Exclusive: Rosalie Chiang on representation in Pixar’s Turning Red

Image provided by Pixar. Top: Turning Red’s Rosalie Chiang celebrates Lunar New Year.

Fans have been raving about the hit film Turning Red, which was recently released on Disney Plus on March 11, 2022. From fan art to reviews, viewers have enjoyed the entertaining plot and visuals. But how does the cast feel about the movie and its impact? Disney star Rosalie Chiang, who voices main character Mei Lee, gave The Hatchet an exclusive interview about the movie and her acting journey. 

In the film, Mei Lee is a teenage girl living in Toronto facing pressures from growing up and her family. When she becomes too stressed, she turns into a giant red panda and can’t always control herself. During the movie she learns how to cope with her emotions, as well as how to deal with family, friends, and responsibilities. 

A resident of Fremont, Chiang explains that she had been working on this film since 2018. “It feels unreal,” she explains, when asked how it feels to be the first Asian lead in a Pixar film. “It’s a little intimidating to be the first, but I’m honored that Pixar has trusted me with leading one of their films.” Indeed, Turning Red was a first for Pixar in many ways. It was the first movie to be entirely directed and produced by women and the first to have an Asian-American lead.

“Think of it as a window into another culture dealing with the coming-of-age genre.”

The film also succeeded in ensuring the representation of marginalized groups. “Representation is so important because movies are prevalent to society,” Chiang says. “When you feel represented in a movie, you feel like you exist.” It’s an important concept to have in media, and it  can especially help underrepresented children feel heard and embrace their culture. Across Hollywood, films are becoming more diverse, but work remains to be done. In 2022, UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity Report found that the percentage of leading roles played by people of color in 2021’s top 200 films has nearly quadrupled since 2011; that their share of writing credits has more than quadrupled; and that their percentage of directing jobs has nearly tripled.

Something that may surprise viewers is that Chiang was not originally supposed to play the lead role. She was supposed to play a filler role, while someone else would play Mei. Later on though, the film’s directors decided that she perfectly fit the role. “The main challenge I faced was not having the right look, which doesn’t necessarily mean good-looking,” Chiang explained. “It’s a challenge every actor faces, as a casting director usually has a specific vision for the character. It doesn’t always matter how well you act, but rather if you fit the part appearance-wise and vibe-wise.”

As for her personal life, Chiang says that not too much has changed since the film’s release. “I’m still a normal teenager who’s doing homework and stuff,” she says. “Honestly, so far, the only thing that has changed is all the press I am currently doing for Turning Red.”

When asked if she had anything she wanted to tell Washington High School students about the film, Chiang said “Enjoy the movie! A lot of love was poured into this movie. If you relate to the movie, great! And if you don’t, think of it as a window into another culture dealing with the coming-of-age genre.”

About the author

Divya Rajesh was born and raised in the Bay Area. Along with being a sophomore, this is their first year at the paper. Divya enjoys writing about topics that include current events, arts, and personal opinions. Some of their favorite things to do are dance, painting, and cooking. Divya plans on continuing to study in the Bay Area as well as continuing to write about their favorite topics!

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