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Why Did It Take So Long to See a Cast Like ‘Crazy Rich Asians’?

Category: Art & Culture,Arts

Early on, Ms. Jacobson and Mr. Simpson had certain actors in mind, like Ms. Yeoh, who was on everybody’s wish list for Eleanor. Unlike most of her castmates, Ms. Yeoh had appeared in dozens of films with all-Asian casts, like the Jackie Chan classic “Police Story 3: Super Cop” and the Oscar-winning “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” so, in some ways, this was nothing new. But those weren’t Hollywood productions. “It was very important for me to see an all-Asian cast here,” she said. “Twenty-five years? I don’t even understand why it’s taken so long.”

For other roles, the producers sought the help of veteran casting directors with connections to actors throughout Asia, like the Canada-based PoPing AuYeung (“The Forbidden Kingdom”). They also looked at stage actors in New York and London, and checked in with some of the world’s top drama schools, particularly in their search for the man who would embody Nick. “Ordinarily when you’re casting and maybe looking to break somebody, you go to the big theater programs,” Ms. Jacobson said, adding, “But they were like, we have not had a male Asian graduate in years.”

When Mr. Chu announced his open call, thousands of videos poured in. Working actors from the United States, Singapore and elsewhere submitted auditions alongside those outside the industry who figured they had nothing to lose.

Among the hopefuls was Cheryl Koh, better known as the YouTube singer Cheryl K, whose videos have garnered more than a million views. Although she was trying out for a role, any role, it was her 15-second, a cappella snippet of Jessie J’s “Mamma Knows Best” that convinced the filmmakers to give her a shot at singing the song under the opening credits, a Mandarin and English version of the Beatles hit “Money.”

“When I got the news that Jon wanted me to do it, I couldn’t stop screaming,” she said.


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