, I mean look at the raises and cheekbones.

Q: Look at you!

A: Thank you, thank you! We got the green velvet as well, what a look.

Q: I have to say, and I mean this with all all due respect and total sincerity, looking at this photo is like, I imagine it’s like looking at some of the great African American models and actors who were, who kind of made a way out of no way and who set an example and were there to kind of be the people we could see ourselves in on screen. Do you you carry that with you when when you talk about this film or when you were working on this film?

A: You know what, I feel we owe so much to those that have come before. So there are, you know, there are Asian and Asian American actors who come before us, who have washed apart and we stand on their shoulders. And you know, I feel like I film is the next step forwards in terms of representation. But you know, we have those people in mind. And yeah, I mean I can only hope that, you know, people seeing that can think, ‘Wow, we can do it! We can do that! We could do anything.’

Q: Yeah, and just finally, finally I see me.

A: Yes, yes exactly.

Q: How would you caption it?

A: We were weird.

Q: Okay now, Awkwafina, I feel like, is having a breakout this summer, very similar to how Tiffany Haddish had a breakout summer last year. Everyone is talking about her. What is it about her that makes her like just so damn good?

A: She’s amazing, she’s so funny. She’s like the warmest, loveliest person in real life. And she, just every scene she steals, every scene. She’s so good, she really does. Yeah, she’s brilliant.