"I certainly know what it’s like to feel like an outsider"
Nico Santos, star of Crazy Rich Asians has discussed the challenges the LGBTQ faces in Hollywood.
Santos is best known for his role as Mateo in NBC sitcom Superstore but audiences will soon know him as Oliver T’sien from Crazy Rich Asians. Describing his character as “snarky, fashionable and gay”, Santos hopes his big screen character will fulfil the desire of those who want to see more Asian gay characters.
“What I love about this movie is that I get to … be a part of a project that means something, that has a message,” Santos said. “It’s really great to see the queer landscape really change to include everybody and make the rest of the world understand that we’re not just one or two things. There’s so much about the queer community that needs to be represented.”
However, Santos does not consider Crazy Rich Asians to be his big break. “I hope the film is well-received, but I don’t necessarily think this is a make-or-break moment for me,” the Filipino American actor said. “I’m fortunate enough that I still have another job. I do hope that “Crazy Rich Asians” leads to more work because I do want to expand what I’m doing out there.”
He hopes that the industry is not putting all its eggs in one basket when it comes to Crazy Rich Asians. “I mean, I try not to think, like, “Ugh, if ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ doesn’t do well, then they’ll never make another Asian movie ever again.” I really hope that’s not the case. I hope the industry doesn’t see this as the one shot we get. We should be making these kinds of movies and telling these kinds of stories. There should be five more movies coming out this year that are just like “Crazy Rich Asians” and five more movies just like “Black Panther.””
Reflecting on himself, Santos said he could not hide his sexuality when he was younger but he was able to bring his experience as an outsider to his character in the film.
“I was always one of those kids who couldn’t really hide being gay,” Santos said. “Some queer people are just more straight-passing than others, and I was not one of those kids.”
“[T’sien] is one of the crazy rich Asians, but he’s an outsider compared to the rest of his family. I certainly know what it’s like to feel like an outsider. So I really drew on those experiences of feeling alone, feeling like the odd man out.”
“The fact that I get to play a queer Filipino on television and another queer character in “Crazy Rich Asians” is huge.”
Santos went on to reveal the challenges he faces as an LGBTQ actor in the American film industry. “A lot of times with queer representation, it’s always like the masculine or straight-passing characters that they want to put out there,” he said. “First, it was broad stereotypes of sissy florists and hairdressers, and then it became straight-acting white guys. And now it’s really great to see the queer landscape really change to include everybody and make the rest of the world understand that gays are not one or two things.”
Santos accredits his inspiration in pursuing a career int he industry to Ellen Degeneres. “Ellen DeGeneres is a huge influence in my life,” he said. “She’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do stand-up comedy. I was a big fan of her stand-up before she even came out of the closet. When she came out [she] really changed the landscape for how people received queer people in America. It was really monumental and really allowed me to be like, “Well, she can do it. She has a huge career. Then maybe that dream is allowed for me, too.””
Crazy Rich Asians will be released on 15 August 2018.