The 31-year-old actress, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie at the 2021 Emmy Awards for her role in Hamilton, said many have felt “fearful” and “uncertain” over the past 12 months in particular, but it’s also been an opportunity for the community to band together and speak up.
“It’s been an interesting year as an Asian person, as a biracial Asian person,” Soo told Refinery29 Australia.
“[I’ve been] really getting deep with people in my community – in the Asian community and not in the Asian community – about what all this is and how it got to this point,” she explained.
“I think the more that we can have these conversations – maybe some of them are messy and maybe some of them are difficult – the better.”
Soo, whose father is of Chinese descent, has been vocal on social media in the wake of a rise of reported physical and verbal assaults of Asian Americans in recent months and the Atlanta shootings in March which resulted in the deaths of six Asian people.
“The stain of racism in this country will never be repaired if we don’t call it out,” she wrote on Instagram in February.
“It is disturbing that these stories are not being covered in mainstream media. Violence against Asian bodies in this country needs to be exposed so we can root out the hate that feeds it. If we don’t publicly denounce these hateful acts, how can we expect to truly hold accountable the monsters that commit these hate crimes?”
During her chat with Refinery29 Australia, Soo said it was a “personal goal” of hers to highlight these issues, but to also help elevate Asian American voices through entertainment.
“I think that we’re living in a time when people are fearful and uncertain and are looking to find an answer to the chaos, but I think in terms of the rise of Asian hatred, I made it a personal goal of mine to uplift Asian stories and Asian American stories and at the same time lift up my own story,” she said.
“I’ve seen the Asian community come together in a really beautiful way that I’ve never seen or felt before which is the silver lining out of all of this.”
Soo is well known for portraying Eliza Hamilton in Broadway musical, Hamilton, which was widely celebrated for its very multicultural cast. Since then, she has starred in military drama television series, The Code and Paramount+’s women-led zombie comedy, The Bite.
It’s through these performances she’s vyed to defy stereotypes about what on-screen roles Asian women should play.
“I make it a goal of mine to create empathy for the community of people I’m trying to reach and so I hope through being myself, through telling my story, through embodying the characters I embody,” she said, “[that I] create some empathy, to create a door or window to access a story that might not be their own or might be very similar to theirs.
“It’s so important to have representation and diversity in the arts that we make in Hollywood because these are all of our stories.”
Like those in America, many Asian Australians have also said they have faced a wave of racism, both in person and on social media, since the pandemic.
The results of the COVID-19 Racism Incident Report Survey 2021, conducted by the Asian Australian Alliance (AAA) and Per Capita’s Osmond Chiu, were released in July, revealing 541 racist incidents in the 15 months prior. Nine in 10 respondents said they thought their experiences were related to the pandemic.
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