"There are a lot of white people telling the stories of minorities"
X-Men star Olivia Munn has talked about her Asian heritage with USC Price School of Policy and Asian Pacific Islander Caucus.
Munn, who played Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse, was born in Oklahoma to a Vietnamese mother and German-Irish-English father. Her mother fled to the US from Vietnam in 1975 as a refugee following the Vietnam War.
On the virtual chat with USC, Munn revealed that her mother disapproved of her studying theatre and wanted her to become a lawyer or doctor.
Her mother agreed to support her acting dream if she graduated and used her journalism degree for one year.
“I have a lot of my white friends asking, ‘Couldn’t you have just done it?’” Munn said.
“I find it’s very traditional in Asian families to really want the blessings of your parents. So even if I could have gone off on my own, I wouldn’t have felt good about it unless my mom gave me her blessing.”
Despite her mother’s initial disapproval, she supported Munn to pursue acting and told her to simply “come home” if she failed.
“The fact that she said it like that was the key that unlocked everything for me. Feeling that no matter what I did, my mom would always love me and there would always be a home for me to come home to,” Munn said.
“For our families to take this big jump to come to America and to immigrate here, that takes so much courage and bravery. It was this idea that we got to America, we put down roots, we have our children, now let’s try not to rock the boat anymore.”
“The problem in life is not aiming high and missing. It’s aiming low and hitting,” Munn added.
When Munn began her journey in acting, she was constantly told that she was “too white” to play the Asian role and “too Asian” to play the white role.
“That did get me down a lot of times,” Munn said. “I would see roles that were very ethnic neutral, but they would always go to the white girl. [Then] somebody told me, ‘Don’t worry, because one day they will have to match them to you.’”
“It was that confidence that somebody else had changed my way of thinking. I didn’t know how to think that way.”
Munn nonetheless turned down roles that would perpetuate stereotypes.
“In this business specifically, there are a lot of white people telling the stories of minorities. You have to be the one to say that’s not right or accurate and lead them back to the line.”
“Being Asian-American, there is this truth serum that we all have,” Munn said.
“I take a lot of pride in being able to say that I’m Asian and talking about it. Talking about it will normalize casting more Asians and giving them those opportunities, then that means a lot.”