Funimation voiceover actors Emi Lo, Apphia Yu, and Shawn Gann spoke to Indie Wire earlier this week about discrimination against Asian American actors in the film and voiceover industries. The discussion was prompted by the rise in anti-Asian violence and hate speech across the United States in recent months.
The actors spoke of their difficulties with obtaining roles because perceptions of race limit the range of “suitable” roles. Although actors are expected to play characters who match or resemble their ethnicity, those characters tend to be relatively restricted, especially among leading roles. Lo commented on television stereotypes around Asian women, who were expected to resemble Lucy Liu when she was growing up, and how her parents initially discouraged her for “not being pretty enough” because of it.
Anime voiceover potentially gives actors the opportunity to exert a broad range, regardless of their ethnicity and cultural background. On the other hand, the actors criticized mainstream Hollywood productions for casting A-list stars, even in English dubbed versions of anime features like Ghibli films, arguing that the name power doesn’t necessarily sell those movies. Instead, casting should be a matter of fairness. “I’m not mad if ScarJo (Scarlett Johansson) plays the Major [in Ghost in the Shell] as long as I get a fair shot at playing Black Widow,” Yu said.
They also spoke of how studios tend to be predominantly led by white people who will hire those they are close to or are already familiar with. In this context, pushes for diversity have often led to a small group of minority actors being promoted instead of expanding the range of actors who can get their foot in the door.
Although the actors praised the environment at Funimation for giving them the freedom to play a wide range of roles, they also noted that they’ve been reliant on white ADR directors and other authority figures in providing them with opportunities. Gann said that although he has made a place for himself at Funimation now, and has even been given director roles, “It’s still a hard push to make myself a permanent fixture amongst that group.” Yu said she hopes to see more people of color in upper-management positions.
Emi Lo played Rena Ryūgū in Higurashi: When They Cry – GOU, Mirai in Dr. Stone, and Hei in The Legend of Hei Chinese animated film. Apphia Yu played Victorique de Blois in Gosick, Lie Ren (young) in RWBY, and Rika Furude in Higurashi: When They Cry – GOU. Shawn Gann played Doc in Radiant, Manabu Takasaki in Nichijou – My Ordinary Life, and Chief Editor in MARS RED.
Source: Indie Wire (Kristen Lopez)