Dev Patel: It's not easy being an Asian actor
August 9th, 2010
03:54 PM ET

Dev Patel: It's not easy being an Asian actor

One would think in the aftermath of an Oscar-winning success like “Slumdog Millionaire,” juicy roles for the film's 20-year-old star, Dev Patel, would fall from the sky, but that hasn’t exactly been the case, he told U.K. newspaper The Daily Mail.

“Because ‘Slumdog’ was such a big hit there was a lot of pressure in terms of what I did next,” Patel said. “For my second film I wanted a role that would stretch me, but all I was getting offered were stereotypical parts like the goofy Indian sidekick.”

The actor, who still lives with his parents in suburban London and can be found riding public transit, has been holding out for roles that will highlight his versatility, even though in Hollywood those parts seem to come few and far between for Asian actors, he said.

“Asian actors tend not to be sent Hollywood scripts that are substantial or challenging,” Patel told the paper. “I'm likely to be offered the roles of a terrorist, cab driver and smart geek.” Not that he would mind playing a terrorist, he added, as long as “the part gave me something to sink my teeth into.”

But one has to remember, Patel noted, “before ‘Slumdog,’ the last film about India that went big at the Oscars was 'Gandhi,' as played by Ben Kingsley. The fact that me and [girlfriend] Freida [Pinto] have any kind of platform in Hollywood is a big step forward.”

Patel, who can now be seen playing Prince Zuko in the M. Night Shyamalan film "The Last Airbender," seems to be in the same place he was post-"Slumdog": reading scripts and trying to find a role that he can truly delve into.

"'I'm buzzing with adrenaline and raring to go, but I have to be realistic," Patel told the Mail. "Being an Asian actor, it's never going to be easy. Hopefully the industry is changing and the casting directors will be less focused on colour so that people like myself can get through the door."

Filed under: Celebrities • movies

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soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. jasta

    Latest movies online and free

    October 10, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dean


    I am producing a video and I need 1 male actor, whom has their own HD video camera.

    I need each to speak minimal lines...about 20 seconds if that.

    Head video shot only.

    The background needs to be a nice vibrant outside or inside background.

    The video quality must be excellent and the audio quality must be excellent.

    It's for a worthy cause, it will be for a video like this:

    My budget is 200.00 for 20seconds of video. Can you help?

    August 17, 2010 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
  3. scotthudson

    Actually, the last Indian film to go big at the Oscars was Lagaan. Way to do your research.

    August 14, 2010 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  4. Kat

    I have to agree on the whole "Asian" actor thing. Most of the movies that I've seen have the Asian actors in stereotypical roles. I'd love to see a more diverse cast of actors than movies that are out now.

    August 12, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  5. andermalo

    He can stay in the U.K if he bloody wants to. No need to come here to the states. Why not wimper about what the west end offers. Bollywood has not white actor why not cry about that. He is overrated, subpar actor and rater homely.

    August 11, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. cute

    ask me out!

    August 11, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Am I reading this wrong?

    I thought he was Indian? Not Asian?

    August 11, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mark S.

    Shame on M. Night Shyamalan. He's in a position to cast Asian actors, esp. Indian actors, in lead roles and he caves into white Hollywood.

    August 11, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  9. TJ

    Stand in line Dev. Although, blacks have made some progress in film, they are still being placed in subordinate roles. Tyler Perry has helped but even his movies are becoming predicable and sterotypical. White Hollywood is only giving the public what they think they want to see. I say we have a diffferent generation of folks and they wouldn't mind seeing minorities in lead roles. So come on Hollywood and take the chance!!!

    August 11, 2010 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  10. momo

    i think Hollywood should make a films more flexibly...

    August 11, 2010 at 5:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. I Mean, Really

    He needs to stop mugging like a Muppet. Has he no concept of his facial expressions?

    August 10, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ms. LeClerc

    You missed ms big smile Julia Roberts new movie Pray,....& something.
    A white divorced mom (what else) goes to India to become a Hindu and
    get enlightened from her LA swimming pool ugly crass ordinary lifestyle.
    Where was your casting agent on this fiilm?

    August 10, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. M. Filmvideo

    Plenty of movies being made in India and China,who needs Hollywood?
    I would not complain to much about being neglected by the US marketplace
    yes,marketplace,not filmatic or serious art.

    August 10, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. tony

    Joe is right. It's not called the movie "business" for nothing. Whites are the primary movie goers and they want to see white leads.. nothing wrong with that. Black actors have been complaining about the same thing for years and finally put money together and produced their own films and started making so much money that white distributors wanted to get a piece of it and offered to expand distribution.Unless you have something Hollywood wants you can forget about a handout.
    Find a producer who wants to make films with Indian leads, develop the audience here and Hollywood will come begging for you. It'll take you five years plus but your young and the Indian community is growing and becoming wealthier worldwide. You'll both mature simultaneously and blossom....

    August 10, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joe

    It's pretty simple to explain why he is not getting the roles. White people go to hollywood made movies more than anyone else. That's why the roles go to white guys. How many white actors do you see in Bollywood movies? Not many, because thier target market is Indian. Duh!

