What would Crazy Rich Asians have been without Constance Wu? The actress revealed why she almost didn’t take the part of Rachel Chu — and what changed her mind — during an interview on Saturday, November 17.
“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,’” the Fresh Off the Boat star explained during a panel discussion at the Vulture Festival.
“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, 36, continued. “So I kind of let it go.”
The Virginia native then went on to note the surprising moment she decided to reach out and try to make it work. “I was on an airplane,” she said, noting she “was sitting next to somebody” who made her think, “Wow, life is too precious right?”
“So I wrote this email on the plane to [Chu],” she dished. “[I was like,] ‘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.”
However, just because Chu, 39, liked Wu’s enthusiasm to make the scheduling work didn’t mean she got the part without auditioning.
“Oh, my God. I was threatened,” the Virginia native recalled. “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.”
Wu spoke with Us Weekly at the premiere of the film — which was first movie to feature an all-Asian cast since Joy Luck Club in 1993 — about what being in the drama/comed meant to her.
“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,” she told Us in August. “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.”
Crazy Rich Asians, which also starred Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Harry Shum Jr. and Ken Jeong, grossed more than $173 million in the U.S.