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'Captain Marvel's Gemma Chan says she should be able to play white characters

Yahoo! Entertainment UK logo Yahoo! Entertainment UK 20/03/2019 Ben Arnold
Gemma Chan in a pink dress © Provided by Oath Inc.

British actress Gemma Chan has said that she should have every right to play white characters in movies.

Chan, who grew up in Kent with parents from China and Hong Kong, was being interviewed by Allure magazine, when she was asked: ‘Why are actors of colour, who have fewer opportunities anyway, only allowed to play their own race?’

She replied pointedly: “And sometimes they’re not even allowed to play their own race.

“In the past, the role would be given to a white actor who would tape up their eyes and do the role in yellowface.

REUTERS/Kyle Grillot © Getty REUTERS/Kyle Grillot

“John Wayne played Genghis Khan. If John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, I can play Bess of Hardwick.

“I feel like Hamilton opened minds a lot. We have a black man playing George Washington. They describe it as ‘America then, told by America now.’ And I think our art should reflect life now.”

The star of C4 sci-fi Humans and Crazy Rich Asians star also speaks about a documentary project she worked on last year about the Chinese Labour Corps, a force of 140,000 Chinese labourers who were recruited to join the Allied Forces on the western front during World War I.

“I studied the First World War three times at school. And I never heard that there were 140,000 Chinese in the Allied effort,” she said.

a group of people standing in a room © Provided by Oath Inc.

“We would not have won the war without them.

“If people understood that, my parents [might not] have been told, ‘Go home, go back to where you came from’ multiple times. If we portray a pure white past, people start to believe that’s how it was, and that’s not how it was.”

Chan comments come after a string of recent ‘white-washed’ roles in Hollywood, from Scarlett Johansson’s starring role in Ghost In The Shell, via Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One in Doctor Strange, to Netflix sci-fi horror Annihilation, in which Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh played roles described in the book it was based on as being Asian and half Native American.

Related: 24 Actresses Who Will Rule The Screen In 2019 [Refinery 29]


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