Ashwini Prasad Interview Transcript
Masami: [00:00:00] Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. And, and we’ve, you know, when you and I have talked for weeks, I don’t know when we, when did we meet like November, December on clubhouse,
Ashwini Prasad: Yeah. It’s been awhile several months now for sure.
Masami: somewhere early in the process. And I just remember, you know, I don’t remember exactly what the conversation was, but every time we had done a clubhouse room together, or there’s a smaller, big one, I always had a really great insights to inclusivity and, and, and just the way the world can kind of be in a new place.
but I would love for you to introduce yourself and, tell us a little more about yourself and what you’re working on. And yeah, the audience needs to hear from you.
Ashwini Prasad: Thank you so much. Well, thank you so first, so much for having me. I really appreciate it. I’m really excited to be here. So hi everybody. I am Ashwini Prasad. I grew up in Vancouver, BC Calgary Alberta. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Pacific west coast in the United States as well. consider myself a Fijian Indian and [00:01:00] north American, and I am also, the inclusive screenwriter.
And so what that means is that I really try to bring inclusivity into all of my works. Also be a critical eye in terms of what I see in the arts. And I also have my own podcast, inclusive storytelling. I focus in on for the season on what inclusivity looks like in the arts and the arts, being music, comedy, entertainment, all of it.
And I also wrote a book a year ago, it launched and it’s a how to write inclusively and it really focuses in on, the,
I also it, how do write inclusively in analysis and how to guide, because I, when I there’s tons of books on how to, write in terms of screenwriting, but very little on
how to remove tropes and harmful stereotypes in your writing, which unfortunately for, you.
know, the decades I’ve been alive, I’ve seen all the content that I’ve ever watched or listened to.
And so I was like, I, there needs to be a [00:02:00] guidebook on how to write inclusively. And so I wrote that, you know, if you don’t find it, you gotta write it. so that’s what I did. So that’s a little bit about.
Masami: No, I think that’s great too. And I need to pick it up and check it out because the thing is that, you know, we do, I do see a lot of screenwriting books, even podcasts, even in movies or even just masterclasses. But, you know, to be honest, it’s a lot of white people telling about us now how to write screenplays and just doesn’t always fit.
I’ve definitely heard, white screen players. I heard someone say this, the Chinese railroad road is not a story
Masami: like yeah. On the podcast. And I was like, whoa,
now I just I stopped posting the afternoon.
Ashwini Prasad: Yeah. that’s that’s an automatic off.
Masami: Hell it was bad. So, I mean, there is so much to learn, so it’s like, it’s a new space. Like let’s be real. It’s, you know, we’ve been trying to, people have been trying to work with it and, included in being inclusive and, and build that momentum. But only recently, has it been, you know, something that we can learn, [00:03:00] experience, chat with other people about and make an industry of, yeah.
How do, how would it be? Not even just it’s inclusive, but just to be aware of other people and give other people different chances and different stories because other things matter. Yeah.
Ashwini Prasad: A hundred percent.
Masami: a lot of places. So, you know, w w what, what builds you? You didn’t, there was no book like this, so you go to yourself, but you know, what was kind of this, impetus to just start it, to get it going.
And what kept you driving to.
Ashwini Prasad: Yeah.
that’s a great question. So I already am an anti-racism anti-oppression educator. I’ve been doing this for 20 plus years, and so I already had that mindset. And so when I decided firmly, I was going to be in the arts and doing this work, I was coming at it with this lens already of, social media.
And so when I saw the gap, it just made sense. I was like, this needs to be told these stories need to, you know, the ability for people to know how to write inclusively is so [00:04:00] important. one because of the harm that I’ve seen for so long and people are, I think finally really in mass. And I think social media helps with this being able to be like, ah, no, this is not okay.
Why is this happening? And it’s just not skin deep, you know? I think about, I think it was the witches with Anne Hathaway, being able to, say her character. Unfortunately they, they didn’t do the research, but, she played this character with like, three fingers and it’s actually. A disability. It is something that people are born with.
And, it was this, harmful stereotype that somehow, because somebody looks like this, that they’re evil, that there aren’t
a good person. And it’s perpetuating this horrific stereotype about people with disabilities, especially somebody with this
particular type of disability and people were calling it out and, you know, and Hathaway ended up apologizing and that’s the power.
And so that’s what helps me is that I think we’re now in a space where, when people want a lot of [00:05:00] different types of content, they’re tired of the. Or the reboots that are the same as the original, it’s like, where’s the original story, or they want reboots where there’s different cultural nuances to the characters.
so somebody be cast that may not have been traditionally cast, it’s still a cool story, but they’re bringing in their authentic self. They’re bringing in a different lens to the storytelling, but it’s still holding true to the reboot or people just want fresh new content where they can learn and about other cultures.
Ashwini Prasad: You know, we think about never have I ever where it season two and now one’s culturally specific. And then we also see, shows like shadow and bone and sex education, where we have incredibly different types of people that are cast just a human story, many human stories. And I love that. And that’s where that really, I think right now we’re in a space, especially with social media. though in the past, we’ve said a lot. I think the movement and the acknowledgement that people really want this content and won’t [00:06:00]
for content that doesn’t speak to them. is where people are their focus in and social media helps move that. And so that’s, I wanted to make my contribution to that so that we, we have not just one book, right.
We can have many books that can really move us to a space, to be much more inclusive. And that way we have the option of telling different stories, like the stories you do, like culturally specific to just having different people, cast in human stories, every and everything in between.
Masami: Yeah, I really resonate with that in gree. one second, my audio on the Zencaster isn’t showing up. I mean, I’m recording it
Ashwini Prasad: Oh
I see it.
Masami: right. Sometimes it does that. I don’t like it. You can’t see it at all at times. You can. I haven’t recorded on the, audition, just needs a backup. So we’ll see. I’ll do a click, Yeah.
So I mean there, yeah. I think there’s so many different people because the world is so diverse. The world is filled with every type of people, every, every [00:07:00] ability, every race, every, color background, childhood that you can’t just, Hmm.
Ashwini Prasad: age, all of it. People, disability, sexual orientation. Yeah.
Masami: Like the thought process behind someone’s actions is really different because they’re either come up with in generational trauma, wherever they grew up with their decisions within every area. Things besides maybe like a test answer, like a math test for high school students. That’s about it. Like everybody has a different perspective on life and what their parents teach them, what they don’t teach them, and, and how, how they have to grow up within different spaces, to see them on screen, to see people on screen have different ways.
It just makes not only makes me want to go see more, but I, it makes a normalized, Angus space of this is these are not people in demonized for whatever they are. They’re not tropes. They’re not [00:08:00] stereotypes of different things. I think that’s that’s. Yeah. Thank writing that because that’s what we, that’s what we can start learning to.
Cause things screenwriting is kind of just been a thing that’s been around for ages, but now it’s how to write, better people, better diverse
people I haven’t been
Ashwini Prasad: Better situations. Better stories. Better settings.
Masami: Yeah. Well, how are you even producing just for screenwriters, but for producers to see this is how stories could be told. I think that’s, that’s a big way. so, I’d love to ask you about your, your south Asian identity. So what, how do you describe yourself? I, in, yeah.
Ashwini Prasad: Yeah.
no, that’s a great question. You know, first and foremost, it’s interesting. I, I have joke about this, but I identify as a woman. That’s, I’m a cisgender woman and I identify as a woman first. And the reason why I say that is when I wake up in the morning, I got to go to the bathroom. So the first thing that happens to me in the morning is I’m like, I’m a woman now how the world sees me.
When I walk out [00:09:00] now they might see me as a south Asian Indian. and that’s what I know. And I, I also caution myself when I use the term south Asian Indian, just because it’s colloquial, but it isn’t the name that we have given ourselves as south Asians. And so I’m still using a colonizer word. at this point, you know, it’s like, I I’ll go with south Asian woman, but a woman from the Indian diaspora, ethnically and culturally, I was also born in.
So I also have Pacific Islander and island culture. So, you know, again, right. What you see may not be what you get. So I think that’s the whole mix and I am definitely taking back my south Asian identity growing up in Canada. it was even though there was people that looked like me, the dominant culture was still very much European and I would, not want to, be as, partaking in the Indian culture.
So even though I ate food at home, I wouldn’t dress as much in the, traditional. Clothing, [00:10:00] I wouldn’t watch Bollywood movies. I still don’t really, I do enjoy Bali movies. I think they’re amazing. It’s just, I’ve, I’m slowly as I reclaim, and I know that you’re doing a lot of reclamation as well. my identity and who I am and not put it as a secondary that I want to have my identity be first and foremost, as an Indian woman, as a Pacific Islander woman.
cause that’s what really makes me, and then I’m living in north America and that’s part of my culture as well. And just to have that cultural and ethnic understanding and be able to show that to folks that, you know, being, folks, just see me as an Indian woman. That’s not, that’s not how I identify myself.
Ashwini Prasad: That’s what the world may identify myself to be. And what’s interesting is I went to India about 19 years ago and I was traveling with a group. An Indian man from India was like, where is she from to, my fellow TravelMate. And, my child may was like, she’s from India. And he goes, no, she doesn’t walk like. [00:11:00] So, you know how like multi-ethnic people will say, they don’t belong in other group and people will say, oh, they’re not like us because they’re multiethnic or biracial. I it’s interesting. You know, when somebody sees you where you’re ethnically from, but they’re like, no, she’s not from. So it’s just re reclaiming that in different parts.
And I think it’s also important to understand that, that could be judgment, right? Oh, well, she’s not really that Indian, but what does that really mean? And I think just being able to understand that the people are in different parts of their journeys of identities and learning and it’s fluid, I think.
And when I teach my anti-racism and diversity courses, we talk about fluidity. We talk about intersectionality. So fluidity being how we define ourselves changes, you know, and for me, it’s changed, you know, being more north American when I was younger to not really reclaiming, being south Asian, and understanding what it means to be a woman and embracing my femininity, that’s changed and that’s evolved.
And I think we need to be open to that and to be able to show [00:12:00] that in our screens, I think is so important in our meetings. And understanding that for ourselves, I think is super powerful. And also that I am a woman of color. I am a woman of south Asian descent and that intersectionality is really important.
And, you know, I, I would, I laughed to myself. I was like, yay. I didn’t, I didn’t go to school. And I didn’t major in medicine or technology, but I have been at a person in it and healthcare. So it doesn’t mean it didn’t the stereotype, but I remember being like, I’m a philosophy major. Like I’m not the stereotype just knowing that everything’s fluid.
And I think it’s as powerful for us to show that. And that only comes right on, especially if we talk about media movies or TV, if a character is, given what was given to white characters, character development, three dimensionality, and that they are going to change and we can show that to ourselves.
I think that’s so important. Like I started grace and Frankie because I wanted to see a [00:13:00] show, with, folks that are. And Jen and that generation, but I was severely disappointed by season three because they have, two brothers that are adopted by the main couple. there was a storyline with the white or white passing character about being adopted the black, brother in the show, the, adopted brother, but the black character was not given a similar story net Now, maybe in, in later seasons, that that character was, I’m just not there yet,
it was just upsetting to see the white character, get that really powerful adoptee storyline, finding their birth mother. Whereas the black character didn’t have a strong of a storyline. Like the strongest storyline was that he’s dating somebody at least in season three.
And that’s just disappointing. And that’s what, you know, I wonder when people create these shows, it’s like, why are you not also giving this really pivotal, great storyline to the nonwhite after?
Masami: I just, it bothers me
Ashwini Prasad: it really [00:14:00] bothers me
Masami: because if it’s, even if it’s later in later seasons, you didn’t do it in the beginning. Right. And then people fall off like yourself or you just didn’t put them, you don’t have to be at the forefront, but like side by side, they could have had the same storylines at time.
But two different methods of ways of happening.
Ashwini Prasad: Or
have been like could have been so much, or even when the white character found the black character, couldn’t be like, you know what, I’m ready to find my like, you
know and then carry on that arc. Yeah.
So, but that’s also part of it, right? Is that you and I see these things and we need people who see those and can get into it very quickly before ends up being problem or somebody who’s going to see it and see it as a problem.
who’s already coming in with these ideas and be like, okay, let’s make sure that we are creating great characters and great storylines for everybody that’s involved in this production.
Masami: Yeah. Yeah. And makes people feel seen and you’d get more audience. I don’t know. It’s just [00:15:00] doesn’t make any sense to me. now you said that you you’ve, you’ve come back into your, your identity and you’re really in, in embracing it nowadays. What made that change? What was that? Is, was there a moment or an idea, someone telling you something that you said, I need to explore this, I need to reclaim this identity for myself.
was there a moment that, that you had to really change.
Ashwini Prasad: I can’t say there was a moment it’s just been momentum, where I’ve been thinking about things. And so I used to go by Ash and some folks will still call me by that. And I’m totally fine with it. It’s like a nickname, but it was a nickname that was given in college because people couldn’t pronounce my first name properly.
And I got frustrated with it I got tired of correcting people. And so I was like, Yeah.
sure, Ash, you know, Ashwin Ash. so it’s just been a recognition of that and just slowly as the world’s been unfolding and definitely in the last couple of years, when I, before George Floyd, I was looking. My name and I was [00:16:00] like, you know what?
I want to embrace it. And especially as I go down this path and entertainment, I don’t want it to be a white name. I want it to be my name. And so that’s where I was like, now everybody in entertainment knows me by my full name
versus a nickname because it’s choosing that. So I would say, it’s been this like, no, I don’t want it.
And then realizing in my twenties and then moving on about how powerful my culture from India is, and it’s a long-lasting culture. And I also thought about there’s so many people who love it and like weren’t born into it. And the things I take for granted, the nuances that people have to learn and people are like all about it.
They’re traveling and learning. Why don’t I have that same appreciation. And so it’s just been that reckoning and that understanding, in the last like 15 years, I would say, that’s just going to build up to this where I’m like, no, I want to reclaim it. I want to understand it. And I want to make sure that people are saying my name correctly, because it means the healer of the guy.
That’s what my first name means. you know, it’s like, it’s a [00:17:00] cool name and my middle name is about song. And so it’s important for people, for us, I think to all understand our names and what they mean no matter where they come from and how they relate to this. and I think that’s super powerful and like, you know, people change their name, right Why they’re choosing a suitor name and the meaning behind it, I think is so important.
Masami: Yeah, not only, reclaiming that name and, and taking it for yourself because it’s your name? I think it’s also powerful to have it heard, you know, when someone says your name properly. It just feels, ah, I feel seen, I feel like that was someone’s listening in to that part. And then at the same time, as, as we’re reclaiming names for people to learn the name, there’s no excuse to not work
if we can learn a lot of new languages and say new words like Netflix and Hulu just didn’t exist before, we can always learn new pronunciations and new languages, you know, it’s just that it’s opened up for no world. So
Ashwini Prasad: yeah. exactly. And you know, in clubhouse, they, they had no habit as [00:18:00] a best practice where you phonetically spell out your name. So there’s no excuse. If you can read the English language and people can do that in other languages, right. You speak, if you write it out, phonetically, according to language.
Masami: yeah. Now we know you and I have talked about the studio system, the diversity programs, you know, just how the industries. Yeah. And just not getting it right for the moment. You don’t say it lightly, but, what is, you know, in your opinion, in your, expertise, what, what are studios getting right. And what can they do better?
Ashwini Prasad: Gosh, what are they getting? Right. Well, I’d say recently, and especially, I will say with my eye, so it’s not like I have 20, 25 years in this industry to have of experience, but I’ve seen recently, which they’re getting right, is that they’re actually promoting people into leadership positions to help create the narrative about, oh, well, just because you didn’t understand, it doesn’t mean there’s a whole other group of people that can understand these stories.
my, my hope is that we are [00:19:00] not, getting people who aren’t representative, right. Just because somebody looks a certain way does not mean that they’re an advocate. so I, my hope I’m hopeful that we have people that are getting into these leadership positions within studios that are actually going to be advocates for creating content that speaks to many different people.
So I think that that is. Getting right. what can they do better so much? Because frankly, this is what I think of true reckoning, right? Like in the last year we’ve had, after in north America with George Floyd’s. And around the world that, you’ve probably been in these rooms, David in clubhouse, where people are like, oh, well we’ve always been diverse.
then I look at their IMDV page and I’m like, wait, you had literally white centered and PR. And a lot of times white male centered shows. And then people will be like, but we had diverse people. Yeah.
had them as
reoccurring characters or you had them as special. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ll look in [00:20:00] to see.
And, you know, it’s like how many of these different, non white characters did you have there that are only reoccurring or guest stars you killed them brutally screen. And they were the only characters that were killed off like that. Whereas you look at it, you compare it to the white characters or they’re kind of off screen.
And so this bias and this idea of, people in their humanity or lacking humanity in your mind frames comes into this. so I think it’s people need to have a very, very honest conversations about themselves that they haven’t been doing. Because if you, as a studio executive were doing well, wouldn’t be having this conversation about a lack of representation in Hollywood and how we need people throughout the entire, product, from production to development, to story that need to be representative and have different voices in all the different areas.
If you were really doing this, we wouldn’t be talking about this, especially in, in Canada and the United States.
I can’t speak for us. industries, like I just know with Bollywood, very [00:21:00] light-skinned, but I don’t know who like what diversity they have in their rooms. So at least speaking for north America, you know, we wouldn’t be having these conversations if you were actually doing something right.
Studio, executive executive. And I think studio executives need to not, I think I know they need to really look at themselves and be like, you know what I haven’t been doing well, I have not been telling these authentic stories. I have not really pushed the envelope in terms of making sure, different people’s voices are there or that there’s human characters and advocating for many different types of people to become star so that we can have the name behind them.
And then having that honest conversation with themselves and going, what am I going to do better? And looking to people like. Of how we do better. So I think that’s what needs to happen. And I frankly, I’m not seeing the people who have been in the industry for very long, really having
honest with themselves and then having actions to be more inclusive and showing the representation.
Masami: Yeah. And I really [00:22:00] agree with that statement is the whole, but we have
it’s it, but we have this, we have that person I’m like, yeah. But then, and now I wouldn’t be asking about it. I wouldn’t be pointing it out. I wouldn’t be talking because there can be someone in the CEO position who looks like me, looks like us, but really no one else around them looks like them to have those same conversations.
I think there was a study. Like if you’re the only one. And if you are perpetually staying at that position, you start to forget that you’re not that identity. You become, you disassociate that your identity, because no, one’s talking about it. There is no reason for anybody else to talk about it.
Masami: And when you bring it up, they don’t and nobody else gets it. So then you’re the, then you’re the problematic person in, in the room matter, whether you’re just friends and you’re just, just different. you pointed out the difference in you. So that becomes, an issue. And I think that’s, that’s something that needs to keep, you know, keep changing and keep growing that we have to more people in [00:23:00] there, but not even just one person to represent us in that room.
It’s like two or three people, boom, has to grow. Then the room has to grow. It doesn’t mean that it’s taking away from anybody. It just means new perspectives, new ones, ideas, and, and just,
Ashwini Prasad: That belong there
are as capable as anybody else. I
think we need to get rid of any type of notion of a diversity hire, because what that automatically says to some people with the bias is that they’re not good enough. They’re just hired because of a characteristic that they have. And that’s not true.
It’s about that people absolutely have the skillsets and then putting them into a room where they can shine because what’s happening. Unfortunately, we both know this is that when, for example, just BiPAP. Okay. I’m not even talking about age, I’m not even talking about disabilities, right. just, if we look at it through, black indigenous people of color, when these folks are the one, right.
And in the room surrounded by white writers they speak [00:24:00] up against like, you know, no, this is wrong. This is stereotypical. This is not right. they are discounted and then they’re let go from their positions. You know, the problematic person when they’re speaking up against injustice and these tropes that we don’t want to see.
so that needs to change and that mentality needs to change.
Masami: Yeah, let me see it too often than just people will call something out. Maybe they don’t do it the nicest way or the whatever way that you want to bring it up. But at the same time, that that opinion matters and discredit it just to discredit because you don’t agree. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
think a problem
Ashwini Prasad: And what are your biases? Right. If you haven’t lived that expense. And what can you do to be humble and be like, oh, okay. Yeah, let’s change this up this way. You know, one, I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be that person that’s perpetuating a harmful stereotype.
we lead with that?
And listen to the person that might have that experience. [00:25:00] And, you and like you said, we’ve got to have different groups, different people, because I’m not going to represent all of them. That’s not who I am. I’m not here to represent that, it’s good to have many different voices. And, and also those advocates, those bikes folks that are white, you know, next to us that understand it, that can speak up with us and also challenge us.
Right. Because just because we’re part of a certain group doesn’t mean we don’t hold our own biases. So let’s have these conversations and then make really rich, really great stories because love it when I’m learning. Like I lift up shows like sex education and shadow and bone. Are they perfect? No, not.
Do I like the casting? Yes, I do. And so when I can see these stories, especially with sex education, like I’ve been waiting for the two seasons now with somebody who’s going to make some, you know, race and ethnicity comment and talk about how they’re moving forward. And it’s just like, it’s not there.
They’re doing it just by the storytelling. showing the [00:26:00] diversity and inclusion just by a. great. And it’s centered by around a white male. it, it is also coming out of the UK. So I kind of see that, but the other characters are getting a lot of screen time and, and we get a lot of great, character building from that.
And it’s like, that’s what I want to see. that’s what I like about it. And so able to watch these shows and it’s just pure entertainment. And I know that they’re tackling this really sensitive topic and they have a really great cast and really great characters. it’s like, cool. Like, this is what I’m looking for.
This is more of what I would love to see.
it’s not hitting the head on the, on the hammer, on the head. Just like here it is. racial issues. No, just real characters going through life, having different things and having full, realized three-dimensional characters, you know, that’s, that’s all we’re asking for.
Ashwini Prasad: Yeah, exactly. No. Cause I, I see these, you know, like Bridgeton was great up until literally like [00:27:00] I like it, there was 10 minutes or even less where, the duke and the other woman, the other black woman, who’s very high up there. I have a conversation and she’s talking about how, you know, we didn’t get here.
and we’re finally in these positions and, you know, risen above, what people thought of us in terms of our skin
Ashwini Prasad: color And I remember just being like, oh really, you were doing so great. I, honestly, for me, I didn’t need that because I saw what they were doing throughout the entire season.
But you know, even today, you know, months later after I’ve seen it. Yes, I enjoy that show. and I know again, it’s not for everybody, but I enjoyed it, but that one scene just, was like, whoa, wow. Okay.
here we go. Now we’re
talking about this. And sometimes I just want to. So why not just let me zone out and see a whole plethora of different people, and not just skin deep, right?
Different ages, different, different abilities, disabilities, different religions, all of it. And let’s tell a really cool story. That’s going to keep me coming [00:28:00] back season after season.
Masami: I haven’t watched it, but you know, describing that season, do you think that, it, that scene was definitely made for white audiences by a white person?
I don’t know it was Shonda Rhimes. I would imagine she might’ve had a different if she wasn’t writing it or I can’t remember if she wrote all of the episodes. yeah, it is a great question. Right. and I don’t know, about that. And I think maybe if different people needed that, that they needed that scene.
I want to be more of a space where it’s like, let’s just let the characters and the good stories, tell the story. And if you want to write, you know, like the work you do, right? Like talk about the Japanese internment or some of the work. I do tell that story too. if you’re going to tell a human centered story, just let the characters flow and let the story, tell what you need.
Ashwini Prasad: You know, we know the history or we should know the history of enslavement in, in north America and how different folks would not have been, Dukes for example, or a debt jus right. And we see this [00:29:00] re-imagining, which I think is fantastic. Let that tell like that. but I know, and I balance this with my script writing.
Cause I’m like, in some of my screenplays, I’m like, how much in of like the cultural nuance that people will be able to understand? but I still want to honor, right. my experiences, which aren’t going to be known by everybody outside of some Indian communities. this is where like never have I ever, they said that we needed a narrator and that’s where they got John Macrono because of him being able to narrate the nuances.
And so this is where it’s a balance of like, what do I do to, in my scripts to hold steady to these cultural nuances, but make sure that other, groups can understand, the nuances that I’m trying to portray. That’s so important and crucial for my characters and the stories that I’m trying to tell.
Masami: No, no talking about, you know, nuances and, and, you know, the dimensions of characters, you know, south Asian and Indian cultures and people on screen. What, what are the [00:30:00] conversations being had? I know there’s, obviously these tropes and, and stereotypes that we’ve seen multiple times, but is there something.
Yeah. What do you, what are you using? What are the conversations you’re having with other people about what’s going on, either in AI, south Asian women, south Asian issues, you know, there’s an, you know, we can talk into this too, was, you know, there’s when stop Asian hate came out, you know, and, and all the hate crimes, the biggest, one of the other bigger issues was Asians.
Didn’t step, step up for south Asians and Muslims communities so much wrapped with nine 11. Right. And there was, there was so much, I don’t know, there’s such a separation and, segregation between the two communities that some south Asians don’t even feel like they’re connected in, in community with the Asian east, Asian community and Southeast Asian.
So what are some conversations that, you know, audio, more audiences know about and, and have, you know, and how does that, how does media play into correcting those, those differences and being full of care?[00:31:00]
Ashwini Prasad: yeah, Yeah. no, there that’s the thing, right? Is that, when we talked about not a monolith, so one Asian, the term itself was not
something that we prescribe for ourselves. We didn’t call ourselves Asian. It was given to us, by, federal governments. what it did right. Is that I always wondered I was Asian and I was like, my gosh. Okay.
So what similarities do I have with
somebody from Cambodia? Like it’s so different. It’s so distinct.
so the conversations that we have is one, we definitely want to see more. then especially, unfortunately like we’ve been saying this for a really long time, but now, you know, Riz Ahmed has been really. Pushing what he’s seeing. Right. And making sure that, especially the atrocity that happened in London, Ontario and Canada, just in the last, what, two, three months a targeted killing of a family, that what do you, think’s going to happen when you put,people just in terrorist roles, in the movies and in your TV shows.
And they look like they’re quote unquote from the middle [00:32:00] east, which now we want to say north Africa or Southwest Asia, what do you think’s going to happen? Right. That’s the power of media. That’s the power of when people get the content from only one area. So, you know, there’s a lot of, because we’re not a monolith, there’s a lot of work within our communities that we need to do to heal.
And we need to recognize that also need to. Help us get our parents and our grandparents and our uncles and aunts onboard in terms of what solidarity looks like. you know, we don’t, we, we don’t talk often enough and maybe this is just something that maybe white folks don’t understand is that, you know, there’s a lot of people, who will say really horrible things about dark skin people, who will say, from Japan, who will say really horrible things about people from India and the stereotypes that are perpetuated there.
And we, we talked about that, right? And we’re, we have this conversation and it’s actually a debate, I would say, from what I’ve read and what I’ve seen with people as people are like, should we really be convincing the generations that don’t want to listen? Or do we want to make that mark with ourselves?
And then there’s [00:33:00] also, this idea of that I see. Don’t want to young people, old people, they don’t want to change. They, they have their ideas about a certain group and they perpetuate it. and then also we have to think about, you know, within ourselves, within our communities there’s hierarchy. So my sister is, a lot more lighter skinned.
And I say this when I teach my classes, you
know around diversity and my, the that’s used to describe in the Hindi that, I grew up with she, the word to describe her as call is the same word to describe clean. And so lighter skin people have this, a hierarchy that lighter skin is better. And so the same word that’s used to describe a clean is the same word to describe her.
Whereas describe me is like that darker. And, you know, we have to be honest about ourselves and we should have those conversations. And then there’s, you know, people are like, Yeah.
within the south Asian community, they were like, oh, well it was a Chinese person. We don’t have to care about that. which is horrific.
Like I can’t even [00:34:00] imagine. Right. That’s it’s not okay. It’s just not Okay.
And so I think it is what we can do to bridge those divides, have these conversations and be honest and have, you know, be honest about our biases and stop, be in spaces where we’re going to make excuses about stereotypes, like about how somebody drives, right?
The horrible stereotypes that come out and being able to say, stop laughing about that. It’s not funny. It’s not true. You are choosing to perpetuate something that you wouldn’t want put on to you or your family. So why are you doing. And then, you know, not everybody’s going to listen. You have to accept that and just work with the folks who do want to listen.
I think there’s a lot of us and I, I see it definitely in the teens and I see it in the folks that are in the early twenties. there’s a difference. There’s a different vibe. I think there’s a much more empathetic and understanding vibe than I ever saw my generation when I was at age. And so we need to heal of course, as a group, and as a community and we need to heal within our communities as well. [00:35:00]
Masami: Yeah. And that, that intergenerational divide is huge in this area. I know I have lots of people all the time and I think it’s just, you know, they don’t want to change their minds and mine just stand. But at the same time, the world is changing. I’m sorry that the world is changing around and you don’t want to change, but,
know, it’s the thing, I think in what you said about, you know, the teens, the kids nowadays, who are really, you know, making a difference, make in making a huge change in society for themselves in, for the future.
I think it’s part of the media technical.
Ashwini Prasad: Hmm.
Masami: We’re seeing each other. We’re on Twitter, we’re on Facebook. We’re sharing things. We see videos. people are talking to each other. We have these podcasts, my parents aren’t doing Zen caster, podcasting Like, they’re just not, they’re watching, you know, the news that they’re given on the TV.
Right. It’s whatever’s on the programming, maybe it’s Netflix. And it depends on what Netflix has shown, whatever Hulu’s showing, okay. What’s advertised to them in, on based on their likes and [00:36:00] what they’ve watched before. So to make a conscious change, it takes some effort, but, and have those conversations, but
Ashwini Prasad: And
thing It’s like a hit, you’re hitting the nail on the head. I’ll say this about conscious change. Do you really want to
change Right. And there’s folks that don’t, and for me it’s like, okay, well, where am I going to put my time? And my value of my energy to. Two people and it’s going to be the people that really want to listen because you know, when it comes to inclusion and again not skin deep, I am not here to convince anybody.
I really am not. I you need to be in a space where you’re open to learning and it’s okay. If you don’t know, just be open to different learnings, different ways, different understandings. And that we’re also just human beings. And I think that that’s the piece that you said, conscious change, how many people really want to make this conscious change.
And that’s where we began. And those are the folks that I want to interact with. the other folks, you know, I wish you well, right. because until you want to do that [00:37:00] until like the studio executives want to change until, people who, you know?
fund different content to want to change, it’s just what’s where are we?
Right. We, at this point, we shouldn’t be having a conversation that we need more inclusivity. It’s about how, and that’s where we need to
Masami: Yeah. It’s not the knee. It’s the how yeah. And how are we and who is being, who’s telling that, right? It’s not, not white, white gaze in any way. No, that whole conjure thing was last week was pissing me off.
Masami: it’s just like, it keeps happening. Right. So even storytelling, I see it all the time.
yeah, it’s, it’s, it takes a lot of effort to change your mind. It takes a lot of diving thinking. Even some meditation, you know, we’d be able to dominate a teacher’s like thinking like I’m I’m wrong,
Ashwini Prasad: Right
Masami: accepting it that, you know what, maybe I was. Maybe there’s something I was told that was wrong and I’ve accepted it for so [00:38:00] long because you know, my friends accepted it, but then that means you have to reject your friends.
Maybe, maybe not. Maybe you can help them change. Maybe you can see different ways or you just to see that
near friends. Maybe you don’t like what their ideas are anyways, but you just accepted it because they’re to you. You you’re loyal to them. And I don’t think, you know, I don’t think it’s fair to be old if you don’t believe in the same things, you
Ashwini Prasad: Well and like I mentioned, right, that fluidity, you can change. You
can change as a person and why not be around people who are going to uplift
you and, help challenge you in great ways and have, and be open, you know?
and learn from other people. what’s your, what’s your moral imperative to treat others well, like really treat them well, not how you think they should be treated.
Cause I get that a lot and it’s like, no, you aren’t treating me the way I need to be treated. You’re not,
you’re loving me in the way you love, but you’re not loving me in the way I [00:39:00] need to be loved.
you’re voting against me, you’re literally voting against my right to live. You’re literally saying things that are incredibly hurtful.
That’s not right. I don’t know what that is. That’s self set, that’s being selfish. And so if you can open your heart and your mind to Yeah.
Like loving somebody and understanding what love looks for them. That’s amazing I mean, imagine if we did that around the, not even in media, imagine if we did that in just in general, right And appreciated things and people, how amazing that would be.
Masami: Yeah. Yeah. Everybody’s different. Again, going back to that, Edward is different in different ways. We treat each other differently and where we want to be treated is sometimes hard to express, but the same time, you know, when you, when you can find that out for yourself, then you can express it to other people.
Ashwini Prasad: Well for me yeah. Don’t call me a Paki. Like that should be very, very basic. And if you want to say that’s funny or think that’s funny, or like, you know, move that [00:40:00] tip of needle forward. That’s not okay. That’s not okay. And that’s again, right? Where exactly what you’re saying. Are you willing to look deep, deep down inside of you of the things that you haven’t done and stop being different?
And really be able to be like, okay, I need to make a change. Now I want to go and learn from people, one that I’m going to compensate or compensated for my learning, or go out and figure some stuff out on my own. And also, I know some folks in there, their, their goal is to remove exclusion by familiarity.
And it’s like, Yeah.
you know, you can exclude if you don’t know other people, if you don’t hang out with other groups and that, I think that’s, that’s a piece is that else is around you that you could have a conversation about or learn from that’s a different from everybody that you grew up in or who you saw on the media or who
you your favorite shows, and calculate what you can do to change and
Right. And, be able to use your power and privilege. Cause we all have that now with our social media accounts, [00:41:00] how are you going to use it? What’s your choice. You have your choice in the matter of how you’re going to use your power and your privilege and is going to be in supportive other people, or is it going to, be in selfishness and denounce and continue denouncing people?
you know, what type of person do you want to be? I think that’s the important con conversation needed to help with yourself an answer that you need to put for yourself.
Masami: Yeah. It’s hard. It’s hard conversation with your own self.
Ashwini Prasad: Exactly, exactly. But that’s where you need to start
in this whole new Hollywood world that we’re building tables and, and doing now really
Ashwini Prasad: build those tables.
