Hong Chau was a surprise Golden Globe nominee for her best supporting role in Downsizing.
She didn’t win Sunday night, losing to Allison Janney (I, Tonya). Yet the award has given her a higher profile, and also made her the target of those critical of her accent in the movie.
Chau herself is a Vietnamese refugee who was literally born in a Thai refugee camp when her parents fled Vietnam.
In an interview with the Southeast Asia Globe, Chau defended her portrayal of a Vietnamese dissident.
“The Vietnamese refugee community that I grew up with in New Orleans is certainly an inspiration for my character in Downsizing but, at the end of the day, the character is mine,” she said. “Americans have different relationships with different accents. With the Vietnamese accent, it’s usually because we tend to have service-oriented occupations. That brings up the race and class issue and inequality and discrimination. That’s a lot to unpack, so it’s not just about an accent being problematic.”
In an earlier interview with Indie Wire, she talked about the need for strong Asian characters.
“I just want Asian characters that are well-written. I love characters that are written with a lot of specificity…“I grew up around Vietnamese refugees, around people who don’t speak English as a first language. It is a heightened character, it’s not a documentary, I wasn’t pulling directly from any one person.”
She also denied her role was one of the submissive Asian women.
“My character, and other minority characters in this story, are not there to prop up the White, male character and show him in this great, positive light. If anything, we’re showing that he’s part of the problem because he’s not paying attention. I don’t see anything wrong with that,” she said to Southeast Asia Globe.
(Editor Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the winner of the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a motion picture.)
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