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Gemma Chan on Mary Queen of Scots character: 'If John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, I can play Bess of Hardwick'

Actor said it was important to have a diverse cast of actors playing a variety of roles

Roisin O'Connor
Wednesday 20 March 2019 10:06 GMT
Mary Queen of Scots trailer

Gemma Chan has spoken about the need for better representation and roles for actors of colour working in the film industry.

Speaking to Allure magazine, the Crazy Rich Asians star questioned why actors of colour are "only allowed to play their own race" and mentioned the backlash she received from internet trolls who took issue with her being cast as Queen Elizabeth's confidante, Bess of Harwick, in the historical drama Mary Queen of Scotts.

"Sometimes they [actors of colour] aren't even allowed to play their own race," Chan said. "In the past, the role would be given to a white actor who would tape up their eyes and do the role in yellowface.

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

Chan went on to emphasise her belief that representation of all ethnicities, body types and genders was important, both historically and in the present day: "If we portray a pure white past, people start to believe that's how it was, and that's not how it was."

In another recent interview with Glamour, Chan recalled how she used to be asked to audition for "specifically ethnic parts", but was told thinks like, "Can you do more of an accent? You sound too English!"

"That's why it's so important for a film like Crazy Rich Asians to come out and challenge and subvert people's ideas of what Asian people are like, or perhaps what women are capable of," she said.

"I think we need to constantly challenge those norms, those received ideas and stereotypes about what different people can do, what different abilities can do, right down to disabilities, social economic classes and so on. I think we need to challenge prejudice as a whole."

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