Jamie Chung is feeling good. Like, really good. In a recent Instagram, she announced that she's starring in a campaign, she booked a role in a film and pilot, and Disney's Big Hero 6 has been picked up as a series. So when we caught up with her at the launch of Gilt's first-ever store in the newly opened Saks Off Fifth location in Manhattan, we couldn't help but pick up on her bubbly disposition (the champagne, too, probably helped).
"I had a rough two years, coming really close to projects and it not working out, and it’s been such a disappointment—the best things to happen to me were getting married and getting a dog," Chung tells us, quite candidly. "But then all of a sudden, I got one great news after another, and I’m feeling grateful and blessed because I'm going to remember how hard it was the last two years. I worked hard for it, I waited this long, and I’m really going to enjoy it."
Clearly, hard work pays off. But it's challenging to talk about the industry and jobs in Hollywood without addressing the white elephant in the room (no pun intended)—the lack of minority roles.
"The great thing about Disney is that it's the most diverse production company, and they stay true to the characters, so they'll hire a Korean actress for a Korean character," says Chung, who's the voice of Go Go in Big Hero 6. "They're one of the few that actually tries, but it's still not enough."
And seeing as how diversity was a hot topic at the Oscars, both on stage and on the red carpet, it's an issue that's very much present on most people's minds. "We had no representation at the Oscars," she says. "There are other communities that are very vocal about the injustices that they feel, but we don't really have a voice."
But it's not just about being typecasted, Chung adds, it's the lack of minority roles to begin with. "I'm not just fighting with other Asian actresses," she explains. "We're all categorized and mushed into one, so I'm competing against African American actresses and Latinas for this one ethnic role."
The solution? To create the roles you want, because "they're not going to be given to you." She calls out Aziz Ansari who struck out on his own and created his Netflix TV series Master of None that he used as an outlet to voice the lack of roles for Indian actors, and Charlize Theron, who was typecasted as "the beautiful model" until she did something about it and earned an Oscar for her portrayal as serial killer Aileen Wournos in Monster in 2003.
So, Jamie, when is that going to happen?
"I’m working on it, man," she laughs. "It’s hard, it’s creatively challenging, but you can be inspired by anything. It’s just about having the team to believe in you."