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Laverne Cox, Taye Diggs and Awkwafina took the stage Sunday at OzyFest 2018 in New York to discuss diverse casting, the success of Black Panther and the importance of films like Crazy Rich Asians.
In a panel titled “Future of Hollywood,” moderated by The Hollywood Reporter senior reporter Rebecca Sun, the three stars dove into the various topics that plague actors and actresses of color in Hollywood.
Orange Is the New Black star Cox indirectly addressed the recent controversy involving Scarlett Johansson, who faced immense backlash for signing on to play a trans man in the film Rub & Tug before deciding to turn down the part.
Cox, whose influence has been groundbreaking for the trans community, creating roles and storylines that didn’t exist for those coming after her, said she has had her fair share of being told what roles she shouldn’t play or couldn’t play.
“I’ve never wanted to tell another actor they shouldn’t play a role,” Cox said on the last day of the festival. “But in a kind of world where we are constantly under attack and when a cisgender person plays us, that does not further the liberty of trans people.”
The actress then went into how important it is for marginalized communities, like LGBTQ, Asian-Americans and African-Americans, to see themselves represented on television and in films.
For rapper and actress Awkwafina, Crazy Rich Asians is the first film she believes fills that role for Asian-Americans.
“I grew up with Margaret Cho and Lucy Liu and then these other, very problematic Asian characters that were just thrown in, but on Crazy Rich Asians we are just able to be ourselves,” Awkwafina said. “As an Asian woman, I haven’t seen anything like this film and I wanted to cry after [the screening].”
For Diggs, who has been acting since late 1990s, getting invited to be a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences last month was a huge breakthrough, but one that he believes is necessary and that he earned, even if it came with backlash.
“We have to think of a bigger picture, and I don’t have time to focus on the backlash,” Diggs said.
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