Brenda Song has been working with Disney since 2000, starring in a variety of Disney Channel Original Movies and famously playing one of pop culture’s original crazy rich Asians, hotel heiress London Tipton on the show The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
Much to her surprise though, when she heard news of a Crazy Rich Asians movie, adapted from a book series she was a fan of, the actress tells Teen Vogue that the production told her managers they weren’t even considering her for an audition for the groundbreaking film.
“Their reasoning behind that, what they said was that my image was basically not Asian enough, in not so many words,” says Song. For her, an Asian-American comedic actress in her mid-to-late 20s at the time to be denied a chance to audition for the late-twentysomething Asian-American lead in a romantic comedy puzzled Song.
“I’ve auditioned for Caucasian roles my entire career, but this specific role, you’re not going to let me do it? You’re going to fault me for having worked my whole life?’” the actress laments. “I was like, ‘Where do I fit?’”
Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu responded to Song’s quote on Twitter saying “I didn’t need her to audition because I already knew who she was!” He added that he is a fan of hers, and in another response to her story, said it “sucks if anything of that nature was ever communicated. It’s gross actually.”
??Nope. I love @BrendaSong and that sucks if anything of that nature was ever communicated. It’s gross actually. The fact is, obviously I know who she is and didn’t need her to audition. I’m a fan of hers! 🤷🏻♂️Nothing more nothing less. Bums me out she thought it was anything but.— Jon M. Chu (@jonmchu) November 20, 2019
The whole episode with Crazy Rich Asians had pushed Song to take time off to travel, and when she returned to Los Angeles with a renewed outlook, she quickly booked a role in the Netflix thriller Secret Obsession.
Now Song currently stars on Hulu’s new comedy series Dollface along with fellow former teen stars Kat Dennings and Shay Mitchell, but here’s hoping producers have a change of heart and save room for her in the upcoming sequel to Crazy Rich Asians.
EW has reached out to a representative for Song for further comment on the matter.
This story has been updated to include Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu’s response to Song.
[Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Brenda Song was discouraged by her managers from auditioning for Crazy Rich Asians. Per Teen Vogue, her managers were told by the production that Song “wasn’t right for a role in their eyes.”]