Chloe Bennet changed her last name, Wang, because ‘Hollywood is racist’

Disney/ABC TV TCA Winter 2017 Party - Arrivals

We’ve never talked about this actress, Chloe Bennet, before now. She’s mostly worked in television, and her best known work is probably on Nashville and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. She’s very pretty and she’s 25 years old. She’s half-Chinese, on her father’s side, and her birth name was Chloe Wang. Chloe made a public comment this week thanking Ed Skrein for stepping aside from the Hellboy reboot when he realized the character he was supposed to play should have been cast with an actor of Asian descent. When someone on Chloe’s Instagram was like “if you’re so Asian, why did you change your name,” Chloe unloaded:

Don’t mess with Chloe Bennet! In a recent Instagram post, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star applauded Ed Skrein for stepping down from playing Major Ben Daimio in the Hellboy reboot. In the original comic, the character is of Asian descent, which Skrein is not. But after a commenter asked the actress why she changed her last name from Wang to Bennet when she is Asian American, she did not hold back.

“Changing my last name doesn’t change the fact that my BLOOD is half Chinese, that I lived in China, speak Mandarin or that I was culturally raised both American and Chinese,” Bennet replied. “It means I had to pay my rent, and Hollywood is racist and wouldn’t cast me with a last name that made them uncomfortable. I’m doing everything I can, with the platform I have, to make sure no one has to change their name again, just so they can get work. So kindly love, f–k off.”

Bennet shared Skrein’s note in her Instagram post applauding the actor and wrote the following: “DAMN, that’s a man. Thank you @edskrein for standing up against Hollywood’s continuous insensitivity and flippant behavior towards the Asian American community. There is no way this decision came lightly on your part, so thank you for your bravery and genuinely impactful step forward. I hope this inspires other actors/film makers to do the same. Also, dayum cute af AND a pioneer for social injustice?! Fellas, take note. That’s how it’s done.”

[From E! News]

I absolutely agree with her and her decision to use an Anglo-sounding stage name. Would “Chloe Wang” be hired for the same roles, or even get the same auditions that “Chloe Bennet” gets? No. That’s the sad truth. Look no further than all of those stupid f–king jokes earlier this year about Mahershala Ali’s name, and that was during his successful Oscar campaign. White Hollywood just can’t handle it when people of color also have non-Anglo names. Ugh.

The world premiere of Marvel Studios’ 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.' - Arrivals

Photos courtesy of WENN.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

38 Responses to “Chloe Bennet changed her last name, Wang, because ‘Hollywood is racist’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Fiorucci says:

    She’s very smart and funny in interviews! And so pretty + stylish! Haven’t seen her in anything yet though

  2. Lady D says:

    Welcome to the bright, shiny, forward-looking 21st century, Chloe. I swear, one day we will get it right.

  3. Blaire Carter says:

    is carter an anglo name? just curious

  4. Aiobhan Targaryen says:

    I am glad she put that person in check.

    There are so many actors with ethnic sounding birth names that change it so that they could work Martin Sheen, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Quinn, Raquel Welch, Natalie Portman (I think Natalie also may have changed her name because of her father’s profession. I may be wrong about that though) That annoying girl from Glee.. Lea Michele., Wynona Ryder, and so on and so on and so on.

    Chloe changing her stage name is not the problem it is a symptom of white supremacy. So any ignorant fool who does not understand that really needs to go read a history book written by a non-white person or by Howard Zinn. If this was a person of color who wrote that to her, they should really be ashamed of themselves for writing that petty and utterly ridiculous comment. I would only judge her if she legally changed her name. Martin Sheen once said he was not happy that he had to change his stage name but he was still proud that his real name was on his driver’s license.

    • Norman Bates' Mother says:

      Not to dispute your comment, just add my two cents to it – sometimes if a person’s looks cannot be 100% pinned to just one ethnicity, changing a name to something more neutral opens the door for more roles.

      I read an interview with Oscar Isaac and his explanation for changing his name was that with his looks and the name Isaac he can play a Hispanic character but also an Arabic or Jewish man or even a tan white person – as Oscar Hernandez he would only be asked to play Hispanic men. Martin Sheen has played many men of European descent, but if he was named Estevez, he would only be invited for castings for Latino characters and with his looks, he wouldn’t get them, because narrow-minded HW people want all Latinos to be dark-haired and olive-skinned.

      I think the same thing could also be applied to Chloe Bennet – with her looks she could easily play a Latina (although, it raises the problem of casting people in roles with different ethnicities, which she opposes) or a tan white woman, but not many people would look at her and scream – Chinese, without knowing her background and the name Wang.

      • LA Elle says:

        Norman Bates: This.

        It’s not necessarily a symptom of racism. Don’t get me wrong, Hollywood has a lot of problems with racism and sexism, but I think Chloe’s conflating a couple of different issues.

