Arden Cho's newest role holds a lot of meaning to the actress — both professionally and personally.
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the former Teen Wolf actress, 37, opens up about her role in the Netflix drama series Partner Track, why she was initially attracted to the character, how the show plans to address racism in the workplace and how it has impacted her life on a personal level.
"It just felt so refreshing," says Cho, who plays Ingrid Yun, a first-generation Asian American fighting to make partner at a prestigious law firm in New York City. "It wasn't about her being Asian American. It wasn't about her being a minority, but it was about her saying, 'I'm trying to make partner.'"
"As she's trying to break this glass ceiling and win, she is struggling with all the things we experience in life," Cho adds of the 10-episode series, which was based on Helen Wan's book of the same name and developed by Georgia Lee.
"There's friendship, love, family, drama, and a little touch of comedy. In ways, it's light and fun and sexy," she adds. "There's really something for everyone."
For Cho, the ability to address racism in the workplace and spread awareness on the issue was just another benefit of being a part of the Netflix series.
"It's very relatable," she says. "The microaggressions are things that people, not just in law offices have experienced, but microaggressions you might experience anywhere — in the classroom, at work, at the grocery store, at the post office. Honestly, wherever you are in life, it happens."
"And I love that the show shows it in a way that sometimes the offender might not even know they're offending. That might not be their intention," she continues. "I feel like, luckily, I'm surrounded by people who are very aware and educated and kind and often asking, 'Hey, is it racist if I say this or is this racist?' And I love having the conversation."
"We do have some very big episodes where we dive in and we go there," she adds. "Even everything from the HR meetings and all those uncomfortable moments. I know for me personally, there were so many moments that I was like, 'Ugh, this is so icky and painful, but so real.' And I have felt this more times than I can count. It's so special that we are telling this story, that we're showing what that feels like. I feel like that's always the hardest thing. It's hard to explain what it feels like being on the receiving end."
After experiencing her own horrific racist attack in 2020, Cho believes she now has a better understanding of how to handle microaggressions or racist remarks that come her way.
"So much of my life, when I would experience racism or microaggressions, I would either almost just walk the other way, run away or hide, or almost think that it was my fault in a weird way," she shares. "I think it was because culturally I'd been taught to not make waves and not cause a scene. Or if you talk back, it might become escalated."
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However, as Cho gets older, the actress says she's learning to embrace the power of speaking up.
"I've learned how important it is to not be afraid and to respectfully engage in some ways where you say, 'Hey, that's actually not okay,' or 'That's not cool,' or maybe, 'We don't say that,'" she explains. "I feel like I am still in the journey of learning, and so is my character Ingrid. It's very simultaneous."
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Throughout her learning process over the past decade, Cho has proudly come to the conclusion that she "deserves a seat at the table" — and won't accept anything less.
"I'm focusing on being less apologetic because it's just something that women do, something that people of color tend to do," she says. "I'm trying to focus on being more confident and trying to stand up for myself in a way that Ingrid does as well."
Partner Track is now available to stream on Netflix.