Asian Actors In Hollywood: Increased Roles Mark Industry Sea Change

Asian-American actors and those representing them are experiencing a sea change in the number of roles available to them. The revolution is happening in a segment of the acting population that has been widely underserved for years, they say. Perhaps it is the concerted effort on the part of the networks and film studios, the writers who are growing up with a different perspective, and the influx of international money into the marketplace, but several people interviewed by Deadline noted a marked change in the past year.

One of those actors who has seen a significant shift is Will Yun Lee, who is of Chinese-Korean descent. “I’ve definitely seen a big change in the landscape,” he said. “I started in 1997 when there were only three to four jobs that were meaningful to put food on the table, which if you didn’t get, you had to keep your day job,” he said. His was as a taekwondo instructor. “It’s truly been this year in pilot season that you started seeing the breakdowns open to all ethnicities. All the major roles seem to be really open to all. I don’t know if it’s the influx of the Chinese money or younger writers who grew up in a different way. To me, it’s really interesting to see the shift. To do the roles that weren’t originally thought of as being Asian is really great.”

Lee has so far had a dominating year. He was the villain in the Cinemax series Strike Back, starring opposite Michelle Yeoh. His other recent credits include San Andreaswith Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, HBO’s True Blood and a major role of Harada in Fox’s The Wolverine. He’s also in the two-hour USA drama pilot Falling Water from director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo.