When the casts of Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther posed together for a photo at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January, the shot immediately went viral. The picture — which includes Crazy Rich Asians stars Constance Wu and Harry Shum Jr., as well as Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o — lit up the internet with delight.
Turns out the moment was made possible by Shum, who just wanted to show his appreciation for the Black Panther ensemble, which won best cast in a motion picture at the awards ceremony.
“I remember going to some [Crazy Rich Asians] cast members and saying, ‘Yo, let’s go say congratulations to the Black Panther cast.'” Shum said in an interview. “And then that happened.”
“It was just this thing that started. People saw us mingling, and it was like, this is a perfect example of what Hollywood should be like, what it needs to do,” he continued. “It’s not just about your own community. How do you reach out with the community in mind, and collaborate or just support?”
Shum spoke at a reception Thursday evening in Los Angeles for the Gold House A100, a list that honors Asians and Asian Americans in tech, entertainment and business. The list, announced earlier this month, includes severalstars, including Shum, Wu, Henry Golding, Awkwafina and director Jon M. Chu. On Friday, Gold House also gave Chu its inaugural A1 award for the “single most impactful Asian of the year.”
Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther were two of last year’s cultural milestones. The two films represented a push in Hollywood to tell more diverse stories and get more people of color on screen and behind the camera. Both movies were critical and commercial successes, and proved that movies with predominantly nonwhite casts could do well at the box office.
For Shum, the joint cast photo was an encapsulation of that push for representation.
“It’s just a celebration of being there at this award show when so many faces have been erased or have been invisible,” he said. “And just to be there and see [the Black Panther cast] holding those trophies, it’s special.”
Outside of entertainment, other heavy hitters honored by Gold House include Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Momofuku chef David Chang and Toronto Raptors point guard Jeremy Lin.
Gold House also tries to ensure the success of projects driven by Asian people. A campaign by the group called #GoldOpen aims to buoy opening weekends by urging donors to buy out movie theaters and snap up tickets in bulk. The group made a big push around Crazy Rich Asians last year, which has grossed almost $240 million at the box office to date, and is the top grossing romantic comedy in 10 years.