TORONTO — Ever since NBC’s “The Good Place” ended in 2020, its Canadian star Manny Jacinto has drawn attention to one feature in particular: his objectively pretty face. But he wants to prove that he is much more than that.
From Netflix’s 2021 series “Brand New Cherry Flavor” to Prime Video’s 2021 series “Nine Perfect Strangers,” the Filipino-Canadian’s characters have been funny, smart, and strong, but it’s his looks that are often singled out. finger by bloggers and ardent followers.
In his latest role as the hero’s romantic rival in the Prime Video film, “I Want You Back,” he plays Logan, an unwittingly hilarious theater executive who spends an inordinate amount of time shirtless.
Jacinto, however, is quick to note that he is aware of not falling into caricature and says that Logan is more than meets the eye.
“When I look at a character in a script, I always try to look for someone who is well balanced, who has different facets to be able to create the dynamic and show that this person is not just a model.” says Jacinto, who appeared on “The Good Place” as a silent Taiwanese monk who later turns out to be a stupid-minded little crook, who is actually Filipino-American.
Of his new role, Jacinto says, “He’s not just a snobbish author. There is more to these people, much more redeeming values. I like this challenge. Maybe that’s why these (character) models keep coming back.
While he says the industry is changing, issues remain with how these actors of color have often been portrayed on screen.
According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media’s “I Am Not a Fetish or Model Minority” Summer 2021 study, which analyzed the highest-grossing films from 2010 to 2019, only 4.5% of leads or co -leads were Asian or Pacific Islander characters, while a third of these characters embodied at least one common stereotype, including “martial artist”, “model minority”, and “exotic woman”.
He also found that while they are more likely to be written as smart, hardworking, and single, they are less likely to be written as sexy, funny, and desirable.
“I Want You Back,” which airs Friday on the Amazon streamer, follows Peter, played by Charlie Day, and Emma, played by Jenny Slate, as they join forces to sabotage their exes’ new relationships in order to to win them back.
Jacinto says he was in good hands with director Jason Orley, who previously worked with rom-com queen Nancy Meyers.
“He knew what he was doing,” says Jacinto. “And I wanted to do an old-school rom-com like ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ or ‘You’ve Got Mail,’ something with that kind of feel and vibe. And when I read that script, there had that – the grounded characters, those funny and incredibly awkward moments and real relationships.
It’s supported by recent high-profile projects that have presented Asian male characters not just as desirable individuals, but have great depth. It’s a sign, he says, that the landscape is changing, albeit slowly.
“Crazy Rich Asians” promised to deliver a watershed moment in 2018 when it captured the box office as the first major studio film to be helmed by an all-Asian cast since 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club.”
Since then, there’s been 2019’s ‘Always Be My Maybe’ and ‘Last Christmas’ and 2021’s ‘Love Hard’, which saw actor Jimmy O. Yang play a romantic but catfishing lead. as a white passing acquaintance in order to attract the attention of the female lead.
“There is definitely a change, but it’s a slow, steady stream, rather than a full waterfall,” says Jacinto.
“It’s starting to happen and I think it’s a result of so many things coming together, with so many different streaming services and platforms. A lot of people my age or younger who are from different cultures want to express themselves…and there’s a greater willingness to collaborate and tell stories from different cultures, because those stories are so interesting. I’m so lucky to be doing that right now, because it’s not was definitely not the case just five years ago.
Jacinto’s varied credits range from comedy to drama to horror, and he’s set to continue “I Want You Back” with the high-octane sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” later this year.
“There’s definitely a set trajectory where I want to do everything,” says Jacinto, who scored one of her first regular television roles on CBC’s “The Romeo Section” in 2015.
“As long as it’s a good story and the people telling it are passionate about it. I don’t want to play the same character over and over again. I want to explore, I’m so curious.
Jacinto, who studied engineering and spent time as a background dancer before acting, says he would soon like to produce, write and direct a Filipino story, preferably a romantic comedy.
“I would like my culture to be seen on mainstream media and show what hasn’t been seen yet, our family, our ancestral roots,” he says. “The gears turn.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 10, 2022.
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