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Jon M. Chu Shares ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Regret: Should’ve Made South Asian Roles ‘More Human’

Chu is hopeful he "won't make that mistake again."

Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding, and director Jon M. Chu on the set of “Crazy Rich Asians”

Warner Bros. Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

Jon M. Chu shared regrets in an interview with Insider over casting South Asian actors in stereotypical roles in his blockbuster 2018 romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians.” While the film has been heralded for its representation, Chu told the publication he “should have” made the South Asian characters in the film “more human.” The majority of South Asian characters in the film are featured in subservient roles or as domestic workers such as armed guards. Some moviegoers questioned these casting choices at the time of the film’s release, and Chu says he “totally gets” the criticism.

“That’s a lesson that I did not understand until it happened,” Chu said. “I was like, ‘This is a book that exists and I’m making this book into a movie.’ I can’t add a new character into this book.”

Chu pointed to one scene in which Rachel (Constance Wu) and Peik Lin (Awkwafina) get lost on their way to a party, only to find themselves surrounded by armed guards sporting large rifles. The guards, played by South Asian actors, are made out to be imposing figures.

“Looking back, I should have had a joke there [for the guards] being like, ‘These idiots’ [about the girls],” Chu said. “There’s stuff to do to make them more human instead of just like these guards.”

Chu said “it was a learning experience” hearing that some viewers were upset the movie sidestepped South Asian actors, adding he “will pay more attention to that stuff” in his future film projects and, hopefully, “won’t make that mistake again.”

The director also admitted that while he did cast South Asian actors to attend a huge party sequence, he did nothing to “accent it in any way” so that the South Asian actors’ presences could be felt in the scene. “They’re just sort of there,” Chu said. “I don’t give them the space to be there.”

Next up for Chu is the musical adaption of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” which has received glowing reviews from critics and opens in theaters and HBO Max on June 10. The musical is also opening the Tribeca Film Festival on June 9.

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