If you loved Constance Wu’s performance in the summer blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians, thank your lucky stars, because she almost didn’t star in the film at all. As an actor who regularly moves between film and TV projects, Wu apparently worried about scheduling conflicts that would that would arise with the film because of her role on ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, so she initially said no to auditioning for the part of Rachel Chu.
“I actually let the part go, because I met with [director Jon M. Chu] and I was like, ‘I really want to do this, but I can’t, because I’m under contract with my show and we shoot in the fall,’” Wu said during a Vulture Festival panel on Saturday according to Us Weekly.
“I was like, ‘Cool, another actress will get that and I will be 100 percent behind her because I want there to be more Asian actors out there,’” Wu explained. “So I kind of let it go.”
However, when she sat next to someone on an airplane who, as Wu noted during her interview, appeared to be differently abled, she realized that life is short and she should embrace it as much as she can; in effect, a chance encounter with a stranger changed her mind.
“I was sitting next to someone who had an obvious physical disability,” she recalled, “but was just so lovely and kind throughout the whole flight. It made me think, ‘Wow, life is too precious to not, if not fight for the things you desire but [at least] express them.”
“So I wrote this email on the plane to [Chu]. ‘Listen, I know the schedules don’t work out, whoever you end up putting in the movie … I want to support you, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you what this means to me and why.”
Wu also said even being able to audition for that kind of role was a big deal: “Asian Americans don’t often get the opportunity to audition for a lead role, so that in itself is a setback because white actors have the opportunity to practice auditioning in charged situations. If they don’t get that part, they’ll probably audition next week. So it’s not as precious as somebody who gets to audition maybe once a year, maybe once in their lifetime.”
As for how Wu feels now that she filmed Crazy Rich Asians and the film has been such a massive success? “It’s such an honor to be a part of this. I feel so lucky to be a part of such a talented cast and crew of actors. We only can hope that this opens the door for different kinds of Asian-American stories, and stories from Asians who grew up in countries where they’re not the dominant culture, so they don’t see their faces reflected in pop culture,” she told Us in August.
We totally respect that Wu was ready to support whoever got cast in the lead role for this film, especially since it was so historic in its casting. We’re also glad she changed her mind about the part and decided to audition in spite of her busy schedule.