While fans may know Brenda Song best for her role as hotel heiress London Tipton on Disney Channel's The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, the Dollface actress recently admitted that her time as pop culture's original crazy rich Asian was part of the reason she missed out on joining the 2018 film adaptation of the Crazy Rich Asians book series.
In an interview with Teen Vogue, the 31-year-old actress revealed that she had been denied an opportunity to join the production because of her "image." A fan of the original books, Song, who is half Thai and half Hmong, explained that she sent her managers to arrange an audition or meeting for a possible part in the film. But when her managers returned, they relayed the message that she wasn't right for a role.
"Their reasoning behind that . . . was that my image was basically not Asian enough, in not so many words," she told Teen Vogue. "It broke my heart. I said, 'This character is in her late to mid-20s, an Asian American, and I can't even audition for it? I've auditioned for Caucasian roles my entire career, but this specific role, you're not going to let me do it? You're going to fault me for having worked my whole life?' I was like, 'Where do I fit?'"
The sentiment is particularly crushing considering how important Crazy Rich Asians has been for Asian-American representation in the media. For a lot of people, Song has been one of the rare Asian-American actors we grew up with in popular culture, especially for those who grew up with Disney Channel.
Crazy Rich Asians director Jon Chu responded to Song's reveal on Twitter, saying he feels "horrible she thinks this is the reason" and he didn't need her to audition because he was already a big fan. Chu followed that up with a tweet highlighting an article published in August 2018 on the open casting call for the film. "One of my favourite memories of making #CrazyRichAsians was when we opened the auditions to anyone in the world with our open call," he wrote. "We watched hundreds & hundreds of videos from very talented people from all around the world. Made us tear up many times."
One of my favorite memories of making #CrazyRichAsians was when we opened the auditions to anyone in the world with our open call. We watched hundreds &hundreds of videos from very talented people from all around the world. Made us tear up many times. https://t.co/G5e64q0zmf— Jon M. Chu (@jonmchu) November 21, 2019
Luckily, there's a silver lining to every story, and Song explained that her heartbreak from the rejection encouraged her to take a break for a refresh. Her new mindset led to her nabbing the lead role in Netflix's Secret Obsession and then on Hulu's Dollface! "I got myself together and said, 'Brenda, there is only one you, and you can't change who you are. You can't change your past,'" she said. "All I can do is continue to put good auditions out there, do the best that I can — that's all I can ask for."