‘It seems to be our time:’ Lea Salonga on her big screen comeback in ‘Yellow Rose’
MANILA, Philippines – After over two decades, Lea Salonga is returning to the big screen – and for no less than a film she believes is a "Black Panther moment" in terms of representation for Asians and Asian Americans.
Lea will be appearing Diane Paragas’ film Yellow Rose, which tells the story of a Filipino teenager named Rose who dreams of becoming a country music star in the United States, even as she faces deportation. Lea will be playing Rose’s aunt Gail, who went through her own struggles with immigration. (READ: Lea Salonga, Eva Noblezada to star in musical film 'Yellow Rose’)
Playing the title role is Eva Noblezada, the Tony-nominated Fil-Am actress who earlier played Kim in the Broadway and West End revivals of Miss Saigon – the role Lea originated.
Also appearing in the film is veteran actress Princess Punzalan, along with Dale Watson, Liam Booth, Libby Vallari, and Gustavo Gomez.
Lea, the first Asian woman to win a Tony award, is clearly no stranger to the struggle for representation in the entertainment industry. But for the actress and singer, now is a great time for representation.
"It seems to be our time. It's like our Black Panther moment," she said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. "When film studios are recognizing that stories from people of color actually do well at the box office because they are going to be people of color who are going to want to see themselves represented onscreen and are going to want to hear stories from people just like them.
“It's something that makes a lot of sense. That our voices are not being silenced and that we're actually getting heard and getting seen,” she said.
"It's great for another generation of young Asian Americans to see faces that look like theirs on screen and hopefully give them this inspirational push to tell more stories later on. It's exciting and it's nice to be able to witness this as it's happening and to be in the thick of it as it's happening. This is amazing, it truly is."
Lea said in the interview that when it comes to sustaining that “moment,” Asian Americans need to keep creating more stories.
“The only thing we can do is keep on creating more stories and to not take this moment for granted and to keep grinding away and to keep writing and still keep filming and bringing specific points of view out to the public for people to see,” she said.
“I’m hoping that people find Yellow Rose and other movies like it to be something that they can relate to even though their skin color may not reflect that of the actors on the screen," she added.
Lea shared that she took the role because she felt that it was relevant, “given so much of what’s happening with regards to immigration debates and legislation and border patrol.”
She said that the film brings a human face to the immigration debates.
“The movie doesn't take a political stance either way,” she said. “It's a very human story, but it does show the process of what happens when somebody is deported, when somebody gets arrested by ICE – even with the officers from ICE, we see human beings. Nobody's a two-dimensional caricature."
Yellow Rose premieres at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in the US on Thursday, May 2. – Rappler.com