Eva Noblezada, actress of “Easter Sunday”, on the representation of the AAPI

Mulan was the icon of my childhood. After seeing his face and recognizing something similar in mine, I decided that I too wanted to cut my hair in an act of defiance for 5 years.

With my dad’s nose hair trimmer, it did. And for a long time, Mulan was one of the few characters I saw on TV and in magazines that looked like me. It confused me in a way because my own life was full of different types of people who made my life wonderful. I wondered why I didn’t watch more of their stories.

As I grew and fell more and more in love with acting and the need to be part of storytelling, I became acclimated to a very small list (but one that I adored fiercely) of actors who looked…. a bit like me. They were beacons of hope that made me think that one day I too would do what they did. I am still on the endless journey of self-identity. But if there’s one thing I know; is that I am proud to be Mexican-Filipino. And I feel more strongly about it every day.

Being in Jo Koy’s next album “Easter Sunday” was… fulfilling. It was very similar to being served a steaming plate of lumpia and pancit palabok – dishes that are an integral part of Filipino cuisine and homes. It was food for my soul.

It was really touching to be part of a movie that felt like home. Of course, I was also extremely grateful to have a job during these difficult times.

It wasn’t until they were on set that all of the “Easter Sunday” cast took a moment to look at each other and say, “Woah.” “You have my nose.” “I have the shape of your eyes.” We have similar stories. Is this the first time this has happened?! That Hollywood had this movie with an all-Filipino cast. This is a first in the studio’s history. Mad.

I felt even more empowered in the representation of Filipinos after being part of the independent film “Yellow Rose”. This Diane Paragas film was a project that definitely ignited my need to be on screen. At the same time, being able to represent Eurydice in “Hadestown” on Broadway is another blessing in itself.

When people message me and say, “Wow, seeing someone on stage look like me took my breath away,” I will always feel like I’ve won in my career. It doesn’t matter what kind of entertainment it is; people want to see themselves… they want to be the love interest, they want to be the superhero, they want to feel connected in some way and they want to feel seen.

We need more stories centered around the beautiful inhabitants of this land. All. In all forms. I feel for those who didn’t grow up seeing themselves in society. There are certainly traumatic repercussions to this. Especially when all we see is a type of person who represents the embodiment of beauty. For them, it always seemed easy.

But life is not easy.

I’ve learned to focus on the reality of the industry despite the setbacks and challenges that have tried to shape me into something I’m definitely not. I am delighted to continue celebrating the victories of the Asian community. All months of the year.

So I can’t wait for my brother and sister to see “Easter Sunday” and feel seen. And for my daddy in heaven (adobo king!) to laugh with us.

Eva Noblezada is an actress and singer whose credits include “Hadestown” and “Miss Saigon”. Most recently, Noblezada starred in 2020’s “Yellow Rose.” Next, she’ll play Ruth in Universal’s “Easter Sunday.”

Throughout the month of May, Variety will publish essays and stories from prominent AAPI artists, artisans and entertainment personalities celebrating the impact of AAPI entertainment and artists on the world at large.

Alicia R. Rucker