Hollywood diversifying, but still a long way to go: Japanese-American actor Masi Oka (IANS Interview)

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Flipboard
  • Email
  • WhatsApp

New Delhi : Masi Oka feels the lines differentiating people on the basis of their ethnicity and background are getting blurred. The Japanese-American actor says there are now more opportunities in Hollywood for people from diverse backgrounds -- but there's still a long way to go.

Oka has been a pioneer when it comes to Asian-American representation in showbiz with projects like "Heroes", "Hawaii Five-0", "Scrubs", "Along Came Polly", "Friends with Benefits" and the forthcoming Warner Bros Pictures' project "The Meg".

"We are definitely seeing a lot (diversity). Do we still have (a long) way to go? Yes, absolutely. But I think people are becoming more conscious... Now, things like people with talent and talent of people of colour -- that line is getting blurred, which is a great thing," Oka told IANS in an interview over phone while talking about diversity in Hollywood.

"There are more opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds."

Looking back at his journey which started in 2001, he said: "I just feel very grateful and very lucky to be at the right place at the right time. When I was starting, there were not many roles for Asians or Asian-Americans. We looked up to Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan.

"But nowadays thanks to shows like 'Heroes', we are seeing Asians and Asian-Americans in the centre. Now, we have great shows that star Asians and Asian-Americans. We also have a movie, 'Crazy Rich Asians', coming up that is backed by Warner Bros.

"Times (have) changed and to be able to kind of be the pioneer and to be part of that generation (of) change... I am very proud and honoured to do that."

Oka, who has also been working to build bridges between Hollywood and Japan, says there is a need to have "more representation in front of camera as well as behind the camera".

But he is sad about one thing though.

"The one sad thing though is that I have younger actors coming up to me and saying that 'Hi, I grew up watching you'. So, I think 'Oh, so I am one of those'. I have reached that point in my age when people grew up watching me."

With the mention of diversity, the actor points out that "The Meg" -- a horror film which brings Jason Statham and a group of people fighting against a giant prehistoric shark called a Megalodon for survival -- boasts of a diverse cast. It is slated to release on August 10.

"'The Meg' is an amazing film. It is a huge film with action, humour and fun, but what we also have is an international, diverse cast. And to be part of that is something which I am really proud of."

Talking about the Jon Turteltaub directorial, the actor said: "Working with Jon was spectacular. He made an amazing collaborative environment, and getting to work with such an international crew was great. We were like a family."

He is excited to create a "Jaws" like franchise for the younger generation.

"I have been a big fan of Jon, and that was definitely the main attraction for me. But also the idea of being able to create 'Jaws' for our generation.

"'Jaws was a legendary film when I was growing up but the younger generation don't have their 'Jaws'. So, to be able to create a new franchise with the studio for this generation was fun. Just being part of that vision and process, was an honour and a big motivation for me."

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at sugandha.r@ians.in)