Wrong doors opened? After Shang-Chi, Fala Chen is getting more calls to play Chinese-speaking Asian characters

Wrong doors opened? After Shang-Chi, Fala Chen is getting more calls to play Chinese-speaking Asian characters
Shang-Chi actress Fala Chen has received more offers for acting as Asian characters that only speak Chinese.
PHOTO: Disney, Warner Bros Discovery

Opportunities have come knocking in the wake of her Hollywood breakout role in the Marvel film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but it's not the kind that Fala Chen expected.

In an interview with regional media on Tuesday (June 21) for the HBO limited series Irma Vep, the Chinese-American actress revealed that despite her appearance on Shang-Chi, she's still grappling with Asian typecasting.


"After Shang-Chi, we're getting more calls about me playing an Asian character who speaks only Chinese," Fala, 40, said in response to a question by AsiaOne. 

The Marvel actress shared: "I feel like I personally, as a human being, have a lot more to give. So it does feel like we're constantly fighting against that."

Irma Vep follows Mira, an American movie star that decided to join a troubled French production as their lead actress and star. On the show, Fala plays Cynthia Keng, a Hong Kong star who was brought on as a conduit for targeting the Chinese market.

Fala recounted that she would often get Asian roles when she was in drama school in New York. The former TVB actress is a graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School.

"I would always have this feeling, like 'Why did they cast me in this particular role?" the actress said, adding that she has been made to feel like a token Chinese or Asian before.

"It does feel like there's still like a limit to a lot of people's imagination [on] what an actor is capable of beyond the colour of their skin," she pointed out.

The price of fame

The limited series also dives into the dark and chaotic side of showbiz and explores the cost that comes with fame.

Recalling her experience at the height of her career in Hong Kong, Fala said that fame in real life is "extremely costly". It's something you're almost not willing to trade for, she said, as you have to give up your privacy and even your name.

"It still feels every time I think about those years in Hong Kong being chased by paparazzi, I feel like I've given up a big part of my life during those few years," Fala recalled.

Despite that, it's clear that she isn't shying away from the craft and maintained that she's "confident in [her] work", even when transitioning to a new market like Hollywood, she told AsiaOne.

"I don't feel like I need validation to prove myself," Fala explained. "But I think I'm ambitious and greedy — I am always looking for the next level, the next challenge and the next big project that interests me."

New episodes of Irma Vep air every Tuesday, 9am on HBO GO, with a same-day encore at 10pm on HBO.

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