Tia Carrere has starred in beloved projects like “Wayne’s World”, “True Lies”, “General Hospital” and “Lilo & Stitch” but her success did not come easy.
Carrere, born Althea Rae Duhinio Janair, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is of Spanish, Filipino and Chinese descent. The two-time Grammy winner opened up about how difficult the audition process in Hollywood has traditionally been for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) actors.
“I came here and people were like, ‘What are you? Chinese? Japanese?’ They didn’t even know Filipino. My hair was short, and I had to get a long-haired wig because I was only going to get these types of roles where I’d have to work on a Chinese accent,” Carrere told Variety. “Even when I was on ‘General Hospital’, I never had an interracial relationship.”
“I was in the Asian quarter with my Asian boyfriend, who’s also an Asian doctor. When we left the Asian quarter, it was to go to the old country to help our people.”
Carrere and Jo Koy are among those telling the story of a dysfunctional Filipino American family in the upcoming movie “Easter Sunday”. The longtime actress says the film and Hollywood’s casting process is a huge improvement in the industry.
“There were network TV shows where I gave great reads, and the casting director would say, ‘That was really great, but the word comes down that we weren’t thinking of going ethnic with that role.’ Or they would say they weren’t going to go ‘exotic’,” she said. “You wouldn’t have that today.
“Now, it’s ‘Submit all types — BIPOC or whatever.’ I remember seeing that for the first time on breakdown services [the description of the characters], and I thought, Here we are, finally. So, may the best person win, whatever your ethnic background may be.”
The industry-wide shifts are a breath of fresh air for an industry built on dreams.
“I love working. It’s fun what we do, to bring joy to the screen and that music. I feel so privileged that I was able to get into this business because of a movie like ‘Wayne’s World’. I wouldn’t be where I am, you know, 30 years later. So every opportunity I take and I run with it, because I know it’s such a gift to be able to work in this magical industry.”
“Easter Sunday” premieres Aug. 5. The comedy stars Koy and Carrere alongside Jimmy O. Yang (“Silicon Valley, Space Force”) and Tiffany Haddish.