Constance Wu, Adele Lim and More Celebrate the "Rebirth" of Asian American Cinema at Unforgettable Gala

Constance Wu arrives at Unforgettable Gala — Getty — H 2019
Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

The who's who of Asian American media gathered at the Beverly Hilton on Saturday night to celebrate the casts and crews of 'The Farewell' and 'Fresh Off the Boat.'

Following the success of titles ranging from ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, Crazy Rich Asians and Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, multiple Asian American stars, writers and executives believe it’s time to redefine what successful films look like.

"It’s not just the right do-gooder thing to promote and encourage diversity and inclusion, but it’s a thing that makes box office cents," Crazy Rich Asians co-writer Adele Lim told The Hollywood Reporter at the 18th annual Unforgettable Gala. "We have all these stories that we’ve been sitting on and burying because we’ve been told over decades that it’s not gonna sell. We’ve seen over the few years that it’s simply not true. That’s a bigger truism we can take to the bank."

Lim joined Constance Wu, Manny Jacinto, Randall Park, Daniel Dae Kim and more at Character Media’s annual gala held at the Beverly Hilton. The Saturday night awards show, hosted by Shang-Chi and Kim’s Convenience star Simu Liu, highlighted Asian American actors, directors and stories.

Receiving the night’s Legacy Award, presented by Lexus, was the cast and crew of Fresh Off the Boat. Wu spoke to THR about the "emotional roller coaster" that has been the show’s final days. She said that though she feels down about the program coming to a close, she’s excited to see the projects that will come from the show’s legacy. 

"It seems to have inspired other people to tell their stories, one story can’t represent a whole," she said.

The cast and crew of The Farewell received the event’s annual Vanguard Award, an honor presented to Crazy Rich Asians in 2018. Tzi Ma, who plays Awkwafina's stoic father in the film, told THR that the momentum behind successful Asian American projects has the power to diversify the stories onscreen.

"It’s almost rebirth time," the Mulan actor said. "We’re not stuck with all the flash and the special effects. To be able to tell a story with no thrills and just people talking, and 80 percent in a foreign language, something’s going on."

In addition to adding variety to the kinds of stories that rule box offices, the actor said it’s also time to challenge "conventional wisdom" and redefine what it means to be "all-American."

"I think from now on, you really have to question what does this mean to be ‘all-American,’ you have to throw Awkwafina’s face into that mix," he said. “That’s an all-American face. The paradigm has to change."

The 18th annual Unforgettable awards also feted Pen15’s Maya Erskine, Ali Wong, Nico Santos, Charles Melton and Lulu Wang. Additional attendees included Steven Yeun, Dante Basco, Janet Yang, Jacinto and Terrence Howard.