By Don Tagala, ABS CBN North America Bureau
June 6, 2013
New York City — There’s only a handful of roles specifically made and written for Asian actors on Broadway. So when Filipino-American stage, television and movie actor Alexis Camins wrote a blog on why he is tired of being an Asian actor, it went viral on social media. Many picked up his story not because he ranted about missing his chance at a dream ethnic role but because it was given to a caucasian actor.
A graduate of New York University theater, Camins has played bit roles on off-Broadway shows, a few TV series and short films. Like many actors, the Filipino-American was looking for that big break to get his career going. When he was called to audition for a lead role at the Big New York Theater (BNYT) he thought he finally hit jackpot.
The role is that of a tribal chief who leads warriors who only speak a few English words but who pick up on many English customs.
The actor needed to be between 30 to 50 years old, ethnic looking and must be a good comedian.
“This playright said I’m going to make up a language but I’m going to make it sound like it’s a real South Pacific Island Dialect. When I saw it I said great this is perfect. I can do this,” recalled Camins.
Camins said he had a fantastic audition and they called him back twice.
“It was one of the best auditions I’ve ever had in terms of reaction, you now she couldn’t stop laughing,” he said.
There were a few other Asians and Filipinos who auditioned for the role, but in the end it was given to a caucasian actor.
“I said, no you can’t be serious. Did you read the part? How could they do that?” said Camins.
Color-blind casting is a controversial topic in Broadway.
Tony award winning actress Lea Salonga had her share of rejections because of the color of her skin.
Back in the day, Salonga was about to audition for the role of Eliza Doolittle in a Broadway production of My Fair Lady, but Salonga’s agent told her that the production didn’t even want to see her audition because she wasn’t caucasian.
“Ang dami-daming role na written for whites, written for Caucasians so parang the ones that are written just for us, please let us play them,” Salonga lamented.
Camins hopes his piece would at least start the conversation about non-traditional casting.
“Maybe my personal story would resonate with people and I want to start a conversation, I want to know what people thought,” Camins said, “I just wanted people to read it, I wanted to feel I got some support from friends and I did.”