Masami: Yeah. We’re building them just one peg at a time.
know what, what does a building, what does building the table look like for you?
Ashwini Prasad: For me, it means just having a whole one, I want to make sure that everybody has equal access to all the parts that make a table. how you, how you build it, how the materials, putting something that’s sturdy together. Everybody needs to have equal access to that. And so that’s where it [00:42:00] starts. And then if you’re building that table, Yeah.
The, you know, do you have where a chair can be accommodated, easily? Do you have things
where they’re for different. who’s at your table. I’m not interested in having people who look like me at the table. I’m interested in having many different people from various backgrounds, from various ages, sexual orientations.
I want to see, you know, somebody who may identify as a cisgender male with a beard and was wearing a skirt or was wearing a dress. I want to see all those people at my table. So I, it is about equity, right? Does everybody know how to build this table? Get the right sourcing, get a good sturdy table. And then how many
people can we accommodate.
Right. And what that looks like. And,
and, you know, we there’s times where we may not agree. Like I remember when I was doing this, was first learning about, what equity looked like in the conversation. And the question was, well, if you’re going to be inclusive, does that mean that you’re going to invite, invite a KKK member to your table? And if you answer it in terms of inclusion, the answer is yes. [00:43:00] So that’s what that table looks like, but I think it’s an extra conversation to stay at the table means that you’re not trying to perpetuate harm that you’re not being somebody who’s going to be unhealthy and toxic and create an environment where you’re hurting others.
I think we need to draw that line. Right. we, we
can talk about inclusion and inclusion truly means everybody. That’s literally, that’s what it means. So need to have the additional conversation of what harm looks like and what you will allow and what you won’t allow, at that table.
Masami: Yeah. I hadn’t thought about it like that too, because if you, if you exclude, if you exclude that part of the conversation, those people, no one they’re going to feel excluded and that doesn’t feel right either. But, but to that degree, you want to see that perspective as well. And what can that perspective teach you so that you can help?
Teach about yourself, in different, different ways because yeah, everybody’s got opinions. Everybody’s got drives to share them and, and lives that they’ve [00:44:00] lived. And, you know, rural learning from their parents. That’s the biggest thing. We all learn things from our parents because they teach us different things and that’s, we’re successful and we’re still alive today.
partially because of that. But then it starts to feel very, difficult when you have to say, well, my parents were wrong
Masami: and, and and you don’t want to say that you’re wrong. You just want to say, oh, my parents are always, you know, they raised me, they raised me. Right. And then to think that maybe they didn’t raise me the same way that I, I am now.
it’s hard, hard to make that, make that decision for yourself, but that’s how we develop. That’s how we become different people.
Ashwini Prasad: Yeah. can grow as we grow, we don’t have to stick to one ideal. We can actually change our minds.
Masami: so, is there anything else you’d like to add to this conversation that we haven’t talked over?
Ashwini Prasad: I think, you know, just, Yeah.
in general, just keeping an open mind for folks, you know, and, and, if you really want to see and hear [00:45:00] stories, let that be. And I think one thing that I see in social media a lot, and we’re seeing this as, as different casting happens. So, I’ll say it, you know, be honest, right?
Like you see nonwhite characters, like a dev Patel has now played David Copperfield and is playing a king author type. and people will talk about this. Well, you know, how are we staying true? And, you know, we talk about, okay, well, there’s, these are fictional characters, so anybody can play them, et cetera.
And, you know, I want to get us to the point where we don’t have to have these conversations where I say this in my book is. When we look at the casting, like little mermaid, right? Yes. It’s a fictional character. And if we truly wanted to stay original to the context, we wouldn’t have a black, person play the little mermaid, but what’s important is yes, we want to stay true, right Like with Scarlett Johannson ghost in the shell, right. Look, people, cause we, you can say, well, if you want something that’s close to the original, we [00:46:00] shouldn’t be redoing little mermaid or king. Okay. so I’m like, yes, but we’re not there yet. So we’ve had so much whitewashing, kinda nice to see different people play these characters.
And I like to get to the point where one, either we stay true to the original text. if it’s a fictional item because we have so much other stories and other representation. and then I also want to get to the point where when somebody is cast, that we don’t even have to talk about. We’re like, okay, cool.
We’ve got a black little memory. Cause we’ve had lots of white, other mermaids. We’ve had some Asian little mermaids, you know, like it’s
there so that we can have, we don’t have to talk about, are we sticking true to this text? And who’s played it, we need to, we need to build equity because we’ve had so much whitewash. And look it’s, unfortunately Hollywood is ripe with this whitewashing. need to build equity. And this is what we’re doing right now [00:47:00] with the casting, with the deaf Patels and the little room roommates, you know, Chloe being in there, this is what we’re doing to build equity because we haven’t seen it for so long.
we truly have meritocracy and we have equity, then we can have the conversation about who can be passed by who can be cast based off of merit. We’re not there yet. So these re-imagining where we have more inclusive casts these ideas of having a fictional character and having different person play it than the original text.
Then we can be there because for far too long, we’ve had too many whitewashing moments and we’ve only seen a monolith being represented on our screens. So seeing this diversity for now to build equity and then have the conversation with meritocracy where I would like us to.
Masami: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s the other part too, is that feel like people of color and every, every underrepresented community has always been subjected to, besides secondary roles and, and stereotype roles [00:48:00] and stuff like that. Or they’re never able to play in the roles that are classics, right? Like Romeo and Juliet.
I’ve heard friends say like they won’t, you’ll never be Romeo because you’re Asian.
Ashwini Prasad: Hmm.
Masami: Well, like w why not? We’ve had, how many times is that play been over and over again that we can change it and we can have something totally different. you know, it’s, they’re going to make more, it’s not the last one is not the only one, you know, we have so many different Hamilton,Macbeth, all the, all the old classics and old night, even when I say you think, I think old classics, like they’re all written by old white men.
