“Crazy Rich Asians” assembled an all-star and all-Asian cast for the groundbreaking romantic comedy, but actor Brenda Song is claiming she wasn’t even given the chance to audition.
The 31-year-old star, who rose to fame on the Disney Channel thanks to projects like “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” and “Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior,” said she was denied the chance to be a part of the film because her “image was basically not Asian enough.”
As a fan of the book series on which the film is based, Song recalled in a Teen Vogue interview published Wednesday that her manager contacted the “Crazy Rich Asians” team to see if she could read for any role in the film. But her dreams were dashed when she claims they denied her the opportunity.
“Their reasoning behind that, what they said was that my image was basically not Asian enough, in not so many words,” Song told the outlet. “It broke my heart. I said, ‘This character is in her late to mid-20s, an Asian American, and I can’t even audition for it?’”
She added: “I’ve auditioned for Caucasian roles my entire career, but this specific role, you’re not going to let me do it? You’re going to fault me for having worked my whole life?’ I was like, ‘Where do I fit?’”
“Crazy Rich Asians” went on to become the highest grossing rom-com of the decade, bringing in over $200 million at the international box office, and a landmark moment for Asian representation in Hollywood. The next two sequels are currently in development and will be filmed back to back sometime in 2020.
The film’s director, Jon M. Chu, has since responded to Song’s claims, explaining he’s a big fan of her work and that he feels “horrible” if she ever received that kind of messaging.
“I love @BrendaSong and that sucks if anything of that nature was ever communicated,” he tweeted Wednesday. “It’s gross actually. The fact is, obviously I know who she is and didn’t need her to audition. I’m a fan of hers! Nothing more nothing less. Bums me out she thought it was anything but.”
Chu added that those words would never “come of my mouth” and reiterated that he wouldn’t need Song to audition in the first place given her body of work.
He later shared an article about the film’s open casting process and how anybody could be considered for a role if they uploaded an audition video with the hashtag #CrazyRichAsiansCasting.
Song has yet to address Chu’s response, but is keeping busy these days with a role in Hulu’s new series “Dollface” alongside Kat Dennings and Shay Mitchell, as well as her recent Netflix thriller “Secret Obsession.”
And while there could be a role for her in the follow-ups to “Crazy Rich Asians,” this isn’t exactly the first controversy to surround the franchise.
In September, the film’s co-writer Adele Lim exited the sequel over a pay parity dispute. The Malaysian-born writer claimed that her white co-writer Peter Chiarelli was offered nearly 10 times her salary for working on the sequels, prompting Chu and cast members Gemma Chan and Awkwafina to release statements in support.
“I am, of course, frustrated that we all can’t do the next one together, but I think the conversation this has started is MUCH more important than ourselves (and the movie sequels, frankly), so who am I to get in the way of that,” Chu wrote at the time, adding that the door is always open for Lim to return.
“I agree with Adele that parity for women and people of color is crucial to the continued enlightenment of our industry and we still have a long way to go.”