Chinese Students Association hosts actor Arden Cho as fall speaker


Valerie Chu/The Daily Northwestern

Arden Cho joined Chinese Students Association Programming Chairs Amanda Han and Mia Huang as CSA’s 2022 fall speaker Sunday.

Melissa Dai, Reporter

Fans gathered and emotions ran high Sunday as the Chinese Students Association welcomed Asian American actor Arden Cho as its 2022 fall speaker.

Communication senior Amanda Han and Bienen and Weinberg dual degree junior Mia Huang, CSA’s programming chairs, organized the event and moderated Cho’s talk in Ryan Auditorium.

Cho began her career collaborating with content creators on YouTube and has since starred in “Teen Wolf” and the recent Netflix original series “Partner Track.” Han and Huang said her YouTube background was a factor in their decision to reach out to the actor. 

“Arden was someone we had both seen on the screen growing up,” Han said. “I was a big fan of Ryan Higa, so I would see her a lot in those videos.”

During the event, Han and Huang asked Cho about her experiences as an Asian American woman in the film industry, focusing on her role as Ingrid Yun, the protagonist of “Partner Track.”

Perceiving herself as a deserving main character was a struggle, Cho said, as she always felt overlooked and out of place due to her Asian heritage. 

“So much of my life, I’ve just been a supporting character to my friends and people at work,” Cho said during the event. “I wonder if this is how most Asians feel, and maybe that’s why people take advantage of us and abuse us.”

Cho also spoke about acting as Ingrid, who faces racism and sexism as a Korean American lawyer in her white-male-dominated profession.

Acting out her reactions to the discrimination and microaggressions, she said, was “quite triggering.”

“You know that it’s not real, but you experience it over and over and over with multiple takes, and there were definitely days where I would go home feeling horrible because it was tough to shoot it,” Cho said.

Cho also delved into Asian American media representation as a whole, exploring her personal encounters with discrimination. She said non-white actors are never the “first choice” in the film industry.

Despite this struggle, she applauded the increased representation of Asian Americans in the media in recent years.

“For so long, we’ve had other people telling our stories,” Cho said. “It’s exciting now that we have more Asian American writers, directors, producers, filmmakers, and we tell our own stories.”

Near the end of the event, Han and Huang opened the dialogue up to the crowd for a Q&A session. One audience member asked about the criticism Cho faced for the alleged “white man and Asian woman” romantic trope in “Partner Track.” Cho, tearing up, said she hasn’t felt fully supported by the Asian American community due to the backlash. 

She said retirement may be on the table, both because of this controversy and Netflix’s recent announcement that “Partner Track” would not return for a second season.

“As Asian American actors and actresses, we have all this pressure to represent our entire community with every single project,” Cho said. “But please remember that we’re just storytellers and artists. If we do represent our community, then great, but I don’t think it always has to be everyone’s story because it can’t be.”

In another emotional moment, attendee Briana Lee, a senior manager at Tyson Foods, teared up while praising the show, explaining how she resonated with Ingrid as an Asian American woman in corporate America.

She asked Cho how she balanced advocating for Asian Americans and trying not to become the “poster child” of the movement, to which Cho responded that she has not yet found an answer. 

“I, as a corporate leader in the Asian community, also haven’t figured out how to find that balance between being a champion (for Asian Americans) but making sure you’re not exploited,” Lee told The Daily.

Cho closed with final thoughts about her role in “Partner Track.”

Playing the protagonist of the show, she said, showed her how she could be a central figure in her own life.

“I’ve learned such a big lesson in filming the show: We, as Asian Americans, really do deserve to be the main characters, and so many of us are,” Cho said. “I hope that young Asian American people watching the show feel the same way.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @Melissa__Dai

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