How Hong Kong's Young Talents Found New Opportunities in Hollywood

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Stephen Fung, Fala Chen, Selena Lee

From the streaming giants to the studios, the push for greater inclusivity is offering Asian actors and filmmakers a more varied range of projects: "The entertainment industry in the U.S. in general is opening up for more diversity."

Thanks to Hollywood’s recent, overdue embrace of onscreen diversity — led by breakthroughs like Crazy Rich Asians and Disney’s upcoming Mulan remake — new opportunities are opening up for a whole new generation of Hong Kong actors, alongside their Asian American peers. Hong Kong actress Fala Chen’s recent career trajectory is exemplary. Chen was a star on Hong Kong television for more than a decade before she decided to put everything on hold to pursue a master’s degree at The Juilliard School. Shortly after graduation she landed a supporting role opposite Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant in the upcoming HBO series The Undoing. What’s most exciting to Chen is the fact that the part wasn’t written specifically for a Chinese actor. 

"She is just a woman — none of her choices and actions rely on the fact that she’s Asian," Chen explains. "She is part of the community where the story is taking place."

Hong Kong directors also are making new contributions offshore, as in the case of Stephen Fung, who produced and directed AMC’s Into the Badlands and the upcoming Netflix series Wu Assassins. "The entertainment industry in the U.S. in general is opening up for more diversity," Fung says. But the emergence of some new opportunities for Asian actors doesn’t mean representation has reached anything near parity, notes Hong Kong actress Selena Lee, whose performance in the 2018 season of crime drama Blood and Water was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award.

"I was the only Asian actor nominated at those awards this year, in all of the movie and TV performance categories," she says. "Asian actors are not recognized as much for their performances, and the main problem is that there still are not enough challenging roles for Asian actors to showcase their talents." 

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's May 15 daily issue at the Cannes Film Festival.