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Interview with actress, Rae Dawn Chong

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    Rae Dawn Chong: an Interview with Yayoi Lena Winfrey, Contributing Editor (AAV) [Rae Dawn Chong in The Visit] Regardless of race , nearly all families seem to
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 26, 2006
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      Rae Dawn Chong:

      an Interview with
       Yayoi Lena
      Winfrey, Contributing Editor (AAV)

      Rae Dawn Chong in The Visit

      Regardless of "race", nearly all families
      seem to do that dysfunctional dance.

      In a new Urbanworld film
      release, `The Visit', … Alex
      Waters (Hill Harper), imprisoned
      … discovers he's dying of AIDS.

      After five years of shunning him, his
      family finally comes around for a visit.

      Leading the parade is his unforgiving
      father, played by veteran actor Billy
      Dee Williams, and his older brother
      and mentor, Tony (Obba Babtunde).

      Before long, Alex's childhood friend, Felicia
      (Rae Dawn Chong) … also stops by to lend
      support and share the most poignant exchange
      of dialogue with Waters in the entire film.

      The film was directed, written, and
      produced by Jordan Walker-Pearlman.

      In anticipation of the film's early March release,
      IMDiversity contributing editor Yayoi Lena
      Winfrey spoke with star [Rea Dawn] Chong …

      Rae Dawn Chong

      Most … remember Rae Dawn Chong as the
      daughter of comedian/actor Tommy Chong, one
      half of [the] Cheech and Chong [comedy duo].

      But while Tommy Chong tickled us silly, his
      corkscrew-haired, dimply daughter dazzled
      us with her dramatic onscreen debut in
      `Quest for Fire' at the tender of age 18.

      Since then, she has appeared in over 20 films
      including `The Color Purple', `Soul Man',
      `Beat Street', `Commando' and `Choose Me'.

      In 'The Visit', Chong portrays a woman
      who "comes from the depth of depravity."

      "It's an incredible role," exclaims Chong.
      "She's a survivor...She's been in
      prison.… and she pulls herself up."

      Breathlessly, Chong continues,
      "She comes to visit Hill's character...
      a childhood friend who always sort of
      cherished her... (to let him know) that
      he can choose another way... (`The
      is) about forgiveness...of the
      self, a universal theme that's not
      just indicative of our community."

      Forgiveness is something Chong has
      dealt with gracefully in her tumultuous life.

      Born to a Cherokee / African-Canadian mother,
       she was nearly given up for adoption before
      her father's Irish mother and Chinese father
      begged for the chance to raise her.

      "We were very close," says
      Chong about her grandfather.
      "Pop Chong, we called him," she giggles.

      Raised partly in Vancouver with him, Chong observed
      that her grandfather "was ashamed of being Chinese
      as he didn't have the support of family around him.

      He was basically an orphan.

      He didn't have that strong cultural pressure to
      keep things Chinese--or Cantonese, in our case...
      I feel that my grandfather never had an opportunity
      to enjoy and be proud of his Chinese heritage."

      As a child, Chong "just thought it was normal,
      that everyone...had a Chinese grandfather
      ...(that) eats with chopsticks."

      She laments that "Pop Chong" was unable
      to "share with us. It's a big pain for me.
      I know there was lot of persecution
      in Vancouver at the time. Chinese
      were quarantined... in a small
      area for a very long time.
      My grandfather was a victim.
      It makes me sad...I can
      feel certain things in me.
      Isn't that funny?
      I love all the Chinese movies.
      I feel that's a part of my heritage 
      that I didn't get to explore."

      In the `Otherness' of Life

      According to Chong, her Irish grandmother,
       "a really wonderful Chinese chef,"
      taught her to cook Chinese food.

      And, thanks to her dad, she was
      endowed with a Multi-Cultural attitude.

      "My Chinese-Irish father hung out only
      with black people when he grew up," she says.
      "He was Afrocentric...all of his
      friends were black musicians."

      About being Multi-Racial she says,
      "We're sort of in the otherness of life.
      It's a fascinating challenge...
      It's wonderful the way that (Mixed) people
      click and break off into subgroups from
      the super Afrocentric to the Anglo.

      The confusion when you're Multi-Ethnic
      or Multi-Racial is that you have a tendency
      not to have a place to call your own.

      When I see other Mixed kids,
      I say we're in the same tribe."

      Chong has felt the sting of racism often.

      "As a "black" woman, you have to be careful if you're
      driving late night," she says referring to the practice by
      some police of routinely stopping cars with black drivers.
      "In my opinion...it has to do a lot with training.
      "As far as the Chinese scientist (Wen Ho Lee),"
       she continues, "if the ethnic press is saying
      'you guys are racist', then listen to them.

      I go to Washington State and Vancouver , Canada
      and at Customs I have been pulled over more times.
      If I was a White woman I know for
      a fact I wouldn't get hassled with."

      … Chong can be seen playing Peggy
      Fowler on NBC's ` Mysterious Ways '.

      "She's a skeptic about miraculous phenomenon,"
      laughs Chong who is, ironically, "a complete believer."

      "My advice to anybody (aspiring to act) is to just
      passionately, beyond all and everything, love acting.
      If you want to be actress, you better love it....
      (Feel like) you would die if you don't do it.

      The truth is they don't pay me to act.
      I would do that for free.
      They pay me to sit in the trailer."

      Note on Writer --Yayoi Lena Winfrey


      Yayoi Lena Winfrey is a Japanese-African-American writer,
      visual artist, filmmaker, metaphysician, free spirit, and vegan
      yogaholic with a " New York soul living in a California body."  
      She attended the Art Institute of Seattle, and has worked
      as a freelance writer and illustrator for International
      Examiner, Northwest Nikkei , Mavin, Metropolitan
      Living, Northwest Asian Weekly and others.
      She is also the editor and publisher of the anthology,
      Brothers and Others: An Esi Black Women Writers Anthology


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