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Harry Potter Actress Katie Leung on Casual Racism and Asian Representation

katie leung cho chang

The Telegraph recently did a profile on Katie Leung–who played Cho Chang in the Harry Potter movies–where she opened up about casual racism. To be frank, it goes to show that no matter how internationally famous you are, people still find a way to act ignorantly towards you because of the way you look.

In this piece, Leung brings up the common casual racism comment that many Asians experience. She talks about getting into a cab one day and hearing the taxi driver comment on her speech, saying that she “speaks very good English.” She commented on the story, saying, “It really irks me. It is just ignorance. It is something that needs to be addressed.” The piece implies that this has happened to her more than once, and as any person of color might be able to tell you, is something that happens all the god damned time.

Leung’s solution is one that is, indeed, near and dear to my heart: better Asian representation in media. Creating and promoting more roles for English-speaking Asian actresses would go a long way towards helping that, she suggests. It’s true; getting more Asian actors and actresses on screen not only helps inspire and empower Asian people, but it promotes the (very true) idea that we’re not all just racist caricatures. Representation does more than just help us, it helps change others’ views about us.

The piece goes on to shed some light on the darker parts of internet fandom as well. Apparently after Goblet of Fire came out, a flurry of “I Hate Katie” websites popped up (replete with racist comments), run by people who were jealous of the fact that the actress got to share an on-screen kiss with Daniel Radcliffe. She said, “I was quite impressed by how well I coped with it. I think it was all to do with being in denial. I tried to shut it out of my mind.” It seems that even this didn’t really rank too highly in terms of how much it bothered her, at least not compared to the other casually racist remarks she’s heard.

It’s clear from this piece that Leung has struggled with a myriad of problems around her acting career. What’s even more clear, however, is that she’s someone who is obviously trying her hardest to overcome these problems while making it better for everyone else around her. That’s downright admirable, and something that I’m really, really happy to see. The world needs more Katie Leungs, friends.

(featured image via Warner Bros.)

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (thebolditalic.com), and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters (spinningplatters.com). She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.