        Living in LA, it’s kind of a given you get to know actors, and I’ve met a few who have changed names prior to joining SAG. One I know of was solely for pronunciation.

        Another was the opposite of Chloe: A Hispanic mother and white father, she changed her last name to her Mom’s maiden name, feeling like it would give her a broader casting pool. Her opinion was that casting someone named Smith* as a Latina would cause problems, but casting someone named Hernandez* as generic supporting role wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. Her appearance falls into the category of generically ethnic or maybe Italian or Greek, and, to her, the bottom line was a name should match the face. Others may disagree with this, but I always thought hers was an interesting perspective.

        I also know a light-skinned black actress with a very, very white sounding name, and she’s considering changing her stage name because she feels like casting directors don’t buy her as “black enough.” (She jokes the alternative is she’s not talented, and she prefers option one).

        Hollywood very much has issues with diversity, but at the same time, being a recognizable, pronounceable “brand” is to an actor’s benefit.

        Would people have considered Archibald Leach a suave leading man?

        *Not the real names

      • Bo Peep says:

        @La Elle

        But what does it say when the “brands” that are considered to be “recognizable” and “pronounceable” are mostly Anglo ones? At its heart, racism is a system that benefits the majority (which is white in the U.S.) and disenfranchises the minority, regardless of intent.

        A lot of structural racism isn’t about hating someone because they belong to a particular race (that’s personal racism), but about giving opportunities to the majority but not the minority because of a multitude of cultural factors. Like perceived profitability – you’re less marketable because your name sounds less “recognizable;” less marketable because you look you look less “recognizable.”

        When this kind of behavior is repeated over a number of cases in an industry, it leads to minorities being deprived of equal opportunity.

  5. KBeth says:

    She isn’t wrong…
    That black dress is gorgeous.

  6. Radley says:

    It’s a shame that in 2017 actors are still changing their surnames like so many Jewish and Latinx performers felt the need to do for decades. There’s no excuse.

    I’m assuming she is very aware that she can also “pass” for white. A name change might help her get more auditions, but if she showed up looking distinctly Asian she still wouldn’t be cast by those who want a white girl. It’s an unfortunate predicament she’s in.

  7. WTW says:

    I mean, Keanu refused to change his name, and it didn’t stop him from becoming a superstar, and, yes, he was pressured to go as K.C. Reeves and some other foolishness. There are plenty of people in Hollywood with odd names. Chloe looks racially ambiguous, so I don’t see why she was forced to change her name. She already has a step up over the Asian people who can’t pass for white, or at the very least non-Asian. I don’t know her circumstances and I don’t want to judge, but I feel giving in to the system with name changes and passing isn’t the way to go. I understand why people did so years ago, but not today.

    • SoulSPA says:

      It’s not her fault! And the first thing casting people see is a name and a picture. Her looks may be ambiguous but her Chinese last name would have labelled her.
      I’ve read somewhere that a person sent two CVs to the same company for the same job, one with an ethnic name and an Anglo-Saxon one. Showing comparable experience, education and skills. Guess who got the call for an interview? The Anglo-Saxon name. Unless there are some companies with serious policies to accept people of all traits. But that is not Hollywood movie producers and casting companies. I totally get why some people would change their names.

    • Merritt says:

      Because just like with normal jobs, casting looks at a person’s name and dismisses them before they audition. There have been studies done that if you have a name that sounds too “ethnic” to HR that you are less likely to get asked to come in for an interview. It is the same in the entertainment business.

      • WTW says:

        Oh, yes, I know all about these studies. And I have a “foreign-sounding” first/last name myself, one that links me to the Muslim world. In this time of rising Islamophobia, that’s just wonderful. But I’ve never given in and have managed to be successful in my career, which is in a field dominated by white men. I still think there’s something to sticking to your guns and not conforming/assimilating. But I’m not condemning this woman because she did what she felt was necessary to pay her rent.

      • Fiorucci says:

        Wtw small clarification she became famous in china as Chloe wang and was probably ok financially before the name change

  8. Maple Girl says:

    How does Hollywood deal with non-anglo European last names? Would a Kostadinov have the same chances as a Johnson?

    • WTW says:

      I really don’t think it’s the last name but how one looks. Cameron Diaz looks white as hell; hence, she’s only played white characters.

    • Norman Bates' Mother says:

      Some people with Eastern or Central European sounding last names change it as well, but I read it depends on the roles they want to play. If they want to be a romantic lead or a serious dramatic actor, they are asked to change it – like Paul Wesley from Vampire Diaries is Polish and his real name is Paweł Wasilewski. He had to change it to start in Hollywood because they couldn’t accept a hearthrob-material with such name. But when someone is more fitted to play quirky characters – like Jane Kaczmarek or Jane Krakowski, they are allowed to keep their Polish last names. Hellen Mirren, a dramatic actress, also changed her name from Russian – Mirronoff.

