Empire Australia - 08.2019

(Brent) #1
Are you a fan of London?
I live there. It’s my
favourite place. I [was born]
in Sweden, moved to
Iceland when I was five, and
came back to Sweden [as a
teenager]. I never really felt
at home, and then when
I came to London for the
first time when I shot
Sherlock Holmes with Guy
Ritchie, I fell in love with it.

What made you fall in love
with the city?
It’s such a mix of people. In
my house, people come from
all kinds of different
backgrounds. London is a
world city, a boiling pot of
creativity and madness.
I love a bit of madness. But
I find people to be intelligent
and kind. If you’re walking
home, people are nice to
you. Taxi drivers are nice.

Do they know who you are?
They do sometimes. One of
them said, “You remind me
so much of this actress. But
she’s prettier than you.” It
was hilarious. One of my
favourite conversations.

Do you do tourist stuff?
I don’t, actually. If I come to
a city, I wanna get drunk
with the locals. Go deep, and
go dark. Tourist things very
rarely reflect on the real
city. I’m a big hip-hop and
rap fan and like to discover
new artists, which is what
I do when I come to a city.
I dig into the rap scene.


Awkwafina will break your heart

After stealing the show in last year’s romcom hit Crazy Rich Asians, the
actor works a different muscle in new filmThe Farewell



WHEN AWKWAFINA READ the script for
Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, her response was
immediate and instinctive. “I just thought, I have
to do this,” she tells Empire. A tender portrait of
a family dealing with grief — based on Wang’s
own experience of her grandmother’s illness, the
film marks a sharp left turn for Awkwafina after
star-making comedic performances in last year’s
Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians. And while
surprising, it’s a turn that’s received rave reviews
for both director and star when the film
premiered at Sundance in January.
Playing Billi, a Chinese-American woman
who returns to China for a poignant family
reunion after her grandmother is diagnosed with
lung cancer, proved a deeply personal experience
for Awkwafina. “I resonated with the idea of
feeling like a stranger in China,” she explains.
“I felt like I was at my own family reunion.”
And the script struck a chord in more ways
than one. Awkwafina, whose father is Chinese-

American and mother is South Korean, was
raised by her grandmother from a young age,
and drew from her own experience of family
and grief. “The number one sign of coming into
adulthood is losing your grandparents,” she says.
“They’re the first people that teach you lessons of
love and loss.”
Though she connected with the material in a
deep and personal way, flexing her drama muscle
on screen for the first time was still “a challenge’’.
“I was insecure about my dramatic acting and
the ability to cry,” Awkwafina admits. “I didn’t
think I had it in me.” This meant pushing
through her impulse to stay with humour and
find a more vulnerable, honest place.
The result: a story told with laughter and tears,
what Awkwafina describes as: “the best kind of
humour you can have — because it’s real.” Maybe
reality isn’t such a downer, after all. ELLA KEMP

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