Cynthy Wu Is Out To 'Reclaim The Narrative' For Asian Americans In Hollywood


It's no secret that Hollywood has a diversity problem. All you have to do is look at the movie screen to see the overwhelming whiteness of the actors bearing down on you. Even characters who were originally people of color have been whitewashed, as in the case of 'The Ancient One' in Marvel's Doctor Strange, who in the comics was Tibetan, but in the movie was played by Tilda Swinton.

Recently, Ed Skrein stepped down from a role in Hellboy because the character was part Asian in the original comic. While Skrein is to be commended, it was the Asian American community that brought the issue into the public consciousness. Casting directors called the move a wake-up call, and the role has since been recast with Daniel Dae Kim, a Korean American actor.

Ed Skrein stepped down from a part in Hellboy because the character was part Asian in the original comic. The role has since been recast with Daniel Dae Kim, a Korean American actor. Photo Courtesy of Hollywood Reporter

Cynthy Wu, a Vietnamese and Chinese American actor, believes that vocal outpourings like this one signal a seismic shift in Hollywood from a culture of marginalization to one where Asian Americans are able to tell their own stories--behind and in front of the camera.

A Talent in the Making

Cynthy Wu has been acting professionally since 2012, and earlier this year she made waves with her role as Ally Harris in Before I Fall, an adaptation of a popular young adult novel about a girl who comes to terms with her mortality, as she finds herself reliving the last day of her life again and again.

"Cynthy Wu believes that vocal outpourings signal a seismic shift in Hollywood from a culture of marginalization to one where Asian Americans are able to tell their own stories." Photo Courtesy of IMDB

On top of several movies coming out next year, Wu is playing the role of Carol in the series Just Doug, currently available on Facebook Watch, the company's newly unveiled streaming platform. Like the titular Doug (played by Douglas Kim), Wu's character is an Asian American struggling to make it as an artist in Hollywood.

Refreshing Roles

"Too often in Hollywood," Wu explains, "an Asian American is cast as the 'quirky friend' of the (white) star, or the 'smart nerdy girl who answers questions and has five lines.'"

Even worse, Asian American actors have had crude stereotypes thrust upon them, as in the second episode of Just Doug, where the lead character is told to speak with a heavy accent if he wants a role in a sitcom.

Wu's character, on the other hand, gives her the opportunity to tell stories that haven't been told enough from an Asian American point of view. Carol is an ambitious writer who's "starting from the bottom, working hard, and trying her best to break through." By exploring Carol's professional and romantic journey, Wu reveals her to be so much more than a sidekick or a funny one-liner. "Not only is it refreshing for young Asian Americans to see these kinds of three-dimensional characters played by people who look like them," Wu notes. "But it's a reclaiming of identity, an opportunity for Asian Americans to express ourselves instead of letting others tell our stories."

"It’s encouraging for her to be part of shows like Just Doug, which has a majority Asian American cast, as well as writer and director." Photo Courtesy of ylwrngr

Towards a More Diverse Hollywood

When asked if she thinks there's a movement underway towards better representation, she expresses optimism. "This is where film and TV are going," she says. "The time when you'd see the same story over and over again for Asian American actors is coming to a close." It's encouraging for her to be part of shows like Just Doug, which has a majority Asian American cast, as well as writer and director. "It's nice to arrive on set and see a face like mine and think 'oh, I'm not alone, I'm not the only one doing this.'"

With shows like Just Doug, and movies like Crazy Rich Asians, the first major studio film with a majority Asian cast since 1993's The Joy Luck Club, it's hard to doubt Wu's optimism. The strides her and others are making toward representation will surely inspire a whole new generation to tell their own stories without hesitation and to reclaim their own narratives.

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2020 is Around the Corner: Here's How To Design Your Next Decade

Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!

You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!

Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.

Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.

One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:

What worked? What were my successes?

Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?

Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.

If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?

Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?

Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?

Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.

While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.

Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!