Harry Shum Jr. Is The Asian Leading Man Changing Stereotypes

All My Life opens today in theaters

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NBC Universal Photo

By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer

A few years ago, I remember reading an article about the life, relationship, wedding of Toronto couple Solomon Chau and Jennifer Carter. After setting a wedding date, Chau received a terminal cancer diagnosis and the wedding date was pushed back. Thanks to donations from friends and strangers online, the couple was able to raise over $50,000 for their wedding after Chau was told that the cancer had spread and he would not live long enough to get married. Chau died at age 26 four months after his wedding. And this is the love story that Universal Pictures film All My Life is based upon. The film was directed by Marc Meyers and stars Harry Shum Jr. playing the leading man “Solomon Chau” and Jessica Rothe playing his girlfriend and wife “Jennifer Carter”.

What is most significant about the film is that the male romantic lead is played by an Asian man. Granted, the film is based on the life and relationship of an Asian man and a Caucasian woman, but with the historical track record of Hollywood and major production companies, it would be a non-issue for them to make “Chau’s” character a White man considering Asian males have been negatively portrayed by Hollywood for almost a century. Raising this topic with Shum, he spoke about this during our interview with a lot of passion and a will to contribute to changing the stereotype:

“It is important that we as a community and those of us who are in the entertainment industry undo a lot of exclusion that has been happening for a long time in how Asian males like myself have been portrayed in Hollywood. Asian men are romantic, but more importantly, we are regular men and not an anomaly.” Shum said.

“A question that needs to be asked is why our faces are not seen in leading roles or being the primary love interest? This negative stereotyping has been going on for almost a century and when you dig deeper when an Asian man is portrayed as attractive, romantic and a regular person, Hollywood has been quick to stop it.”

(from left) Dave Berger (Jay Pharoah), Solomon “Sol” Chau (Harry Shum Jr), Jenn Carter (Jessica Rothe), Megan Denhoff (Marielle Scott) and Amanda Fletcher (Chrissie Fit) in “All My Life,” directed by Marc Meyers.

Playing “Solomon Chau”, Shum shows the audience that All My life is more than just tale of a real life story of love and lost, but it is ensuring that Chau’s memory lives on and means something to the greater cause. The film is more than just about the relationship between Chau and Carter, but it makes a statement that Asian men and Asians as a whole are romantic and lead material, and that they are also just regular people. Shum discusses this and how important it was for him to play “Chau” as a multi-faceted character to do justice to his memory.

“When the script for “All My Life” landed on my desk, I remember having heard about the story of Sol and Jenn. I remember reading articles and watching the video of the wedding years ago, and I thought to myself, If I am to portray Sol, I would need to ensure that his character means more than just his life and death, but it sends a message about changing negative stereotypes and that Sol died with happy memories of his love and life.” Shum said.

Finally, film All My Life sounds like it is just about a “tragic love story”, but after watching the film, you realize it is more than that and it is more about a “celebration of life, love and hope.” Shum mentions that this was what made it significant for him to portray “Chau”, and that the audience watching the film should come out with a perception that is personal to themselves.

“I always love getting feedback on the films or shows I have worked on, and when they tell me they are at a different headspace after watching the film that means I, as an actor have done my job. I hope I have done so with this film and portrayed Sol as someone who loved his life and his love, but also ensuring that his memory lives on and has contributed to change. To different people watching the film, there would be something personal that they can take from the film, but most importantly to fully represent Sol’s memory it is that we need to celebrate the little things which make our life happy and to cherish all these little life moments.”

“All My Life” starring Harry Shum Jr. and Jessica Rothe will be publicly released on December 4.

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