Brenda Song
photo: Splash News

For more than a decade, Brenda Song has been a pillar of representation for Asian American women in the entertainment industry. 

Starting out in Disney Channel Original Movies like The Ultimate Christmas Present and Stuck in the Suburbs, Song then moved into a regular role on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. From there she's had stand-out parts in various movies and shows, but there's one movie she didn't even get a chance to audition for. 

In a recent interview with Teen Vogue, Song talked about the most heartbreaking loss of her professional career. Crazy Rich Asians was full of incredible Asian and Asian American actors, so it would have made sense that Song be included. Unfortunately, according to the actor, the production team for the film didn't think she fit the bill. 

"Their reasoning behind that, what they said was that my image was basically not Asian enough, in not so many words. It broke my heart," she said.

The rejection stung, understandably so, but according to a response from the romantic comedy's director, Jon M. Chu, he's a fan of Song's and never communicated anything of that nature. 

Song rallied after being turned down from the movie and ended up being cast in two extremely successful projects for Netflix and Hulu, Secret Obsession and Dollface.

Song revealed to Teen Vogue that she wasn't even given the opportunity to audition for Crazy Rich Asians. 

Song thought it was because the production department didn't think she was "Asian enough" after working in films and shows that didn't focus on her race.

It was even more heartbreaking because Song said she reached out directly and was a huge fan of the books. 

"Their reasoning behind that, what they said was that my image was basically not Asian enough, in not so many words. It broke my heart... I said, ‘This character is in her late to mid-20s, an Asian American, and I can't even audition for it? 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?' I was like, ‘Where do I fit?'"

Director Chu replied to a few comments on the story and cleared up that he's a fan and never wanted that to be communicated. 

Chu tweeted in a reply to the story, "Would these words ever come out of my mouth? Nope makes no sense. I feel horrible she thinks this is the reason. The fact is I love Brenda Song and am a fan. I didn’t need her to audition because I already knew who she was!" 

Then, he continued, "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."

Song replied to his tweet and reaffirmed her original comments, "That’s so very kind of you to say and I’m flattered that you even knew of me and didn’t need me to audition. But if that’s the case, then it seems like you were only judging me on my previous work. And while I’m very proud of all the projects I’ve been apart of, I’ve never had a... lot of opportunity to play or even audition very often for characters with depth and range. That’s why I love to audition. It’s an opportunity to show I can do and be more.  And I thought that was why CRA was made in the first place. To show that WE can do and be more."

Song has been a huge part of Asian representation for more than a decade. 

Since childhood Song has worked in the entertainment industry and been a role model for Asian Americans. The actor is half Thai and half Hmong and was raised celebrating Hmong culture and speaking the language. But she hasn't had the opportunity to take on roles that primarily focus on her Asian American heritage, other than in Wendy Wu Homecoming Warrior. 

Overall, Song was happy that these types of films are being created, obviously, but she would have loved to have been included. She tweeted a final thank you to Chu despite being overlooked: "Regardless, you all made a great movie that is also opening so many doors for the Asian community in this industry. So thank you."

I mean she played the original crazy rich Asian London Tipton on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.

After Crazy Rich Asians was first announced, many remembered Song's ditzy heiress character from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. London Tipton was the first representation of the crazy rich Asian stereotype and could have easily fit into the movie. Memes of the actor in her Disney Channel role circulated the internet. "Anyway shout out to my original Crazy Rich Asian, London Tipton," one fan wrote. 

Song got a role on Hulu's Dollface, so it all worked out for her in the end. 

In the end, she landed a different dream role alongside Kat Dennings and Shay Mitchell. Ahead of the series' premiere on Hulu, Song posted a photo from her first screen test with Dennings and talked about the incredible experience of working alongside these talented women. 

"I walked out of this test thinking that if I didn’t get this role, I would be devastated. I’ve had a lot of jobs not go my way (it’s the nature of the beast), but I knew this one would hurt. I loved the script so much and Madison was a dream role for me but after this test, I really just wanted to work with Kat," Song wrote. 

Even though she may not have gotten a part in Crazy Rich Asians, we have plenty of opportunities to see Brenda Song on screen. And honestly, we are all the better for it.