2020 and 2021 has been a crazy year for Asian Americans. Asian and Asian-American stories have been shared more than ever and have received critical acclaim for award-winning films such as The Farewell, Happy Cleaners, Minari, and Parasite. This surge of popularity brought about a moment of celebration for Asian-Americans to have their stories be told on the big screen. However, despite these steps forward, the recent rise of Anti-Asian hate crimes all across the US shows that there is an issue at hand that requires attention. Yeena Sung, the leading actor of Happy Cleaners, brings light to the issues we see today and shares her experience as an actor.
Represented by the reputable Brillstein Entertainment Partners and A3 Artists Agency, Yeena Sung is an actor based in New York City. Originally from South Korea, she has been acting professionally for the past 9 years for both theater and film. For film, she’s been nominated as “Best Supporting Actress” for the role of Juda in thriller film, Let’s Play Dead Girl and played a leading role, Hyunny, for the acclaimed feature film, Happy Cleaners. She also played principal roles for theater such as Viola in Classical Theater of Harlem’s Shakespeare production of Twelfth Night and in LaMaMa’s Hi-Fi, Wi-Fi, Sci-Fi. By navigating between the world of theater and film, she brings a unique presence as an actor and has marked herself both on stage and on screen. However, even as an actor of this caliber, she has encountered a fair share of hardships as an Asian actor in this industry.
“I’m happy to have been a part of productions that focus on Asian and Asian-American narratives. These are long overdue stories that need to be celebrated and told now, more than ever.”
However, as gratifying as it was to see the successes of these projects she has been in, Sung also couldn’t help but feel a little lied to.
“What’s frustrating to me is that, despite the successes, we are still seeing so much hate for AAPI communities all around. How can we call it a ‘success’ when we see one thing on the big screen and yet the opposite in reality?”
Yeena Sung has always been unafraid to speak up. As a Korean actor, she has had to constantly defy white spaces as well as white authority figures to highlight herself beyond how others saw her.
“It wasn’t easy. A lot of the times I felt alone. People gaslighted me, telling me that I’m an ungrateful and difficult actor just from voicing my opinions for a cause I cared about. I think they were dumbfounded because they expected me to be more obedient and submissive; that’s how we (Asians) have been portrayed in this society. But instead, I spoke up and they didn’t know what to do with me”.
Despite her experiences, she is still determined to continue to challenge the norm of the industry. “Far too many actors, let alone actors of color, are expected to say yes to everything- even if it means getting your agency taken away from you. But I hope that when all actors of color and allies stand together to speak up for what is right and actively create space for one another, we’ll start to shift the cultural norms of this industry. I believe this will make way for a healthier industry, not just for people of color but for everyone.”
Coming up next, Yeena Sung will be starring as Dylan Park in the 7th season of Younger, an American comedy-drama television series, created and produced by Darren Starr. This fall, she will also be performing in The Tank’s theatrical production, The Strange Familiar – an original work with music, poetry and dance, co-written by Yeena Sung herself. For more information about Yeena Sung, please check out her website at yeenasung.com.