Top Gun: Maverick: Kara Wang on Film & Asian Hollywood Representation

Kara Wang has taken a route familiar with many Asian actors in Hollywood who find themselves working abroad and in the United States to see sustained work. While promoting her film The Calm Beyond, the actress opened up to Bleeding Cool about her journey in the industry that saw her start in Hong Kong and how she saw bigger opportunities opened up in 2015. Upon her recent success, the Good Trouble also landed a role in the much-anticipated Paramount sequel Top Gun: Maverick, calling it "a once in a lifetime opportunity" playing a fighter pilot.

Top Gun: Maverick: Kara Wang on Film & Asian Hollywood Representation
LOS ANGELES – JAN 08: Actress Kara Wang arrives for Freeform's "Good Trouble" Premiere on January 08, 2019, in Los Angeles, CA (DFree/Shutterstock.com)

"The film has been postponed a couple of times, unfortunately, because of COVID," Wang said. "Unfortunately, I can't talk too much about the plot or give away too much, but I do play one of the new pilots, and it was a really great experience. We shot for over a half hour for me, particularly. We literally shot for over half a year back in 2018, and I got to experience some incredible, I would say, 'Once in a lifetime opportunity' when it comes to training and learning about the top gun pilots and first-hand experience with meeting a lot of female pilots, which in the first film was not reflected. It was a really great experience. It was a really great cast, and it was like really an honor to be able to watch some of them work."

Top Gun: Maverick: Kara Wang on Film & Asian Hollywood Representation
Kara Wang and Monica Barbaro in Top Gun: Maverick (2022). Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Top Gun Star on Asian Representation

Wang initially started her career moving from California to Hong Kong from 2010 before deciding to move back in 2015 as opportunities arose. "I worked in Hong Kong and also in mainland China. I was based out of Beijing, and there was it was definitely a very, very different time back then," she recalled. "I had originally gone to Asia in 2010 because I felt like there weren't that many opportunities for actors of Asian descent in the U.S. I felt like there were a lot of supporting roles and more stereotypical roles. We hadn't crossed that hump yet, and so I went over to Asia, and I had a great experience for five years. I decided to come back [to the US] because I felt like there was actually a very noticeable shift happening for Asian-American actors. I do think that we are still definitely on the cusp, and a lot has changed, but there's still so much work to be done. I do think that visibility for Asian actors in the States has increased. You see that on the screen. You see that on the screen of the success of 'Crazy Rich Asians' and our first Marvel superhero [in 'Shang-Chi']. In other films, you see more diversity coming onto screen, but I do think there's still a lot of work to be done. I live in L.A., and you drive down Sunset Boulevard, and you look at all the billboards, and how many Asian actors do you see on them? The percentage is still very low. I do think that there's a lot of headway that has been made, and so it's nice to be here during this momentum."

The actress cited recent examples of others achieving success, including A24's recent release in Everything Everywhere All at Once. "We always talk about now how like the term 'representation matters' is very much a hot topic, because I feel like growing up, I didn't have that many choices. Obviously, we have the incredible like Michelle Yeoh, Sandra Oh, Lucy Liu, Margaret Cho…these were a couple of people that I would watch all of their things and just be so fascinated. Even if it was like Lucy Liu in 'Ally McBeal' was amazing, or like the one guest star that comes in on one episode of 'Sex and the City.' I remember Jodi Long had an episode, and it was amazing for me to see somebody who looked like me; and the years of growth is that there weren't that many choices. So now I think when we're talking about what we're doing in our careers now, it's really important to keep pushing. We think about it like, 'The younger Asian-American kids out there who can watch TV, turn it on, and see themselves represented on screen.' Those are some of my role models, and it's pretty cool to still see people like Michelle Yeoh and Sandra Oh just kicking ass. They have so many amazing projects coming out year after year, and they're really breaking the barriers."

Directed by Joseph Kosinski, Top Gun: Maverick is the sequel to the 1986 Tony Scott film. After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy's top aviators, Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. The film, which also stars Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, Monica Barbaro, Lewis Pullman, Glen Powell, Jon Hamm, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer, comes to theaters on May 27th.

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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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