Steven Yeun made history Monday by becoming the first Asian American actor to be nominated for the Best Actor Oscar.
Yeun’s performance in “Minari,” director Lee Isaac Chung’s semiautobiographical drama about a Korean American family cobbling together a life in rural Arkansas in the 1980s, has earned him widespread critical acclaim. It marks long overdue recognition for both Yeun, who has had a long career in TV and film, and for Asian American actors, who have been historically underrepresented in film and at the Oscars.
Just a handful of actors of Asian descent have ever been nominated at the Oscars. Until this year, the last time an actor of Asian descent was nominated was four years ago, when Dev Patel earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for “Lion.” And only one actor of Asian descent has ever won Best Actor: Ben Kingsley for 1982’s “Gandhi.”
On Monday, “Sound of Metal” star Riz Ahmed also made history in the category, becoming the first Muslim actor ever nominated for Best Actor, and joining Yeun as one of only a handful of actors of Asian descent to receive recognition by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.