What ‘Everything Everywhere’ has taught us about racism and representation in Hollywood

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” features a dizzying array of plot twists as failing laundromat owner Evelyn Wang learns she’s actually a superhero fighting to save her family and the world.
And the actors and creators behind the film are sharing behind-the-scenes stories of their own lives as the movie racks up honors and leads the way with 11 Academy Award nominations.
In acceptance speeches and interviews, the stars of the genre-bending multiverse movie have been outspoken about their experiences with racism and representation in Hollywood, noting how significant it is to receive this level of recognition in an industry that’s been historically hard to break into for non-White actors. They’re also sharing how their lives as immigrants and children of immigrants have shaped their work.
It’s likely we’ll hear from the movie’s creative team once again on Oscars night.
Here are some of the personal details they’ve revealed so far on the awards circuit.

Someone marveled that she spoke English

Michelle Yeoh, who plays Evelyn Wang in the film, arrived in Hollywood after many successful years as an actor in Hong Kong.
She soon learned the reality of the US entertainment industry was different from what she expected.
“It was a dream come true until I got here,” Yeoh said as she accepted a Golden Globe award for best actress. “Because, look at this face. I came here and was told, ‘You’re a minority.’ And I’m like, ‘No, that’s not possible.’
“And then someone said to me, ‘You speak English!’ …and then I said, ‘yeah, the flight here was about 13 hours long so I learned.”
Yeoh was born in Malaysia and grew up speaking English, like many people who live in Asia and around the world.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is her first time receiving top billing in a Hollywood movie. Yeoh, 60, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that it’s been a long time coming.
“You receive scripts. And as the years get bigger, the numbers get bigger, the roles seem to shrink with that. As you know, as a woman, as an Asian woman… somehow they start putting you in boxes. And it’s always the guy who gets to go on the adventure and save the world,” Yeoh said.
The part of Evelyn in the script from writer-director duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert instantly grabbed her attention.
“This is a very ordinary woman, an Asian, immigrant woman, who is dealing with all the problems that we all can relate to,” Yeoh told Amanpour. “And what I loved about it, it was like this is an ordinary woman who is being seen, who’s given a role to play as a superhero.”
Yeoh made history at the Screen Actors Guild Awards last month, becoming the first Asian woman to win in the best actress category. Now, it remains to be seen whether she’ll make history again as the first Asian woman to win a best actress Academy Award.
No matter what happens on Oscar night, her numerous awards this season are a clear indication that Yeoh, too, is finally being seen in Hollywood as the versatile actor she’s always been.
“Maybe I’ve been rehearsing for 40 years for this ultimate role,” she says.

His phone stopped ringing because there weren’t enough roles for Asian actors

Ke Huy Quan teared up as he cradled the award in his arms.
“This is a really emotional moment for me. Recently I was told that if I were to win tonight I would become the very first Asian actor to win in this category,” Quan said as he won a Screen Actors Guild Award (SAG) for outstanding supporting actor for his portrayal of the hapless and heroic Waymond Wang. “When I heard this, I quickly realized that this moment no longer belongs to just me. It also belongs to everyone who has asked for change.”
Quan was born in Saigon and came to Los Angeles in 1979 after fleeing Vietnam and living in Hong Kong as a refugee after the war ended. He began his Hollywood career as a beloved child actor in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “The Goonies.” He kept on auditioning after that, but his phone stopped ringing, Quan told The New York Times.
“When I stepped away from acting, it was because there were so few opportunities,” Quan said during the SAG Awards.
Quan reimagined his career path, going on to study film at the University of Southern California and to work behind the scenes as a stunt coordinator and assistant director. He wouldn’t have another film role for nearly 20 years.
Seeing the Asian cast of the 2018 movie “Crazy Rich Asians” made him realize how much he missed acting. And as soon as he came across the “Everything Everywhere” script, he knew he was the right person to play Waymond.
“I wanted it more than anything. I thought it was written for me,” Quan told Boston NPR news station WBUR.
His big-screen comeback has earned him rave reviews and numerous accolades, including Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards for best supporting actor. And Quan, 51, says these days he’s feeling more optimistic about the Hollywood prospects for him and other Asian actors.
“The landscape looks so different now than before,” Quan said at the SAG awards.
He went on to offer words of encouragement for others who may feel the way he did for decades.
“To all those at home who are watching, who are struggling and waiting to be seen, please keep on going, because the spotlight will one day find you.”

His immigrant father helped inspire part of the movie’s plot

On a night full of joyous exuberance, producer Jonathan Wang’s speech at the end of the Critics’ Choice Awards offered a somber reminder.
As he accepted the best picture prize, Wang invoked his late father and the characters Yeoh and Quan played.
“This award is dedicated to my dad, a Taiwanese immigrant who worked himself into an early grave,” Wang said. “This is really dedicated to the Evelyns, the Waymonds, the immigrant parents who would kill themselves for us immigrant children, to give us a better life.”
Wang’s father, Alex Wang, was a lifelong businessman and salesman, according to a 2016 obituary.
His name appears in the movie’s credits, and the producer has shared more about him in several social media posts.
“From the butchered movie titles to the unapologetic Chinglish, a touch of my Dad lives on in this film,” Wang posted on Instagram last year shortly before “Everything Everywhere” hit theaters.
The producer has said his father helped inspire one of the movie’s many wacky plot twists — a film-within-the-film dubbed “Raccacoonie,” which features a raccoon sitting on a chef’s head. It’s a reference to “Ratatouille” and a homage to his dad.
“Anyone who has Asian parents knows that they are famously bad at movie titles,” Wang told The Hollywood Reporter. “My favorite one is, he said, ‘Let’s go see ‘Outside Good People Shooting.'” That, Wang said, was his dad’s name for “Good Will Hunting.”
Wang again invoked his dad in an Instagram post after the 11 Oscar nominations for “Everything, Everywhere” were announced, describing how hard his parents had worked to keep their family bakery afloat and how watching the Academy Awards together was one of their few family traditions.
“After the commotion of nomination day faded, I finally got a moment to take a shower and have a second to myself,” Wang wrote. “As the water ran over my stunned face, I sobbed tears of joy — deep tears of joy — finally feeling a release and acceptance that my Dad was, and is, so proud.”