Without a doubt, Asians have played a much more crucial role in American Young Adult entertainment in the past few years. While most of the characters are still generally Caucasians, writers and directors have incorporated more Asian Americans in their work, giving Asian Americans a chance to be under the spotlight and gain some exposure in the industry. While there’s still a long way to go before the entertainment industry is as diverse as we would all like it to be, we thought we should still recognize some of the awesome roles we have gotten to play so far.
Here are some of my personal favorites:
Magnus Bane from The Mortal Instrument (Portrayed by Godfrey Gao in the movie and Harry Shum Jr. in TV series)
The sexy and enchanting High Warlock of Brooklyn from the Mortal Instrument Series! Magnus is the most powerful warlock and is one of the most intelligent characters in the series. Moreover, what makes him so popular among the readers is his sarcasm and unique personality: He’s mysterious yet straightforward, indifferent yet caring at the same time. In the original best-selling novels, the author, Cassandra Clare, made this incredible character half Asian, giving Asians a huge spotlight among Young Adult novel readers. In the movie adaption, the production team casted Godfrey Gao, a prominent half Taiwanese half Peranakan actor and model, to become our Magnus. Later on, the crew decided to turn the movie into a TV show, and cast Harry Shum Jr., another well-known Costa Rican-born Chinese American actor and dancer, to play the role.
Minho from The Maze Runner (Portrayed by Ki Hong Lee)
The fastest of them all, who is he? He is Minho from the Maze Runner. In the story, Minho is the captain of the runner, which makes him the strongest. He’s often in charge of the hardest quest, such as going into the maze to find a way for everyone to escape. Furthermore, Minho is loyal and humorous, but more importantly, he is one of the audience’s favorites! Defying the hegemony, the author, James Dashner, gave this character an Asian identity, allowing Ki Hong Lee, a Korean-American actor, to be cast as our Minho. After playing the role, Ki Hong Lee’s career has only gone upwards.
Zach Dempsey from 13 Reasons Why (Portrayed by Ross Butler)
Zach is one of the star players on school basketball team and a dream boy for many high school girls. Although he’s often portrayed as being cold and withdrawn, Zach is actually a very kindhearted and caring guy. In the TV series, he’s one of the few people who genuinely cares about Hannah, the main character who committed suicide. After playing Zach Dempsey, Ross Butler has become a much more well-recognized TV actor in the industry.
Reggie Mantle from Riverdale (Portrayed by Charles Melton in current seasons and Ross Butler in Season 1)
Captain of the football team and one of the most popular guys in Riverdale? Yes, that’s who Reggie Mantle is–Reggie is your stereotypical TV show jock. Fitting in with most stereotypical TV show jocks, Reggie is also popular, attractive, and kind of a bully. Nevertheless, Reggie still has his heartwarming moments towards the rest of the characters!
After finishing season one, Reggie was recast due to Ross Butler’s schedule conflict with 13 Reasons Why. Butler uploaded a video on Instagram and Twitter to thank the Riverdale cast and crew for giving him, an Asian American, a chance to play a character that is usually played by Caucasian actors. He stated that being able to play Reggie means a lot to both him and the Asian American community. Moreover, he is beyond excited to know that the crew insisted to recast Reggie with another Asian American, who turned out to be Charles Melton.
London Tipton from The Suite Life of Zach and Cody (Portrayed by Brenda Song)
Who can top London Tipton as the most iconic Asian American role? Unlike Asians in traditional movies and TV series, London from The Suite Life of Zach and Cody is not a nerdy or submissive character. Instead, London is the heiress of the Tipton Hotel fortune and is also one of the most confident characters to ever be portrayed on TV. But the most interesting thing about London is that she was actually written as the dumbest (in a cute way though!) character on the show, making her role a huge departure from most Asian American portrayals at the time.
Mike Chang Jr. from Glee (Portrayed by Harry Shum. Jr)
Mike Chang, AKA, Glee’s professional dancer. In the famous TV series, Glee, Mike is a member of school varsity team and the best dancer in choir club (Fun fact: he can’t really sing in the beginning). Mike is interesting and approachable; if he was a real person, I would totally want to befriend him. Other than his personality, people easily fall in love with Mike because of his fabulous dancing skills. It’s actually pretty impossible to find a dance style that Mike isn’t good at. Luckily for Harry Shum Jr., Mike Chang has paved the way for the rest of his career!