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The Most Memorable Asian Roles Hollywood Has Ever Produced

by Emmanuel Calingacion | Aug 22, 2018
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Crazy Rich Asians hits theaters today, and if you're not excited about it, dear Asian, then you simply don't deserve the magnificence it's about to drop on you. It's got an amazing all-Asian cast and a very Asian plot and a very Asian theme. It's perfectly Asian in every possible way.

Having actors and actresses of actual Asian descent play Asian characters in a Hollywood film is certainly an improvement over the undesirable whitewashing—where Caucasian performers portray non-white roles—that Hollywood was once known for (some might argue, still is). 

Crazy Rich Asians isn’t the only movie to get Asian roles right. There have been some flicks before it that have cast talented Asian actors and actresses, giving them the limelight they deserve. These are the best that we’ve seen so far.

Jackie Chan - All his Rush Hour films

Just listen to us for a sec. Jackie Chan’s role in the Rush Hour franchise as Hong Kong Police Force Chief Inspector Lee was perfect. This is our favorite Jackie Chan role because he effectively delivered all the laughs and the badassery. He’s like the Chinese version of Cardo Dalisay. CAH-TUHR.

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Ming-Na Wen - The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club not only perfected the implementation of an all-Asian cast, but they also did it with purpose. Ming-Na, fairly unknown before this movie, plays June Woo, a failure in her mother Suyuan’s eyes for not meeting her high expectations. That alone is pure Asian. We’ve all been there before and we’ll all survive it like June did.

John Cho and Kal Penn - Harold and Kumar

You know that friend of yours you like doing stupid stuff with and you end up forgetting everything you just did after a night of booze and things we’re not allowed to talk about here? Yep. Whether you’re the Harold or the Kumar, you’re sure to have had that desire to leave everything behind and just live in the moment. Ah yes, the American dream.

Ken Jeong - The Hangover

Everybody knows who Ken Jeong is and how relatable he is as a funnyman. Ken Jeong’s character in The Hangover, Leslie Chow, is one crazy son of a bitch who’s willing to do anything to get ahead of everyone and make more of that moolah. We know, those are bad qualities, but at least he's a hustler.

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Dev Patel - Slumdog Millionaire

Dev Patel’s Jamal Malik is a hopeless romantic. We all want the love of a lifetime, even if that means going through all the obstacles Jamal went through in this film, including entering the game show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” in order to fulfill his destiny. 

Sung Kang - Fast and Furious franchise

It’s a staple in Asian fantasy movies that there’s always this mysterious character, who’s usually an old man with a long beard, who gives wise advice to the hero of the story. Replace that man with an awesome street racer with a sick ride, and you have Han Lue, the mentor of Sean Boswell in The Fast and The Furious: Toyko Drift. We all need a friend to keep us in check most of the time.


Lana Condor - X-Men: Apocalypse

Although she only made a brief appearance in the movie, we all appreciated seeing Jubilation Lee or Jubilee played by To All the Boys I Loved Before’s Lana Condor. A fan-favorite, Jubilee is a bubbly character with a positive outlook in life, which makes her the perfect poster child for Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters. Also, it doesn’t hurt that her name sounds like everyone’s favorite Filipino fast-food chain.

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Claudia Kim - Avengers: Age of Ultron

Here’s a funny stereotype for you. How many Asians, specifically Filipinos, are nurses? Fine. Helen Cho is a world-renowned geneticist, but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s in that same field. How many of us dreamed of becoming doctors when we were young? How many of us gave up when we found out how long it’s going to take to finish school? Well, whether we continued with that dream or not, some part of us wanted to be like Dr. Helen Cho.

Jacob Batalon - Spider-Man and Avengers

This is one of the rare cases of reverse whitewashing. Ned Leeds, played by Fil-AM actor Jacob Batalon, is supposed to be a Caucasian male. But in Spider-Man: Homecoming, he debuted as the Asian friend of Peter Parker, and is portrayed as a geeky scene-stealer with some know-how in technology. Score one for the Asians! 

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Katie Leung - Harry Potter franchise

Katie Leung plays Cho Chang, the first love interest of the titular character, Harry Potter. Cho is a soft-spoken Asian girl and it’s easy to see why Harry would be smitten. But don't be fooled—she's also a tenacious wizard-in-training! Don't even try to mess with her, you Muggle!

Rajiv Surendra - Mean Girls

What’s not to love about Kevin G? He practically stole the show when he laid down that iconic rap. It doesn’t matter what he's freestyling about, as long as he gets to say what’s on his mind in an MC flow. Represent!

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