So as I have been navigating myself around the USA, I have had the privilege and honour to meet so many people, personalities, community activists and celebrities. In saying that, when I have the opportunity to meet an Aussie, my eyes automatically light up because I feel as though I am at home and hearing accents which I am use to. So you can imagine how much more I light up when I meet Aussies who look like me, you know Asian Australians. Having met a number in my travels and via networking, I was inspired to write about some of them who are here pursuing their goals and careers.
However, this from time to time series I am writing (pretty much whenever an interesting Asian Aussie pops up) will always have an interesting angle/twist and not just be a straight out profiling type post. So without further adieu, I will start this series by writing about a fellow Asian Australian actor Desmond Wei Liang Chiam.
So I met Desmond whilst I was up in Downtown LA ( I am living in San Diego, hence the “up” ). We had a few scheduling changes, but managed to lock in a 430ish meeting at a pub just outside Little Tokyo. Luckily, the hotel I was staying at was just a stones throw away, so it was easy for me to just walk there. Desmond, on the other hand was driving back from an audition and fighting LA traffic. Anyways, when we met we walked into the bar and as soon as we started chatting, I would say we both felt starry eyed that we were hearing our own Aussie accents in a sea of American accents.
Photo credit Sylvia G Photography
Our chatter was about the similarities of our upbringing, the career paths we chose back home as young adults, the mutual friends we both had on Facebook, our journeys and reason for living in the US and a lengthy part on why Australia still has a huge whitewashing issue in terms of what we see on TV and in the theatre. Like myself, Desmond married an American but unlike myself, Desmond gave up his career as a lawyer to pursue acting. From checking his bio, he has had a number of roles in films, TV and commercials and we discussed the difficulties of life as an actor.
One thing which really shocked me in our chatter was the whole topic of accents. For me, my Aussie accent has somehow given me interesting opportunities – meaning I have received a free upgrade on a flight or hotel, and people consistently ask me and go googly eyed hearing the Aussie accent coming from someone with an Asian face. But Desmond mentioned in the acting world this is not an advantage. When he goes into an audition, he greets everybody with an American accent and it is until after the audition, if the audition goes well, will he reveal to the casting panel of judges that he is in fact an Australian. The reason for this, I was given was that if he walked in and greeted everyone with an Aussie accent, it would possibly trigger thoughts among the casting judges that he is “faking” the American accent, so it is always better to not risk anything and just reveal it later once the casting panel is dazzled!
A photo posted by Desmond Chiam (@deschiam) on Nov 21, 2016 at 4:59pm PST
And having spoken with other Asian Australians in America who are aspiring actors, it is clear that this is the same with them. Even till this day, I am still surprised by that, and of course its something new which I have learnt about the industry. Interesting conversation that afternoon, which if time permitted, we could have talked all night.
A successful and long career for Desmond, I am sure!
If you would like to check out Desmond’s acting bio, please click here.