Ten TV Asian or Pacific Islander Characters to Tune in For

So, it’s the tail end of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM). Earlier this month there was the Twitter hashtag movement #whitewashedOUT, started by comedian Margaret Cho, author Ellen Oh, and the website Nerds of Color. The hashtag highlighted the ways in which Asians and Pacific Islanders are often ignored in Hollywood and other mediums — particularly, it referred to characters who have been unfortunately whitewashed, such as Allison Ng in “Aloha,” the Ancient One in “Doctor Strange,” and Major Kusanagi in “Ghost in the Shell.”

Article by Clara Mae

But, it’s always nice to end on a high note, so here’s ten actual Asian and/or Pacific Islander characters played by real AAPI actors who deserve to be boosted, all in shows currently airing or that were recently renewed.

1. Alex Parrish from “Quantico,” played by Priyanka Chopra

 Alex Parrish from “Quantico,” played by Priyanka Chopra

“Quantico” is one of the few shows we have that features a female Asian protagonist. Alex is a well-rounded character, equal parts smart, seductive, arrogant, and impulsive. The only con is that she’s as brilliant as her love interests are bland.

Bonus: “Quantico” also features two other Asian actresses, Yasmin al Massri and Li Jun Li, in key roles.

2. Sunny from “Into the Badlands,” played by Daniel Wu

Copyright AMC

Copyright AMC

Daniel Wu is also a protagonist on his own show, and the story of how “Into the Badlands” was made is a pretty inspiring one. Although it’s yet another story about an Asian martial artist, it’s set in a dystopian future with Southern gothic overtones, and Sunny is not at all a one-dimensional stereotype.

Bonus: His co-lead is Aramis Knight, a young biracial Asian actor.

3. Daisy ‘Skye’ Johnson from “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” played by Chloe Bennet

Daisy ‘Skye’ Johnson from “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” played by Chloe Bennet

Copyright: Marvel.com

As an Inhuman, Skye is one of the few Asian superheroes we have on screen right now. Now, if we could just get the MCU to actually acknowledge she exists

4. Allanon from “The Shannara Chronicles,” played by Manu Bennett

Allanon from “The Shannara Chronicles,” played by Manu Bennett

Copyright: screencapped.net

Māori actor Manu Bennett plays a character who is the last druid in a world set thousands of years after the fall of civilization. He acts as mentor to the main character, and is an allegory to Merlin of Arthurian legend.

5. Ravi Chakrabarti on “iZombie,” played by Rahul Kohri

Ravi Chakrabarti on “iZombie,” played by Rahul Kohri

Copyright: CW.com

As an astute medical examiner, he’s the first person to find out that Liv, the main character, is a zombie. One of the main draws of the show is his platonic friendship with Liv, and his determination to find a cure for her.

6. Two from “Dark Matter,” played by Melissa O’Neil

Two from “Dark Matter,” played by Melissa O’Neil

Copyright: Syfy.com

“Dark Matter” begins on a broken down ship with a six person crew, all who have had their memories wiped. Despite this, Two (yes, that’s her name), quickly steps up to become captain of the ship, ahead of even all her male crewmates.

7. Sun Bak and Kala from “Sense8,” played by Doona Bae and Tina Desai

Sun Bak and Kala from “Sense8,” played by Doona Bae and Tina Desai

Ok, I’m kind of cheating here by including both because I couldn’t decide between the two of them. Both Sun Bak and Kala are integral members of the sensates (eight strangers connected by thoughts and actions): Sun Bak for her martial arts and Kala for her chemistry savvy. Both of their stories admittedly veer into eye-rolling, stereotypical territory, but the characters themselves are well-developed.  

8. Josh Chan from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” played by Vincent Rodriguez III

Josh Chan from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” played by Vincent Rodriguez III

Copyright: AsianJournal.com

I will openly admit that I am not a fan of the main character nor the premise of this show. But, Josh Chan is one of the first on screen depictions we have of a Filipino man and his family, and for what it’s worth it’s incredibly accurate (speaking as someone who is Filipina).

9. Oliver from “How to Get Away with Murder” played by Conrad Ricamora

Oliver from “How to Get Away with Murder” played by Conrad Ricamora

Copyright: Zap2It.com

Oliver is the cinnamon roll of the show. While it’s probably predictable that he’s a coder and a hacker, the character is also notable for being a gay man living with HIV, a portrayal we don’t often, if ever, see of an Asian on TV.

10. Obara Sand on “Game of Thrones” played by Keisha Castle-Hughes

Photo Credit: HBO

Photo Credit: HBO

Sure, Obara and the Sand Snakes don’t make an appearance until season five, but as the eldest sister, Obara certainly kicks a lot of butt and is often the most level-headed (and merciless) of the trio. Notably, the Sand Snakes mark the first time several women of Asian or Pacific Islander descent play integral, speaking roles in the show.

About Clara

Clara Mae is a twenty-something English major grad from UC Berkeley. Works somewhere in the San Francisco financial district. If not at work, is probably off eating ramen, petting dogs, or attempting yoga. Blogs too little and tweets too much at @ubeempress.

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2 responses to “Ten TV Asian or Pacific Islander Characters to Tune in For

  1. Hawaii 5-0 on CBS has been on for a while, so maybe doesn’t get much love, but Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park and Masi Oka have been in pretty much every episode, often with plots revolving around their characters.

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