  9. Originaltessa says:

    I feel like 50% of actors, even white ones, change their names for one reason or another. Every Wikipedia article reads , so and so, born so and so . The agents pressure them to do it, telling them it will help them, and they listen. It’s not her fault. It’s just the way the industry works.

    • Chinoiserie says:

      Yes stage names are really common. And women who get married changing their legal name and not their brand name ar common too. If Mahershala Ali had changed his name it would been pretty common for someone with a long name, shorter ones are easier to remember which makes his unique beyond his backround.

      But Wang is pretty much is just to avoid racism/typecasting. It’s undertandle she did it but unfortunate if she did not want to.

  10. Loo says:

    I think she is a poor actress but I like her personality.

  11. Nicole says:

    this is why my parents gave me an English name and a traditional middle name. We know from studies that you are more likely to get hired with a more “white” name.

  12. tealily says:

    Good for her. This makes me like her. Although, not gonna like, despite watching Nashville I had to Google who she played on it. She looks familiar, but she was not very memorable. Props to Ed Skrein too. I don’t know him at all, but that’s a class move. I hope he ends up getting more buzz from that than he would have from the movie.

  13. Renee2 says:

    I feel conflicted about this. I understand why she did it, and she certainly is right that she will get more roles than with an Asian surname. I have a “white-sounding” name, and that gives me a degree if privilege, but my appearance marks me as Black. If I had a smaller nose, or longer hair, or lighter skin, I would be perceived as better looking and that would get me further in life on many fronts. Does anyone this mean that I should change my appearance to conform to what the mainstream deems as attractive, lightening my skin, straightening my hair and getting extensions? I also feel that people of color who have last names related to their ethnicity and are not the result of slavery or colonization are lucky, so I feel wistful about her name change. Again, I understand why she did it, and it’s not as though she tries to hide her Chinese heritage. But think of what that would mean to other Asian actors who are coming behind her. All of us who are marginalized have benefitted from those who came before us breaking down barriers and being bold and and unapologetic about who they are.

  14. Abby_J says:

    Chloe Bennent is interesting. She isn’t the world’s greatest actress, and she is the typical 20-something “pay attention to me!” type on social media (which, lets be honest, all actors who aren’t at A-List status pretty much HAVE to be.) That said, we love Agents of Shield and while she isn’t our favorite on the show (I mean, Ming-Na Wen is pretty much a Goddess), she’s good with what she’s given.

    I kind of feel sorry for her, because Agents of Shield is kind of the Bastard child of the MCU, so when the cast of Black Panther, Luke Cage, etc were announced and people were saying stuff like, “Finally Marvel is getting a diverse cast, and a Superhero who is a POC!” Poor Chloe is just sitting over in the corner waving her hands like “Hello! Quake here! Been a non-white superhero for a few seasons now! I’m pretty badass, and I can make earthquakes!” For some reason, she always gets left out of that list.

    It’s okay, Chloe. We know your character is awesome!

    • Lightpurple says:

      Not just “pretty much a goddess,” Ming-Na Wen is indisputedly a GODDESS, according to my boyfriend. He likes Chloe too and wishes Ruth Negga was still on the show. And Adrianne Palicki. And Parminda Nigra. He really loves Agents of SHIELD

      Chloe’s character is mixed race so in this case, it isn’t a matter of her “passing.” Agents of SHIELD has had a very diverse cast.

      • Abby_J says:

        She is pretty awesome. I adore her. My mental fan fiction involves Agent May and Natasha Romanoff kicking butt on missions together. :)

        Yes! They never seem to get the credit they deserve for the diversity of the cast. Then again, on the flip side, they also went through a period of killing off their black cast members. Trip is still alive, and no one will ever change my mind. He got invisibility powers, and hasn’t figured out how to turn visible yet. I’m sticking to it!

  15. mom2two says:

    It’s unfortunate that she felt she had to do that in order to be cast more things or not typecast. Oscar Issac changed his name for the same reason. James Roday from Psych changed his name from James Rodriquez because of the parts he was being offered when he used his real name.

  16. Tyrant Destroyed says:

    I know many women married to a foreigner which is also my case that feel compelled to take their husband’s last names because it was proven to a certain point that sending a resume with a very foreign sounding name will decrease their chances to be called for a job interview.
    I decided not to do the same because I can change my name because even if I make it sound more “local” as soon as the employer opens my resume he/she will see my education and realize very quickly that I am not local.
    I think in her case it makes total sense because she was born in the country and also because celebrities have traditionally adopted names that suited better their careers.

  17. BB Carrots says:

    See also: Martin Sheen

  18. Coco says:

    I don’t know anything about her but she’s really pretty and reminds me of Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

  19. sunshine gold says:

    Oh puhleeze, actors have been changing their names since the beginning of Hollywood. It’s so common. Not everything has to be a ‘thing.’