Constance Wu: The Leading Lady of Today

by Decerry Donato

I sat patiently outside a suite in the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel in one of the busiest cities–Los Angeles. I was preparing to sit down with one of the most prominent names in Hollywood today in preparation for the release of “Hustlers.” It was press day, and I was on deck for 5 minutes, which felt like forever. The door creaked open. It was time. Two women guarded the entrance from inside, one on each side, where they greeted me in.

Instantly I saw the star herself, smiling from her seat — Constance Wu. As I walked over to my chair, I noticed the curtains pushed as far as they could go, allowing the sunlight to graze her jet black hair, casting a partial shadow on the suite floor. Wearing blue denim and a black, chic blouse fitted to her petite self with bold sleeves, she sat, legs crossed on the gray, lavish chair in front of the suite’s window, which stretched the length of the room. As she waited for me to get situated, her body shifted from facing the door to facing me directly. As soon as I placed my recording device down, the size of a thumb drive, I was still shuffling to get my notes and pen out, but her eyes widened.

“Is that your recording device?”

I answer, “Yeah, its so tiny!” We both get a good chuckle out of it.

Wu is known for playing Jessica Huang on the television series “Fresh off the Boat,” and she starred as Rachel Chu in the critically acclaimed, groundbreaking film “Crazy Rich Asians.”  Months after the film’s release, Wu was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, a considerable feat, considering “Crazy Rich Asians” was her first studio film. This seasoned actress hit the ground running and was on the 2017 Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.

Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star in “Hustlers”

It’s now 2019, and Wu plays Destiny, the lead role in Hustlers, which debuts September 13. Her character in the film points to the hardships we all face, as women, parents, children, friends, and employees. Everyone who watches can relate.

“I really wanted a movie that was about loneliness because I think right now, in our country with political polarization, and with social media, I think a lot of people are deeply lonely and they don’t even realize it,” says Wu.  “When you have stories that speak to that: ‘Hey, you know I’m lonely too,’ It makes people feel okay, showing they are flawed and insecure. That’s what I wanted, for a piece to explore a character’s loneliness.”

It’s rare, even in today’s world, to see an Asian American lead, let alone a female. “I think one of the things that happen to Asian American women a lot is this over-sexualization, this fetishization,” she says. “In my time in Hollywood, people have always been talking about breaking stereotypes. One of the things I’ve always said is that the problem with stereotypes is not the stereotypes themselves; it’s that they are a reduction of a person. Like this person is only their accent. They are nothing else. But what’s good for Asian American representation in this movie is that Destiny is not only that.” Similarly, her previous roles all portray the Asian American experience in a different light, all the complexities and identities we navigate.

Lili Reinhart, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, and Constance Wu star in “Hustlers”

Wu, 37, with her background in theatre, expressed that one of the challenges she came across while filming was shooting exterior scenes, “because Jen [Lopez] was such an icon!”

There’s no hiding the fact that this film has several fierce females sharing the stage with Wu. She says, “We were all women, and we are led by a woman. It created this incredible sort of solidarity, and sisterhood, and incredible peace. Nobody was fighting over one slice of pie. We were making the pie together.”

But when asked how she relates to her character, she grins, pauses and chuckles, “Well Destiny doesn’t think she’s really good at lap dancing and neither does Constance! I can relate to that.” Chuckling aside, Wu explains that her character realizes these Wall Street guys too have problems. Yes, these men are thieves, but they are people also. The same goes for the women in the film, and they were breaking the law. You are feeling their pain. We’re always forced to believe there is a hero or a villain because everything is so polarized and partisan.

“It’s that conflict of just people being complex and holding two different feelings at the same time, which I loved about the movie,” says Wu.  “I hope it’s unifying.”

***

Decerry Donato was born and raised in San Gabriel Valley where she’s often seen with a camera in one hand and a boba drink in another. She graduated from UC Irvine with a Bachelor’s in Literary Journalism and minor in Asian American Studies. She frequents thrift stores and is an avid traveler.  Twitter: @deardeezy  Instagram: @intodeeseyes

 

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