We turn to the silver screen to entertain us, to show us different aspects of our lives, and to re-introduce us to the world according to Hollywood. It’s always interesting to observe how pop culture depicts ethnicity and how an actor’s ethnicity often determines the roles they play.
During a recent university visit 30 Rock star Maulik Pancholi talked to students about his experience as an actor of South Asian decent. The classically trained actor spent his Yale Theatre School years trying to escape his South Asian roots. However once graduated, Pancholi moved to Los Angeles and was immediately subjected to stereotypical roles from casting directors.
Paradoxically, it seems that to ‘make it’ as an actor one has to ’embrace’ their ethnicity to the point of reducing it to common stereotypes. Refusing to do so can often backfire, as the actors would not get any work at all. In our day and age it is definitely time to move away from ethnic stereotypes and make TV shows and movies that accurately show the world we live in. That said, it seems stereotypes, ethnic or otherwise, will always exist, and there will always need to be actors who depict these.