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Why Keanu Reeves' Ethnicity Is Constantly Confusing

TheThings logo TheThings 8/5/2022 Jelena Aska
© Provided by TheThings

Hollywood star Keanu Reeves rose to international fame in the early '90s and ever since then he has been one of the most well-known actors of his generation. Today, Reeves is best known for his portrayal of Neo in the sci-fi franchise The Matrix as well as the titular assassin in the John Wick franchise.

Related: Fans Thought Keanu Reeves Was A Teenager And Not 30 During His David Letterman Interview In 1994

When it comes to his heritage, not many are aware that the actor actually has a very diverse one. Native Hawaiian, Chinese, English, Irish, English, and Portuguese blood all run through his veins, but the actor very rarely opens up about his background. Keep on scrolling to find out more about the actor's family as well as why he isn't outspoken about his Asian identity.

What Ancestry Does Keanu Reeves Have?

While Keanu Reeves is one of the most famous Hollywood stars of his generation, not many know much about his early childhood and heritage. Reeves was born in Beirut, Lebanon, on September 2, 1964, but he was raised in Toronto, Canada. Reeves' mother was working in Beirut where she met his father, but he abandoned them when the actor was only three years old. Keanu Reeves met his father on Kauai, Hawaii when he was 13 years old.

Keanu Reeves' mother Patricia Taylor is English, originating from Essex, while his father Samuel Nowlin Reeves Jr. is American from Hawaii, and he is originally of Native Hawaiian, Chinese, English, Irish, and Portuguese descent. After the actor's parents divorced, Keanu Reeves' mother moved him and his sisters to Sydney, Australia, after which they relocated to New York City. There, Reeves' mother met her second husband Broadway and Hollywood director Paul Aaron and the family moved to Toronto.

Related: Before A Big Fight Sequence The Nicest Guy In Hollywood Keanu Reeves Must Eat A Steak

As his mother was a well-known costume designer, Keanu Reeves had a very interesting childhood. According to Cheat Sheet, "Alice Cooper used to regularly come over to Reeves’ house when the actor was a kid." Being surrounded by people from the entertainment industry certainly influenced Keanu Reeves' decision to pursue acting. In 1984, at the age of 20, Reeves had his acting debut in an episode of the television show Hangin' In, and ever since then he hasn't stopped acting.

What Has Keanu Reeves Said About His Ethnicity?

In an interview with NBC Asian America, the actor opened up about his diverse ethnic heritage. Because Keanu Reeves has Chinese Hawaiian roots, he admitted that he does connect with his Asian background, but he doesn't speak of it often. "My relationship to my Asian identity, it's always been good and healthy. And I love it," the actor admitted. "We've been growing up together." However, the Hollywood star did reveal that he has "mixed feelings" about being referred to as a person of color. "I don't know if I agree with that statement. But I don't not agree," the actor said.

Keanu Reeves also opened up about the filming of The Matrix Resurrections, and the influence the Chinese kung fu movies had on it. The actor revealed that the movie creators remained respectful when it came to drawing for Asian cultural sources and Keanu Reeves had an opportunity to once again work with Tiger Hu Chen, who was also an important part of the original The Matrix trilogy.

Related: Keanu Reeves Got Banned From A Market Of 1.4 Billion People But Everyone Else Still Has His Back

"Chen was my teacher on the trilogy, and it was wonderful to work with him on Resurrections," Reeves revealed to NBC Asian America. "We know each other, he's a wonderful martial artist. So I feel really grateful and honored to be able to spend time with him. With the martial arts, [we're] presenting those art forms in an artful way, in a respectful way. Not in a way where it's experienced as a caricature, but from a place of reverence."

The writer of Always Be My Maybe Ali Wong called the actor an "Asian American icon." In an interview with the LA Times, Wong opened up about how important it was to have Reeves appear in the rom-com. "It was very important to me that it be someone who was Asian-American...I was very aware that Keanu was Asian American because my family and community wouldn’t shut up about it. Maybe other people didn’t know, but I never forgot that," Wong said.

However, plenty of fans were confused when Keanu Reeves told Essence that he is "not a spokesperson" for Asian actors in Hollywood. The actor who is very familiar with Chinese culture thanks to his grandmother, did say that he hopes his roles are of some value to everyone. "I hope that whatever opportunities I’ve had, or the work that I’m doing, in some way can entertain and can also—I don’t want to say teach—but have something of value come out of it," Reeves said.


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