When Remy Hii and Chris Pang walked the AACTA Awards red carpet on Wednesday, there was the uncomfortable thought in their minds they could be misidentified in newspapers the next day.
“Yes, it’s happened to every Asian performer,” said Remy, whose father is Malaysian Chinese and mother is from England.
“In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a person of colour who has not been named or mislabelled through – I mean I want to say at best lazy journalism – but at worst it is kind of a microaggression that [tells people] we don’t deserve to be recognised for our true accomplishments,” he told HuffPost Australia.
The Spider-Man: Far From Home star said it’s an issue he gets “really passionate about”, because “the message you’re you’re being told is that you don’t matter”.
“In Australian papers I constantly had my name in the headlines and a picture with the face of Jordan Rodrigues,” he said, referring to the fellow Malaysian-Australian actor.
“Why is it so hard to do your basic due diligence and your research to get it right the first time? Because the effect is again, you’re telling a whole race of people that you aren’t worth being recognised.”
During his time on the Crazy Rich Asians press tour, Remy observed many of his co-stars being misidentified by the press “again and again”, something he said doesn’t happen so much with caucasian actors.
“As a person of colour, what is the message in that? The message you’re being told is that you don’t matter. That is something that is really, really damaging.”
Remy’s comments come after his Crazy Rich Asians co-star Chris Pang was mistaken for Simu Liu by a media publication last month.
The Australian Charlie’s Angels star, whose parents are of Chinese and Taiwanese descent, said Asian representation in Hollywood has improved, however it’s scenarios like this that take away from that.
“The exposure we are finally receiving is progress towards normalising the image of groups that we represent – and repeated mistakes like this, while unintentional, are still emblematic of the systemic disrespect we face,” Chris told HuffPost Australia at the time. “It trivialises hard-won progress.”
Both Chris and Remy were part of a panel at the AACTA Asia/Australia Film Forum this week, speaking about representation, racism and their experiences in Hollywood and Australia’s film industry.
Fellow panellist Pallavi Sharda said she also’s had a similar experience of being mistaken for another South Asian actress.
“For sure, I think it was during a film that had a premiere internationally,” the Indian-Australian film star told HuffPost at the Sydney event.
“There were a couple of photos but there were two Indian-looking actresses and we got mixed up, and our names both started with P.”
She said it doesn’t happen as often in Australia because “I’m one of the few South Asian actresses”, but that again raises the issue of the need for more diversity in the local industry.