Raul Aranas (1992)

I consider myself Eurasian. I was born in the Philippines. I come from a mixed background of Chinese, Spanish, American, Malay. As a result, I have had difficulty getting “pure” Asian roles. I have been told that I don’t look Asian enough, whatever that means. Oddly enough, I have been told this by other Asians and not just Caucasians.

This disturbs me most when I hear it from other Asians. When this happens, we are doing the same thing to ourselves that we are accusing Caucasians of doing to us — stereotyping, judging on the basis of looks alone. By doing this, I’m afraid we are perpetuating divisions, not overcoming them. We are becoming our own worst enemies.

Asia is just like America. We have been inundated with different cultures over the centuries and have been changed by them. There is no longer a specific Asian look, if there ever was one. Looking for that is to hark back to a supposed ideal, while neglecting the truth of how things are now.

I don’t think non-traditional casting has affected me all that much over the years. I was already cast in all kinds of roles by the time it came up. After a certain point, I have been cast more on the basis of my credits than anything else. I have been getting more calls to play Cubans in the last year — in a play at the O’Neill, in the movie JFK, and a couple of others — which I guess is non-traditional casting. It’s probably better that Asians are being considered to play Cubans, but I wonder.

What worries me about non-traditional casting these days is that I think it is being used to favor Caucasians. It provides an excuse for casting Caucasians in roles originally intended for non-Caucasians; if you can’t find the right actors for the roles, cast Caucasians and call it non-traditional. For instance, I understand that in the Goodman’s production of The Good Person of Szechuan, only one Asian person has been cast. This is a play where all the characters are supposed to be Chinese. That doesn’t seem right to me.

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