About five years ago, Arden Cho started saying no to scripts. It all started when her role as Kira Yukimura, the only woman of color in the main cast of the hit MTV series Teen Wolf, was abruptly cut from the final season in 2016. She decided to hold on to the right next project — which meant finding characters that as a Korean-American who grew up in Texas, she thought she’d never see. “I deserve, at least once in my life, to tell a story that girls can watch and be inspired by,” she said. THR. Her private ‘no’s found a public stage in May, when she refused Teen Wolfthe movie reboot; reports of the salary he was offered (apparently an amount less than half of what his white co-stars earn) have surfaced, and the story has gone viral. Cho said she based her decision not just on her career, “but for the next generation, the next Asian American girl, thinking that might be the best you can get.”
Cho was willing to wait decades for another gig, but an ideal role came quickly in the form of Ingrid Yun, a young woman who was aiming for a top job at a New York law firm on Partner pathcoming to Netflix on August 26th. Here, she talks about the importance of portraying the drama series in front of and behind the camera.
What was it like working on a series directed by an Asian American?
It was nice to be able to have conversations [with showrunner Georgia Lee] on Ingrid as a woman of color. Even little things like who’s going to kiss first – it’s really special that it’s the woman who chooses on this show. Whether Ingrid’s choices are good or bad, she makes them.
Can you describe what is special about your character?
She’s not the typical shy and submissive Asian girl that people might expect. She is quite daring. I think a lot of women in these cut throats [corporate] worlds try to hide their feminine side to gain respect, but if Ingrid wants to wear pink, she will wear pink.
In the first episode, someone mistakes Ingrid for a paralegal and she doesn’t hesitate to correct them.
As an Asian woman, I was taught not to rock the boat. Something I’m learning in my 30s is that it’s important to stick up for yourself in certain scenarios, even if it’s just a simple “Hey, that was not cool.”
What does it mean to you to be Asian American?
I was born and raised in Texas, went to high school in Minnesota and was often the only minority. I was called out for every insult in the book, and I was ashamed of being Asian American. Then, in college, I met international students. I had boba and pho for the first time. Now I’m the most Asian girl, and I’m so proud of it.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the August 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.