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James Hong Accepted His SAG Award in the Most Badass Way Possible

Brian Le, James Hong, Andy Le, and Michelle Yeoh accept the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture award for "Everything Everywhere All at Once" onstage during the 29th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza.

It’s not hyperbolic to say that awards ceremonies are, in large part, a load of bull, but the thing that can salvage them are genuinely good wins, earned by genuinely good people. Such a thing just happened at the SAG Awards Ceremony, where the cast of Everything Everywhere All at Once accepted their top ensemble award.

While accepting the award, superstar extraordinaire Michelle Yeoh gave a moment of recognition to the cast’s “gung-gung,” beloved actor James Hong. The speech he gave was nothing short of perfection:

Many Asian writers and comedians have commented on the fact that we all grew up seeing the same five or so Asian actors in big-budget films, and James Hong was absolutely one of those actors, which made him especially dear to families like mine. He’s been in the biz for nigh on 70 years, running the gamut from comedic roles alongside the likes of Groucho Marx, to “unnamed Asian man” roles, to voice acting credits and beyond. However, this ceremony marks the first time he’s actually received proper recognition for his talents:

And after such a long career, at his age, Hong very well could have just accepted the award and said nothing, but that’s the best part: He didn’t. Hong opened the speech in Cantonese, prioritizing viewers in Hong Kong (including some loved ones) over the bullshit decorum that Hollywood demands, and then he spoke plainly and honestly about what this award meant to him. He spoke about the early days of his career, where he was told that Asian actors simply “weren’t good enough” to fill out a cast, and therefore Caucasian actors would be cast, instead, with their eyes taped back.

After letting the audience absorb that, he swept his arm back and shouted, “But look at us now, huh?!” Panning to a shot of Everything Everywhere’s beautifully Asian cast—minus Jamie Lee Curtis, whom he humorously added was included because “Lee is a good Chinese name.”

Hong then went on to say he’d never had such a good time filming a movie as he did with Everything Everywhere, and everything he had to say was so utterly real and delightful. I was particularly tickled by two painfully Asian things: giving a shoutout to his mother just because, and joking that it’s a shame their “bald producer” wasn’t Asian, but eh, oh well.

What made this speech especially beautiful was the fact that it was so goddamn earned, and he knew it, and he spoke with a phenomenal mix of confidence, humility, and, of course, that old Hong Humor. It would be too easy to just call this a standard “Hollywood call-out,” but that would be reductive of the overall spirit of what Hong brought here. This wasn’t just a “gotcha” moment—this is James Fucking Hong we’re talking about, who knew what he was worth and how talented he was, and who dug in his heels when many others would have understandably run. Without him and the work he’s put in to make movies like Everything Everywhere a thing, the current state of acting would look incredibly different (a.k.a. ostensibly more “European” than it is even now, which he jokingly alludes to). This is his life, his passion, and my god, what a triumph he’s made of it.

This speech had me grinning from ear to ear, and it’s got me gearing up for a trip down Hong lane this weekend. Hopefully you’ll end up there with me, too. Congrats, James, you’ve earned all of this and then some.

(featured image: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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Madeline (she/her) is a writer, dog mom, and casual insomniac. Her prior experiences with media have taken her down many different roads, from local history podcasts to music coverage & production. Niche interests include folk music, elves/wizards, and why horses are cool actually.