* Victoria Loke plays “Fiona,” Nick’s cousin-in-law on Crazy Rich Asians
* Film has grossed almost $200 million worldwide
* Loke shares recommendations for three other Asian-driven films to watch
Crazy Rich Asians has become one of this year’s biggest box office hits, and what started as a small film hoping to promote more diversity in Hollywood has become a certified worldwide smash. Less than two months after its release, the film has grossed almost $200 million in theaters, and holds an astounding 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Variety called it “the most blinged-out big-screen romance since Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby,” and the film has spawned numerous think pieces, personal stories and enthusiastic Tweets from moviegoers who have praised the cast and storyline for showcasing Asian culture in a romantic yet progressive way.
Based on Kevin Kwan’s novel of the same name, Crazy Rich Asians follows Asian-American professor Rachel Chu, who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend Nick Young’s family, only to discover that they are one of the richest families in the country. She is soon thrust into the lives of Asia’s rich and famous, including Nick’s cadre of cousins and friends, who each seem content on one-upping each other at the fame game.
Actress and model Victoria Loke plays Fiona Tung-Cheng, a beautiful woman married to Nick’s cousin – and by extension, married into his wealthy family. Born in Singapore and a graduate of NYU, Loke began her acting career while living in New York. She’s since appeared in music videos, short films and theatrical productions, though Crazy Rich Asians is her first big-screen role.
We caught up with Loke to find out more about how she got cast in the film (it was her first audition!), the reaction she’s received from fans, and why she’s eager for people to support three other Asian-driven projects that are out now.
How were you cast in this film? What was the process like and how did you react when you found out you were cast?
After graduating I decided to move back to Asia to build a career as an actor, and Crazy Rich Asians was the first audition that my agency at the time sent me out for! I was asked to read for the role of Kitty Pong at first and I was really taken aback when I received the sides, but I decided to have fun with the role anyway and I had a great time at the audition. That was my first-time meeting Jon [Chu, the director] and our producers, and they were just so warm and lovely. Two weeks later I got a call at breakfast from my agent telling me I had been cast in the role of Fiona Cheng, and the rest is history!
Were you familiar with the book series beforehand?
I had first heard about the book from a lot of my friends in New York, so I knew that it was a popular book in the United States. It’s taken off in Singapore too, and it’s somehow extremely popular with my parents’ generation! I’ve had so many of their friends come up to me to tell me how big a fan they were of the books even before watching the movie.
Why was it important for you to be a part of this project?
To be part of the first all-Asian cast in a modern Hollywood movie in 25 years is in itself such a blessing and a privilege, and to be a stakeholder in the conversations that the film has now catalyzed about diversity and representation in popular culture is something that I personally cherish deeply. Through this film, I have had the incredible opportunity of not only working with industry veterans whom I used to watch on screen growing up, but also being part of a younger generation of Asian actors making waves globally, and that is something I am truly grateful for.
Can you relate to your character, or any of the other characters or themes from the film?
One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the way it delves into the various articulations of and contradictions within Asian identity, and how its characters either break boundaries or navigate between them. I was born and raised in Singapore, but I moved to New York as a teenager, making me both native and stranger to the two worlds that collide in Crazy Rich Asians, and so I have a personal investment in hoping this film helps us move towards an embracing of these differences and a willingness to explore these nuances in a meaningful way.
What do you think about the reaction to the film? Was it surprising to you at all?
I was absolutely moved by the outpouring of fan support, and the personal impact the film has had on our Asian-American audience members. During filming we were all cautiously optimistic that audiences would like our film, and the amount of love we’ve received so far has completely blown our initial expectations out of the water. This was the little film that could!
Have you heard from friends or strangers? What have their reactions been?
The entire cast has received so many personal messages from strangers telling us how happy they were to see themselves represented on screen, and this hunger for representation is something that is so tangible and real that I do hope the success of the film helps galvanize a shift in the industry. We need more diverse stories that do not simply tokenize characters of color, and we need more actors of color on screen, period; everyone deserves to have their story told.
For people who are inspired to support more Asian-driven projects, what are some other films that our readers should check out?
Searching (starring John Cho) is now out in theaters, and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (also based on a book) is now out on Netflix, so I hope your readers can spread the Crazy Rich Asians love to these two movies featuring an Asian actor in the lead role as well (finally!)
Our own leading man Henry Golding is also fronting Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor, with Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick, and I think it is so important to see diversity not just in films that explicitly highlight ethnicity but in big studio films in general.
In these films, we see Asian actors in a leading role without any need for explaining their ethnicity. That should really be the ultimate goal, to normalize the casting of diverse actors, no matter the storyline or genre.