Lea Salonga: Syrian Refugee Stance Is Too Familiar to Japanese-American Internment During WWII

Lea Salonga in Allegiance - H 2015
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

The 'Allegiance' star noted the parallels between the George Takei musical and today's headlines, telling THR: "It's happening again."

To Lea Salonga, the country's divided stance regarding the Syrian refugee crisis bears a close resemblance to how Japanese-Americans were treated during World War II.

The Tony-winning actress currently stars in Allegiance, the new Broadway musical inspired by co-star George Takei's childhood experiences in a WWII internment camp.

"It's refreshing that this is a specifically Asian-American story that shows the uglier, seedier side of American history, and how relevant it is today — for example, with so many discussions about immigrants in this country today, and with what's been happening around the world with the terrorist bombings in Beirut and Paris," Salonga told The Hollywood Reporter during a wide-ranging conversation that also included Hamilton actress Phillipa Soo.

"The lens is now closing on Muslims and the Muslim-American community, and I feel sick to my stomach, hearing the politicians talk and seeing which states will not allow refugees in. Yes, we understand, we get it, but remember, this same attitude was trained on another ethnic group back in the day. It's happening again."

Salonga adds her voice to those of other entertainment industry figures such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Moore, Olivia Wilde, J.K. Rowling and Angelina Jolie, who have spoken out against the political resistance to providing asylum for Syrian refugees.

Click here for THR's full conversation with Salonga and Soo, who discuss opportunities for Asian-American performers on Broadway, particularly in light of the current breakthrough season for diversity representation.