ACTRA Toronto Launches 2024 Asian Performers Showcase

The event spotlighted some of Toronto’s emerging actors in the Asian community, with a discussion featuring Andrew Phung and Jasmeet Raina.

The event spotlighted some of Toronto’s emerging actors in the Asian community, with a discussion featuring Andrew Phung and Jasmeet Raina.

by Sadaf Ahsan
May 27, 2024

In an effort to promote how diverse the many voices and faces of ACTRA Toronto (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, which is a union representing local creatives) are, the union unveiled its Asian Performers Showcase on May 17 at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto.

The showcase features 14 up-and-coming Toronto actors who are a part of ACTRA Toronto and from pan-Asian communities across the city.  

The performers include Adolyn H. Dar, Ali A. Kazmi, Belinda Corpuz, Christina Orjalo, Daniella Dela Peña, Evelyn Chen, Isabella Shibuta, Jenna Phoa, Josette Jorge, Karrie Kwong, Oshini Wanigasekera, Richard Young, Sehar Bhojani and Vicki Kim.⁠

Asian Performers Showcase participants (l-r): Sehar Bhojani, Josette Jorge, Belinda Corpuz (front), Adolyn H. Dar, Evelyn Chen (front), Isabella Shibuta, Jenna Phoa, Richard Young, Ali A. Kazmi, Vicki Kim & Karrie Kwong (not in attendance: Daniella Dela Peña, Christina Orjalo & Oshini Wanigasekera)

The showcase, which was presented in partnership with the Reel Asian International Film Festival (RAIFF) and the Casting Directors Society of Canada (CDC), follows in the footsteps of last year’s Black Performers Showcase.

“All Canadians deserve the opportunity to see themselves represented onscreen and this starts with authentic casting in the telling of authentic stories,” said ACTRA Toronto President David Gale. “As we always say, you can cast the world in Toronto, and ACTRA Toronto’s Asian Performers Showcase will help cultivate Asian representation on screen.”

The goal of these diversity showcases is to eliminate the barriers in the industry that could lead to greater Asian representation in front of and behind the camera.

“We applaud ACTRA Toronto and the Asian Performer Showcase for not only spotlighting Asian talent but also challenging the roles Asian performers are expected to play. We encourage the industry to hire authentically and meaningfully, creating the opportunity for Asian performers to help shape the narratives on our screens.”

Deanna Wong, executive director of the Reel Asian International Film Festival

The launch event began with a discussion between Run the BurbsAndrew Phung and Late Bloomer’s Jasmeet Raina, who are also both ACTRA members, alongside Deanna Wong, the executive director of the Reel Asian Film Festival.

The actors and creators shared how they’ve had to push for more inclusion in their sitcoms, right down to the details. For instance, Phung noted how he hired Vietnamese and South Asian cultural consultants on his show to get what a blended family like this looks like right, while Raina hired a sari and turban stylist, which hadn’t been a consideration before.

Jasmeet Raina, Andrew Phung and Deanna Wong.

Because of a gap in the industry when it comes to Punjabi actors, Raina also shared how he had to look outside ACTRA; but, as Phung pointed out, that’s a perfect example of how new talents can work to change the age-old structure we’re used to and make it more inclusive. Now, thanks to Late Bloomer, there are more Punjabi actors in the union.

Raina’s biggest advice? “Talk back,” because those at the top of the entertainment food chain won’t always have it right, especially if you’re trying to push boundaries.

As Phung said, “The gift of being a creator is that…[you get to] make your own work so you can control your ideas and add cultural specificities.”

You can watch the full panel below.

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