"There’s a lot of value in representing the other 99% [of Asian-Americans] in a way that doesn’t sugarcoat their self-sacrifice"
Some may know Chon for his role as Eric Yorkie in Twilight. Others will know him for playing Jeff Chang in 2013’s 21 & Over.
However, perhaps his most important film was 2017’s Gook, which he directed and starred in. The film tells the shocking tale of two Korean-American brothers who were caught up in the 1992 LA riots.
Its accurate portrayal of the riots and Asian American experience of the time succeeded in resonating with Asian Americans as well as shedding light on an underrepresented time in history.
Now, Chon is once again doing his part for the Asian American community with his newest film Ms Purple. The film is told through the perspective of a young Korean-American woman named Kasie (Tiffany Chu) who makes sacrifices to look after her dying father.
Whilst promoting his film, Cho discussed the importance of representing Asian American stories.
“There’s a lot of cultural baggage that we [as Asian-Americans] bring from the ‘old country.’ My question for the audience is: what do we leave behind, and what do we take forward with us?” said Chon.
The 38-year-old actor then said that films including Crazy Rich Asians failed to represent the majority of Asian Americans.
“When I watch these fantastical stories like Crazy Rich Asians…it’s great. But I don’t think it represents the majority of us [Asian-Americans],” said Chon. “My dad worked at the swap meet for 15 years, seven days a week. Watching him hustle made me realize there’s a lot of value in representing the other 99% [of Asian-Americans] in a way that doesn’t sugarcoat their self-sacrifice, similar to how Ken Loach made films about the working class in Britain.”
Chu, the star of the film, said that Kasie’s relationship with her parents in the film will resonate with Asian Americans.
“Though Kasie is Korean-American and I’m Taiwanese-American, my parents are still immigrants who struggled as they came to the States and provided me a better life,” said Chu. “I developed a close bond with [my parents], and that allowed me to learn more about how families can love and be there for each other.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Chon spoke highly of Korean, Thai and Taiwanese cinema.
“I love world cinema, but I really love Asian cinema,” he said. “You’ve got the famous trifecta of Korean auteurs [Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, Kim Ki-duk], and I’m a huge fan of Taiwanese directors like Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien. They’re just masters. And then there’s Southeast Asian movies too, like Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, and a lot of great films coming from Thailand.”
Ms Purple will be released on 6 September.