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Downsizing star Hong Chau said on Sunday that Alexander Payne’s sci-fi pic is a “love-letter” to her Vietnamese immigrant parents for being typecast and shunned as Asians while raising her in New Orleans.
“My whole life, I’ve always felt like I was the more acceptable of my parents, and they were always the people who had to stay in the background, or hide in the broom closet,” Chau said during a press conference at the Toronto Film Festival.
She welcomed Asian actors like herself landing lead film and TV roles. “I’m glad that there’s Asians in space, and there’s Asians in rom-coms and there’s Asian sitcoms,” she said.
But Chau insisted Asian immigrants like her parents need to get their own shot at the American mainstream. “I would hope that people like my parents aren’t being pushed aside and being seen as not a positive representation of Asian Americans,” she said.
Chau recalled being told by her “white friends” growing up that her parents’ immigrant story made them sound like “amazing people.” But that’s not how they’re treated when they walk outside the house. They’re not treated like amazing people, and they are,” she insisted.
Chau said her parents, who speak with heavy Vietnamese accents, “cleaned toilets and washed dishes” on first coming to the U.S., and still managed to send three kids to college. The Hollywood actress, whose credits include Treme, How I Met Your Mother and CSI, said even she distanced herself from her parents to be accepted in her native Louisiana.
“In order for me to be more acceptable, I had to distance myself from where I came from, and that’s not something I ever felt comfortable with,” Chau said. Downsizing also stars Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Laura Dern, Jason Sudeikis, Alec Baldwin and Neil Patrick Harris.
Damon, also appearing at the TIFF presser after he and the cast promoted Downsizing in Venice and Telluride, praised the sci-fi social satire for its empathy. “It’s a very humanistic and heartfelt movie, that for me is very optimistic at its end about how we treat each other,” Damon said.
The Toronto Film Festival runs through Sept. 17.
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