When Ed Skrein stepped down from the Hellboy reboot after realizing the role he was meant to play was a Japanese American character, Chloe Bennet, Asian American actress and star of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., lauded him for his decision on Instagram. This caught the attention of a commenter, who apparently called Bennet out over her name. See, Chloe Bennet’s real name is Chloe Wang, and she has been criticized for attempting to hide her Chinese heritage.
Bennet did not take kindly to the accusations and responded:
Changing my last name doesn’t change the fact that my BLOOD is half Chinese, that I lived in China, speak Mandarin or that I was culturally raised both American and Chinese… It means I had to pay my rent, and Hollywood is racist and wouldn’t cast me with a last name that made them uncomfortable. I’m doing everything I can, with the platform I have, to make sure no one has to change their name again, just so they can get work. So kindly love, fuck off.
Bennet, who had a modest pop career in China as Chloe Wang, did attempt to make it in Hollywood with her original name. But she found she wasn’t booking gigs, telling the Daily Beast last year, “The first audition I went on after I changed my name, I got booked, so that’s a pretty clear little snippet of how Hollywood works.”
Bennet is far from the first actor of color to change their name to something less “foreign”-sounding in order to appeal to Hollywood. Peter Gene Hernandez started going by Bruno Mars because producers expected him to be a Latin artist, and Ben Kingsley, born Krishna Bhanji, specifically changed his name to land auditions. Mindy Kaling (Vera Mindy Chokalingam) and Kal Penn (Kalpen Modi) both changed their names to make it in Hollywood as well. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the talent and success of these people, it’s clear that the entertainment industry remains a close-minded place, where even a name is enough to keep talented people out.