Creativity by definition is boundless; it does not belong to a single gender or nationality or age, an idea that was extremely visible at the FanExpo as all manner of people expressed their creativity through their amazing cosplays and incredible art pieces.
Mr. Jobeezy and I walked from building to building, it was easy to get swept away in the energy and excitement of everyone in attendance. Each costume and collectible brought out the best in all of us, and we were all grateful for, and inspired by, the experience.
One of the people who inspires us that we were blessed to meet was Asian-Canadian actress, Kristen Kreuk.
In Smallville, Kristen helped usher in the superhero age as Lana Lang, she kicked ass in the cult classic Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li; and in Beauty and the Beast, she brought light and life to the darkness of the New York City sewers. And Kristen is doing it again, this time as the voice of Princess Shuyan in the video game/graphic novel Shuyan Saga.
Kristen was in town to promote the game, and we had a chance to sit down with her to discuss the importance of the female voice in the creative process, and the plight of the Asian actor in the entertainment business.
Ryan Gonzalez: There is a certain lack of well developed mainstream female characters in both video games and comic books. Your character tackles both industries. Was this something that you took into consideration when taking the role? And what kind of things do you take into consideration when you do take on a project?
I think I’m getting smarter about that as I get older, but yes for this game in particular, that was a huge part of it for me. This is a woman, she’s complex, she’s flawed, she has issues, and she’s overcoming them, even though it’s not easy for her, it’s a struggle.
It’s about her, but it’s not centered around a love relationship or she’s not tied to some dude. She has a master and a teacher who happens to be male, but she has her own agency and drive and motivations.
It’s about family and about community, and I liked that about her, because I find that a lot of the female driven stuff is linked to a male love interest who moves that character through their journey, and I’m really struggling to find things that aren’t doing that, although, things seem to be changing quite drastically.
RG: Right. Thankfully it’s something that people seem to be recognizing more and more.
KK: Right! And I think everyone is fighting for that to change. Like, we don’t want that anymore, and the more women writers that get the opportunity to create the faster the change will spread. It’s wonderful to have so many women involved in this project for instance. I don’t know how long it will take to bring widespread change, but I do feel like the more that we all push for it, and inspire young teenagers to move into developing, and storytelling, and directing, producing, whatever it is, the faster we can bring about that change. And we have to keep putting pressure on people. That’s important. And it is making a difference. Wonder Woman kicked ass, right? It killed in the box office in a season where movies just didn’t do well. I think that’s something we have to hold onto, and that happened because I think people pushed for it. And so if we can keep doing that perhaps things will change more quickly than we think. I mean, for TV pilot season last year, which I didn’t do but from what I’ve heard, they wanted female leads, and they wanted diversity. If you were a white guy, there just wasn’t that much available for you. Which is a good step for us, i think.
RG: There have been several headlines in the entertainment industry concerning anti-Asian sentiment (unequal pay, the whitewashing of roles, limited opportunities, etc), with many actors standing up and speaking out against these practices. Can you speak about your experiences, if any, as an actress of half-asian heritage, in dealing with these prejudices, or your take on the issue in general?
KK: I’ll talk about the personal first. I started a long time ago, and my first job was portraying a half-asian girl, which is my heritage. Which didn’t happen again until Street Fighter, where I played my heritage as Chun Li. And every subsequent role after that; Beauty and the Beast I played my heritage, and in my new show Burden of Truth I play my heritage. I’ve often played white characters. Because I have light eyes, and even though my hair isn’t blonde it’s still light, so because I didn’t really challenge them in the way that I looked, it’s never really been an issue for me. I’ve never really felt that limitation on my career. But that being said I believe there is a strong issue and I have friends who are full Chinese that have really struggled to get their careers off the ground because there just aren’t the roles available. Like, if I were to look for, in Canada, an actress to play my mom, a Chinese actress in her 50’s or 60’s, they would be pretty hard to find. I just don’t think the opportunities have been available for people. And I think it’s changing, and people like Constance Woo and Chloe Bennett are really shifting the narrative on that. And even if we include Indian in the discussion, Aziz Ansari, I think that what they’re doing is really important. In Canada, I think it’s still a big issue. On TV, apart from Kim’s Convenience, I don’t think we have too many roles available. And I think discourse like this helps. For me now? I won’t play characters that are not of mixed race. And I’m grateful that I’m in a position to do that, and hopefully it makes a difference.
Judging by everything we had experienced at FanExpo that weekend, it definitely does.