The young actor is earned his stripes on shows targeting teenagers, despite being 26 years old. He plays Reggie in CW’s Riverdale, a show based on the Archie comic strip. He’s also earning raves for his role on the Netflix original series, 13 Reasons Why.
Butler, whose mother is Indonesian and father is British, grew up in Virginia and takes pride in winning parts not specifically Asian.
“Before I came to be cast as Reggie, there were probably a few years where I wasn’t getting a lot of auditions,” he told Salon. “Then slowly I started gaining traction on Disney, like K.C. Undercover. I was the only Asian guy in the room for that, and that was written I think originally for an African American character. Then there was Teen Beach Movie 2, which was non-ethnic specific. I started booking these roles that could be played by White people or African Americans. Then Riverdale came along, which was the first big step, because it was a character who was traditionally American. I saw that if I booked this, this would be a step in reversing the stereotype and starting to break new ground.”
In 13 Reasons Why, the backstory of Butler’s character, Zach Dempsey, is slowly being revealed. He has an Asian mother and sister.
“I thought it was right for the show because it shows that I’m just like another one of the kids at school,” Butler told Mashable. “I’m a jock, I fit in with my friend group, and I just happen to be Chinese too — and I think that is what most accurately reflects America right now. There’s so many Chinese or Asian Americans that were either born in another country like I was and raised in America, or born in America and raised in America. They’re normal Americans and they just happen to have a different heritage.”
Butler sees himself as normal too, despite his growing celebrity status.
“I’m actually a really big board game and video game nerd,” he told Backstage.
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