‘Asian men used as comedic devices in Hollywood’


By Sugandha Rawal 

New Delhi, Nov 17: Conrad Ricamora represents the LGBT community on screen through his role of Oliver Hampton in TV show “How to Get Away With Murder” — and breaking the stereotypical mould for people of colour as well. But the Asian-American actor feels Asian men are merely used as “comedic devices” in Hollywood.

“I think it (place for Asian actors) is changing right now. We are in the middle of a big change and I think that is something to be excited about, but we also need to know that we have a really long way to go,” Ricamora told IANS over phone from Los Angeles.

There is one thing he feels is missing from the world of Hollywood.

“There is a lack of Asian men portrayed in Hollywood as having a sexual side to them. A lot of time Asian men are used as comedic devices. I think it is changing, but I think it needs to change faster,” he added.

A California native, Ricamora has roots in the Philippines as his father was born there. His journey in showbiz started with theatre, before he took the next step in the entertainment industry as Oliver of “How to Get Away With Murder”. The third season of the show is aired in India on Star World and Star World HD.

“How to Get Away With Murder” opened its first chapter on the small screen internationally in 2014 with a story of how a group of law students get involved in a murder plot. And as the title suggests, they find their way out of the case.

Along with its thrilling and gripping storyline, the show is making waves for its unconventional ways of handling several issues — be it the gender bender debate, having a racially diverse cast or including an openly gay couple in the storyline.

Ricamora, who is a homosexual in real life too, feels his character on the TV show allows “people of smaller towns in the US or all over the world” to know that “there is nothing wrong with them because of the colour of the skin, or the shape of their eye or the person they are attracted to”.

“It (Oliver) provides for greater acceptance. I grew up in a very conservative part of the United States and I didn’t have anyone to look up to. When you don’t see yourself represented in the media, you have a feeling of shame and feeling that there is something wrong with you,” he said, adding that “Oliver’s presence on TV allows people to feel better about themselves if they happen to belong to one of those minorities”.

Ricamora, who was also seen in “Nightmare at the Fear Factory” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”, says he never envisioned being an activist, as he only entered showbiz to be an actor.

“I didn’t expect to become an activist the way that I have had with Oliver being in a gay relationship on TV and now with the HIV diagnosis. I was just trying to be an actor and all of a sudden through this role, I have been able to reach people that are under-represented,” he said.

The actor says the feedback from his fans tell him that he is on the right path.

“I get a lot of feedback from those populations — from people of colour, people who are gay, from HIV positive people. They are just really happy to be able to see themselves on TV. I have learnt a lot about those populations and it has kind of expanded my view of the world,” Ricamora said.