What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot, according to Chinese-American actress Chloe Bennet who says that she had to drop her birth name in order to get a job in Hollywood.
The 25-year-old actress, who stars in Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” was born in Chicago to a Han Chinese father and a Caucasian American mother. Her birth name is Chloe Wang, but she has taken the name Chloe Bennet as an actress. When challenged over that name change on Instagram, Bennet gave the following response:
Changing my name doesn’t change the fact that my blood is half Chinese, that I lived in China, speak Mandarin or that I was culturally raised both American and Chinese. It means I had to pay my rent, and Hollywood is racist and wouldn’t cast me with a last name that made them uncomfortable. I’m doing everything I can with the platform I have to make sure no one has to change their name again just to get work.
Her comment came after she showed support on Instagram for British actor Ed Skrein’s decision to step down from a role in the new Hellboy reboot amid accusations of whitewashing. Skrein, a white actor, was slated to play an Asian-American character in the upcoming movie and Bennet applauded his decision to quit, writing: “Thank you @edskrein for standing up against hollywoods continuous insensitivity and flippant behavior towards the Asian American community.”
In an interview with NPR on Sunday, Bennet spoke more about her name change:
[Y]ou know it was really just a really organic thing. An uncomfortable amount of my feedback had to do with the fact that I didn’t look like what they expected me to look like. I had a casting director tell me ‘You’re not quite white enough for the role, but you’re not quite Asian enough for the best friend role.’ And I remember genuinely thinking ‘Oh yeah, yeah she’s right.’ Like, I’m not fully white so I couldn’t possibly be the lead even though there was no limitation on the breakdown of the character saying that this character needed to be any ethnicity. Also, when they see Chloe Wang, when you’re new as an actor and your agents are trying to put you out for different roles, the casting directors go, ‘No, that’s OK. We won’t take her. We don’t know who that is. We’re not looking for like that for this role.’
That kind of continually happened and my dad’s first name is actually Bennet. So in Chinese culture, your father’s name is a really big honor and so it only felt natural to take his first name, so I still honor him in that way.
And talked about how she was trying to change things for Asian Americans in Hollywood and elsewhere through her organization Represent. US. Now., fighting for more representation and against harmful stereotypes.
“I think what’s really dangerous with what, continuously, is happening with Asian-Americans in Hollywood is there’s a narrative that white Hollywood, or just any other ethnicity really in Hollywood gives to Asian-Americans that, ‘You’re the butt of the joke,'” she told NPR. “They’re determining that we’re the nerds, that we’re the shy girls or that the guy that can’t be sexy because he’s an Asian man.”
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