The change made huge differance
Chloe Wang’s fortunes in Hollywood improved dramatically when she decided to change her surname.
She says within days of adopting her father’s given name — Bennet — as a family name, she landed her first big acting gig. That was on the TV series Nashville, in a recurring role as record company assistant Hailey.
“I was having trouble booking things with my last name. I think it was hard for people to cast me as an ethnic, as an Asian American woman,” says Bennet in an interview with the Star. “But I still wanted to keep my dad’s name, and I wanted to respect him, so I used his first name.” The Chicago-born Bennet became one of the breakout stars of the current TV season, playing computer hacker Skye on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the number one new series on Canadian television. Her role is also central to the first season, as the show has unveiled more of her origins each week leading up to a May 13 finale.
But her experience as an actress of colour — her father is ethnically Chinese and her mother is Caucasian — isn’t new. Actors and actresses have been changing their names since the dawn of the industry. After all, it’s arguable whether Bernard Schwartz would have made it in the movie business if he hadn’t changed his name to Tony Curtis. Closer to home, British Columbia-raised actress Meg Tilley (Bomb Girls) changed her name from Chan because of fears of racism growing up. Still, things are shifting in the industry: two prime time series have women of colour in their leads — Kerry Washington in Scandal and Lucy Liu in Elementary.