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Is Hollywood racist? 'Fresh Off The Boat' executive producer says yes

John Lui

The Straits Times/Asia News Network

Singapore | Mon, September 11, 2017 | 08:05 pm
Is Hollywood racist? 'Fresh Off The Boat' executive producer says yes

Melvin Mar, the Chinese-American executive producer of the show, is on board with actress Chloe Bennett's Instagram comment in which she said that "Hollywood is racist" because the star of Marvel's Agents Of Shield found work in Los Angeles only after she changed her last name from Wang - her real name - to Bennett. (The Straits Times/Ariffin Jamar)

The sitcom Fresh Off The Boat is about an Asian-American family trying to find their piece of the American dream.

Melvin Mar, the Chinese-American executive producer of the show, is on board with actress Chloe Bennett's Instagram comment in which she said that "Hollywood is racist" because the star of Marvel's Agents Of Shield found work in Los Angeles only after she changed her last name from Wang - her real name - to Bennett.

The comment, made last month, was widely reported.

"The glass ceiling is very real," says Mar. "It was very brave of Chloe to talk about that," the 38-year-old tells The Straits Times.

He is in Singapore this week to speak at ContentAsia Summit 2017, a conference for media professionals.

Mar, whose parents are immigrants from China, notes that the Fresh Off The Boat star Constance Wu has spoken frequently about the difficulties that Asian and other non-white actors face in getting hired.

Read also: Racism in Korea, from TV to real life

"We need people like Constance and Chloe, people who are honest," he says.

When he started in show business 20 years ago as an unpaid intern, casting a non-white person as the lead of a television show "was a liability".

"But in the last few years, the conversation is changing, which is great, and I think it's because people of colour, both behind and in front of the camera, are making strides and getting to the level where they can talk about representation and can do something about it," says Mar, who is married and a father of a five-year-old girl.

Fresh Off The Boat's third season ended last year. A fourth season has been confirmed.

Recently, actor Ed Skrein pulled out of a role in the upcoming Hellboy sequel because he felt it would be a case of white-washing - replacing a non-white character with a white actor - if he accepted the role of a part-Japanese character.

Read also: Viral professor's BBC live interview sparks debate about racism

This move was met with online outrage from those who feared that political correctness would reduce or even erase the filmed representation of white people, especially of men.

"It's very hard for me to say 'poor white males'," Mar says with a laugh.

"I'm not discounting how they feel, but, for me personally, it's very hard for me to relate to the plight of the Caucasian male in America. I feel like the last 300 years has been pretty good to them."

This article appeared on The Straits Times newspaper website, which is a member of Asia News Network and a media partner of The Jakarta Post
 
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