    August 10, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Alan Smithee

      Well, that's partly accurate. India is full of Indians so the movies are for them. But in the US, we're diverse. I don't like it when all the commercials and TV shows are only one race. I prefer it to look more like real life. I think Ugly Betty is a good example of what you find in an actual workplace. Just my opinion.

      August 11, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenn

      you're an idiot. Movies make most of there money overseas that includes other continents which are open to paying to see an indian lead than say middle america (cross over part of the US).

      August 11, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  16. @adrina

    Pinto is getting roles in all these big budget films because she looks like latina and is cast as latina in rise of apes, immortals(greek)

    August 9, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Come on now

    @Adrina, True but Freida's one out of so many!

    Did you know the character of Kurt Hummel on Glee was supposed to be an Indian character, Rajesh. For whatever reason, they scrapped the Indian character to give way to Chris Colfer. Don't get me wrong, I think Chris is a great actor and the character of Kurt is brilliant and one of my favorites but I can't help but wonder...will every chance for an Asian actor to break in be shafted like this?

    No one said Hollywood was racist...I think the industry caters to what the public wants to see. But you gotta understand the frustration behind actors like Dev and even Kal Penn (I think it's amazing he got to play "Dr. Kutner" on House by the way). America is all about opportunities and it's made up of people from diverse backgrounds. It would be refreshing to see Hollywood loosening up a bit.

    Just my opinion. 🙂

    August 9, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      You just referenced a show that has quite a big asian quotient...

      August 10, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      @Liz, if you're referring to Glee, it may have a couple characters of Asian descent, but that show still relegates its minorities to the background while always focusing primarily on two white leads.
      They're all just token minorities to avoid any claims of racism, but it's still very much a white show.

      August 10, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Adrina

    If hollywood is racist then how come freida pinto is getting lead role in big budget films like Rise of apes and immortals?

    August 9, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      You just named one actress, two movies. How many movies come out a year?

      And, Hollywood has a history of whitewashing roles and relegating minorities to serve as background color. While blacks have made some big strides in Hollywood and on TV, the same cannot be said of other minorities. And Asian-American men are one of the most invisible group when it comes to Hollywood. There's a number of upcoming movies that have white actors playing Asian and Asian-American male characters. And Hollywood's past (including recent past) is full of white actors being chosen to play undeniably Asian roles.
      So Pinto getting a couple bones thrown at her doesn't balance things. She's not even a drop in the bucket.

      August 10, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  19. T.J.

    Bottom line: Hollywood is too white and needs to be more diverse.

    August 9, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • MikeyNYC

      You are forgetting that above all, movie studios want to make MONEY. One of the best ways to do that is to cast an established star in a leading role, even if that star doesn't necessarily fit the bill, ethnically. I agree that Hollywood films need to be much more diverse in their casting of "ethnic" actors, but as long as the goal is to make money, we'll continue to see whatever actors bring in the biggest box office returns in the leading roles.

      August 12, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  20. al

    A couple movies that should have had Asian lead actors but were given to white actors:

    21 – based on 6 MIT students that counted cards and made a ton of money. A majority of the 6 students were Asian.

    The last movie Dev was in, Last Airbender – obviously based on Asian culture and martial arts with the air benders based on Shaolin monks, yet the lead role was cast to a white actor.

    August 9, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      And there's a bunch more of that on the way, too.

      There's the upcoming Akira, which is being whitewashed, the upcoming Genghis Khan movie (with Mickey Rourke playing the Mongolian leader), as well as King of Fighters and The Weapon, which will also have white actors playing Asian characters.

      Hollywood just doesn't get it. And ol' Dev Patel here starred in Last Airbender, and he made no mention of how that movie whitewashed the four main roles?

      August 10, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Irony

    I love irony. He has the nerve to say he's waiting for a role he's worthy of yet he butchered the prince zuko character. You should count yourself lucky and quit now before you embarrass yourself a second time.

    August 9, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • al

      Dev isn't the only one guilty of butchering that role, M Night is guilty of butchering that entire movie!

      August 9, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Be Quiet

    Slumdog was the most overrated movie I've ever seen. He should count his lucky stars for the luck he's had and be happy with whatever role he can get.

    August 9, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Whatever

      Most of the good "white" actors are Jewish anyway. Dev is not the best Asian actor I'm sure, he just happened to fit the role of the outscast-ish guy in slumdog. If he's thinking he should get the next big role, move out of the way because I've seen beefy hot Asian actors before, and sorry Dev, you're not one of them.

      August 9, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenn

      Right, like Tom hardy, brad pitt, clooney, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Paul Giamatti, Dicaprio, Daniel Craig are what you said.

      August 11, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  23. poo

    dark knight was way better than slumdog. cant believe dark knight didnt win best movie

    August 9, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan Smithee

      Sadly, The Dark Knight wasn't nominated. Comic book stigma, I guess. Personally, I considered it a crime drama of the highest caliber.

      August 11, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  24. hm

    Chin up Dev, you have my support! Slumdog was awesome and I hope someday you get the awesome, interesting role you deserve. Frankly I'm sick of watching bad actors with the "right look" in roles they don't deserve.

    August 9, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |

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