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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I Have Been Bullied Both At School and At Work. Here's What It Taught Me

Starting with a little background, I am an anti-bullying advocate and have recently graduated from The Parent Leadership Training Institute, where as part of our studies we were asked to come up with a community project close to our hearts and put it into action. My cause was bullying, and I began a blog and Facebook page to address issues pertaining to all forms of bullying. Implementing this project was followed by a thre- minute speech to my peers, and, after all this, here is what I have learned about bullying.

Bullying makes people feel bad about themselves, leading to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and even physical symptoms. The repercussions of bullying can cause people to miss school or work as well as countless other negative side effects.

I have been bullied both at school and at work, and I know of others who have suffered the same plight. It is not fun!

My first bullying experience was in seventh grade as a young teen. There was a group of three "mean girls" who harassed me and, I later found out, several of my friends; they thought it was funny to pick on others about their clothes, their looks or whatever else they could come up with (who knows). It felt awful at the time. Supposedly, I was chosen to get picked on because they claimed I bought my clothes at the Goodwill. That wasn't true, but really who cares? Why they were picking on me was never really the point. Luckily, after a while, the meanies went on to the next victim(s) like a never-ending cycle. I tend to think once a bully, always a bully, which goes to show how good a lifestyle that is, because those "mean girls" never amounted to much. In hindsight, I feel sorry for them. Watch the movie The Gift if you're really curious about what happens to bullies when they grow up.

And bullying was not just an issue when I was a teen, since then nothing much has changed. My own nephew was bullied in eighth grade, and he recently talked to me in depth about of how the bullying took a toll on him. Especially because I had the same experience, I could relate to him in ways that some others couldn't. Like reliving my own memories, I was incredibly broken up to hear how it made him feel.

Even worse than that, bullying does not end in the school yard. Employees are being bullied on the job at an alarming rate. When you are bullied on the job as an adult, it taken an even bigger toll. Further it doesn't just go away like those middle school "mean girls." Unless you can quit your job, you might just be stuck. There are all kinds of physical symptoms, stomach pains, migraines and even panic attacks. Beyond the physical, people's mental and emotional state is extremely sensitive to bullying, and as a result work performance might suffer. Furthermore, it might feel like there is no recourse, no one to believe you. You can hope that the HR Department is willing to listen and do something about it, but the whole process can be so disheartening. And in the hierarchical corporate environment, sometimes the bully seems to get ahead and you are left lagging behind in a subservient position. This is what happened to me as a victim of workplace bullying. It started with me being told by a co-worker that my boss was following me to the bathroom, staring down the hall whenever I left my desk to make sure I came right back to my seat. Then it was standing over me as I typed, ordering me to get in a car with them, not allowing me to sit somewhere if it wasn't within their sight. The list of offenses could go on endlessly. There were times I felt like I couldn't breathe. And then, the bully torturing me got a promotion. Like the character of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, the classic bully is revered by her peers, despite the fact that all of her employees are terrified of her. Yet, she is in a role of high stature and praised as a bully. We live in a culture that is not only complacent in the existence of bullies, but one that actively allows them to thrive.

It makes you realize how unfair life can be. Of course, no one said that life would be fair; maybe you just assumed that bad people would not get ahead. But, they do. Even now, I cannot help but to shake my head in disbelief. I often wonder what makes a person feel the need to laud their power over another. Are they insecure? Were they bullied themselves? They must feel bad about themselves in some way? Do they feel the need to do this to make themselves look good? Whatever the reason, it certainly isn't nice at all. I have found myself at different times in my life standing up for people who have been bullied around me. And I certainly do not allow anyone to treat me in any way that I find disrespectful. I truly believe in karma, and I tell myself that at some point in time, the bullies will get it back in some way. I have seen it happen, and in the meantime, I just say to myself "What goes around, comes around."

Bullying shows no sign of slowing down, and in this day and age, it's even worse than I have experienced in the past. Cyber bulling, rumors, fist fights, knifes, guns and other forms of both mental and physical cruelty, it truly sickens me. I know that I cannot save everyone, but I try to be an advocate as much as possible and encourage others to do so as well. NO ONE SHOULD BULLIED! It is disgraceful to say the least. You should always practice grace as much as you can. With every person who chooses to do so, the world gets a little bit better. I will be writing more on this topic on a regular basis; I feel it helps to talk about this subject aloud and spread the word. and, if nothing else, be kind.