Dolly De Leon has made history as a Filipina actress with her historic Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress for the film Triangle of Sadness. As the first female Filipina Golden Globe actress nominee, she is paving the way for those to come.
The actress, who is from the Philippines and grew up in Manila, graduated from theater school and went on to play small roles in films. She auditioned for the international film Triangle of Sadness without an agent. The support from the Filipino community and inspiring her fellow Filipinos is something she is embracing as she heads toward the red carpet.
When we asked de Leon about her nomination and the response, she said, “The support and love from the Filipino acting community is what makes this journey so special. Everyone is looking out for each other and lifting each other up. They’ve all inspired me to give my best, always, and do everything with love as they do. I’m proud to be part of a group of talented, generous, welcoming, and loving people.”
We spoke with Filipina actresses Elizabeth Frances (The Son) Ellen D. Williams (How I Met Your Mother, Baskets), Melody Butiu (Easter Sunday, Broadway’s Doctor Zhivago) and Filipina-American broadcast journalist Yong Chavez about the impact her historic nomination will have.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Elizabeth. As a working Filipino actress, do you think this nomination will impact Filipinas onscreen?
I feel like we’re in our infancy of how we speak about race and identity, and it’s been getting so much better and is so exciting. When the conversation about Asians or Asian-Americans comes up in representation onscreen, it rarely includes Filipinos, and we have such a rich history with the United States. Filipinos are the third-largest Asian population in the United States.
I didn’t know that.
Yes, and somehow, we’ve been missing from the conversation. I remember when there was a show about doctors, and the poster came out, and I was like, there is not a Filipino here. All the Filipinos work at the hospital.
Do you think that will begin to change in Hollywood?
Sometimes representation equals dollars, so it’s nice to see that the third-largest Asian population in America is starting to have some representation. That’s the exciting thing for me about Dolly’s nomination.
Ellen, as a multi-hyphenate Filipina artist, what do you hope this nomination does for the community of actresses who are trying to break into other roles in the industry?
When I grew up, my examples were Connie Chung and actresses I saw on M.A.S.H. As an actress, I have been lucky to play roles specifically written as Filipina — Patrice in How I Met Your Mother and Nicole Baskets in Baskets. To start seeing Filipinos more often in TV and film, let alone lead roles, and now the first to be nominated for a Golden Globe, inspires me.
How will this moment in Filipino history change Hollywood?
I hope it inspires generations who can now see actors who represent them onscreen and honor their experience. It also gives me confidence that a global audience will see my work as a screenwriter focusing on the Filipino-American experience.
Melody, as a Filipina-American film actress, what does this historic nomination mean for you?
I mean, to witness this historic moment is incredibly emotional. I remember when I first started working professionally, I was told by agents that mainstream audiences don’t know what Filipinos are, so those roles weren’t going to be there, at least not in Hollywood.
Have things changed?
I think there is an awareness and hunger for authenticity when it comes to telling specific stories. So, to see things evolve over the years where we can see fellow Filipino actors playing Filipino characters, to see stories and storylines centered around our experiences is huge. To see her powerful work be recognized and celebrated is truly inspiring. It is a tour de force performance, and it’s so incredible to see that recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Golden Globes.
Yong, you are a member of the HFPA and the Hollywood Critics Association. As an entertainment journalist, what kind of changes have you seen in Hollywood?
The first time I did an award-season story focusing on Filipinos who were trying to break through in Hollywood was in 2005. Back then, it seemed like an impossible dream to have significant Asian and Filipino representation in Hollywood, much less for awards consideration. As a journalist, I’ve been telling their struggles and small wins, and then finally things started changing significantly in recent years. And now here’s Dolly. Yes, it’s mind-blowing that we have a Filipino as a major award-season contender, but it’s well-deserved. She delivered an outstanding performance, and that’s all that should matter. What would even be sweeter is if Dolly, Stephanie Hsu of Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Hong Chau (for either The Whale and The Menu) would all be Oscar-nominated.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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