Jason Scott Lee is a Chinese-American actor who’s perhaps best known for his breakout performance in the biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, about the legendary Chinese-American martial artist.
After his acclaimed portrayal of Bruce Lee, Jason went on to star as Mowgli in Disney’s 1994 live adaptation of The Jungle Book. He became an inspiration to other Asian actors who rarely saw relatable faces in Hollywood. But he eventually took a hiatus from Hollywood, for almost two decades, because the roles for Asian actors, especially Asian males, were limited.
Jason Scott Lee: Fighting for visibilityJason Scott Lee talks about whitewashing in Hollywood.
“In the early days, late ‘80’s, the roles were very, very limited,” Lee said. “There were a lot of projects that were coming up that were immigrant roles. Mostly one-liner or bit roles or even one word bit roles.”
Today, Lee is back in Hollywood and says things are improving, but the fight for a higher profile is still ongoing for Asian actors.
“I always thought, back in the ‘90’s, that it would go forward. There was always this promise that, you know, things are going to change, but it’s gotten somewhat more confusing,” explained Lee. “It is one step forward, two steps back.”
From Singapore, Jason Scott Lee joined May Lee in our Los Angeles studio to talk more about whitewashing in Hollywood.