HomeAsian AmericansAsian men normalized as love interests in Amazon series 'With Love'
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Asian men normalized as love interests in Amazon series ‘With Love’

By Erin Chew

With Love is an Amazon Prime romantic dramedy centered on siblings Lily (Emeraude Toubla) and Jorge Diaz (Mark Indelicato) as they navigate big life changes and rely on their equally big family to get them through. Now in its second season, the show has shifted from a journey of finding love to finding out which of the characters is planning to propose.

In addition to the main protagonists aforementioned, the main cast also includes Rome Flynn as Santiago Zayas, Isis King as Sol Perez, Todd Grinnell as Dr. Miles Murphy, Constance Marie as Beatriz Diaz, Benito Martinez as Jorge Diaz Sr. and the hunky Asian actors of Desmond Chiam as Nick Zhao and Vincent Rodriguez III as Henry Cruz.

The series is interesting as it shows and navigates different types of romantic relationships – heterosexual and sexually diverse ones and centers around different communities of color. The Asian men in the series of Chiam and Rodriguez III are love interests for each of the siblings Lily and Jorge respectively, normalizing Asian male characters as being capable of being leading men and romantic opportunities.

“I am so honored and grateful to be here. The debate on Asian men being romantic leads/interests has been argued for years and to me personally, it is important to see this representation for both the movement and collective culture. We have seen the changes with films like Crazy Rich Asians, Love Hard, this show etc, but we are still at the beginning and we need to continue to persist until we feel this is achieved and more importantly normalized”, Chiam said.

Lily (Emeraude Toubla) with Desmond Chiam as Nick Zhao dancing together
Amazon Prime Photo. Lily (Emeraude Toubla) with Desmond Chiam as Nick Zhao dancing together

With Love takes on the added challenge of putting Asian men in gay relationships, once again shifting the paradigm.

Amazon Prime Photo. Vincent Rodriquez the III with Mark Indelicato as Jorge
Amazon Prime Photo. Vincent Rodriquez the III with Mark Indelicato as Jorge

“As a gay Asian man, I do see the changes in both the heterosexual world and the gay world. We are definitely moving forward and the fact that With Love is in its second season is a testament to these changes. In With Love, we are breaking these negative stereotypical tropes and showing the love and romance in the Latino and people of color world – this is a statement that more changes are coming”, Rodriguez III expressed.

In season 1 of With Love, the primary focus was fleshing out the relationship between Jorge and his boyfriend Henry (played by Rodriguez III), who are actually the longest-lasting couple in the series thus far. Following her whirlwind romance with Santiago, Lily decides to focus all her energy on a personal journey of self-love by growing her makeup styling business and looking into homeownership.

But when both Santiago and Nick (played by Chiam) profess their feelings for her, Lily wrestles with what is best for her future. Both Chiam’s and Rodriguez III characters become more layered and transform in how they see relationships and love.

“I am fortunate that as a Filipino American, I get to play a Filipino American character. Playing Henry allows me to showcase my Asian/Filipino culture and how the differences in cultures between Jorge and Henry celebrate diversity. Henry is unique – Filipino, bisexual and successful and his character changes from the first to second season from being confident in who he is to exploring his love with Jorge and trying to overcome the complexities which lie in their relationship”, Rodriguez III discussed.

Finally, Chiam and Rodriguez III reflected on the things they would like audiences to take away after watching this new season as well as how they would like their respective characters Nick and Henry to be perceived.

“I would like fans and those watching the series to know that it is okay if life is messy because we are all only human. Also you can act and be sexy and still mess up when courting the person you love. I want people to see Nick as someone who is beyond the alpha male trope, and see him as someone who is dealing with a lot of emotional baggage”, Chiam expressed.

“I hope people who are following With Love, start to understand the complexities of relationships and also understand that love and romance is diverse and can come in all forms, not just heterosexual ones that most people are used to seeing. I hope people perceive Henry as someone who has a lot of love to give, but who is still learning and is someone who they would love to give a big hug to”, Rodriguez III said.

With Love season 2 is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

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