Like where are other stories, right?
Ashwini Prasad: Exactly. Cause I’m thinking, what about the, you know, Japanese, Romeo and Juliet? You can’t tell me there isn’t a Japanese verb, not like Romeo and Juliet,
Masami: yeah totally
Ashwini Prasad: ESC that’s been written by an Indian percentage, Japanese person, a Chinese person. I know. I want to see that story as well.
do a great compare and contrast if you want or just enjoy that story. Let’s see that [00:49:00] right. It’s always, it’s always seems to come from, Britain or,one area of this world, but what about the rest of the world that has really rich stories? And then I also want to see, you know, people with disabilities.
I want to see people of various ages. I want to see people with various gender expression, sexual orientations, all of it. cause it’s not just skin deep, right? When we talk about diversity and inclusion. So I want to see all these different groups. I think it’s so important for us to do that and that works.
And even though story terrible, unfortunately, you know, screenplays, folks in script writers, they’re really low on the totem pole when it comes to production and development. but stories start there. And so that’s where it’s important to have it throughout from the to the development, to the production, to the casting, to the first day, the last day on set to have many things.
Perspectives. And then also making sure, especially when you come to production that you have directors and executives that are willing to have the conversation, because they’re the ones that I ended up with. I had the safe for the [00:50:00] final product just making sure that we have so spaces where people can be informed, especially when they’re doing things that are offensive and horrible or not representative.
Masami: Yeah. And having those directors and producers also just be so aware and willing to have the conversation with their crew,
that the crew doesn’t have, you know, sexual harassment problems. I heard one this week and I was just, it made me so mad that
this person was just so stressed and crying because of what a crew member did
and how it just wasn’t.
It’s not being. And nothing was really happening about it. So to be in those spaces, it makes people not want to be in those spaces and not want to join back and creates trauma and, and exclusion. So just to have, you know, producers hold their crew accountable, hold everybody accountable for making people feel like they can be in spaces, whether you’re yeah.
Ashwini Prasad: And I, I say this, and it’s [00:51:00] interesting when I say this too male identifying folks, but I’m in a private Facebook group and at least twice a month, there’s another story of somebody who’s a woman identifying or female identifying person was being sexually harassed. And I, when I say this to two males or a male identifying people, they’re like what?
And I’m like, yes. And it’s because you’re not in this private Facebook group, because if you aren’t being told how horrible it is for this particular group in the industry, you don’t know about it. And because you either ignore it or you haven’t had to face discrimination, sexism misogyny, you don’t know about it, but it exists because I know in this Facebook group that I’m on that I’m reading this constantly, literally on average, this problem.
Twice in a month. And it’s private Facebook group about women in entertainment. I won’t say the group, where people are talking about unfairness and all the things that they had. And then it was, it was horrific. Is that you have this, one posting and then you [00:52:00] have like 80 other comments of people who are like, Yeah, I’ve been there.
This is what happened. And it’s like, oh my gosh.
Masami: I, not only is that, is it just horrible in itself, but just in demeaning, but just that it keeps perpetually happening. Like when is it going to stop?
That’s the thing like, and men need to hold other men accountable.
Ashwini Prasad: Yep.
Masami: But I think a part of it is that we like, again, I heard this, this, this story too, you know, yesterday, and I don’t hear it very often and we don’t expose it to me.
I know it happens, but I don’t, it isn’t, it’s not conversation. You bring up all the time, and share with other men. So it feels weird, but like, so, but then I also don’t know who, you know, I don’t see it in the act by seeing the act happening. I’m going to say something and I step in and do something I’ve been there.
But like, it’s always like the one guy with a girl in their own separate areas. So you don’t, and then don’t, they’re not going to brag about it. And they brag about in different ways and women don’t say, it’s just like, it’s really hard. [00:53:00] It’s hard space. And I, you know, all the women out there just, don’t even know what to say because yeah.
W what would you say? What, what could men do? What, what, what can I do that makes that better?
Ashwini Prasad: Yeah,
well, one is awareness. That one, it happens. don’t don’t don’t go. No, it doesn’t or it’s just one-offs. No, it is systemic. Okay. happens more often than you would know, or that you want to, you wanna acknowledge and then knowing that what are you going to do to step up? So exactly like for somebody like you, right. If it’s safe, you’re going to be there moment. And I think that, men with other men identifying people, you need to step in and be like, this is wrong. This is, this is not how. Did talk to another human being. It’s not how we talk to, people. I think that’s huge and that’s important, but again, as we’ve been talking about the thread right in this last almost hour, we’ve been talking, is that self-awareness, are you going to be like, yes, this is a problem.
And I’m not going to be a part of the problem, or are you going to say, no, they’re just saying, they’re just saying things and they’re just trying to make trouble. You have to make that [00:54:00] decision for yourself then be able to step up and change it, change it for yourself and change it when you see it, because this is the thing.
Once you become aware of it, you’re going to start seeing it everywhere. And then it’s your choice of how you’re going to react. And it’s important that, I think definitely other people need to step up or when a whole bunch of people say that you are being discriminatory, you’re being misogynist instead of getting defensive.
Be able to say, whoa, what am I actually doing? That all these different people are saying the same thing about me. You know, it doesn’t make you a bad person. This is where I think people think, oh no, they hate me or
No, this is about just having an honest conversation. Either being called out or called in.
And I, you know, I fail every day, but I’m going to be like, okay, what can I do to be a better person tomorrow? And just being in that space of not getting defensive, but being like maybe these 15 people have a reason of why they’re saying this. And it’s really consistent about what I just said. what you can [00:55:00] learn from it.
So it begins with you and then make being aware and then making those changes within yourself.
up when you see it, because it’s wrong and we need more men give it in that, you know, just not discrimination space and harassment and misogyny space. We need more men saying this is not okay because frankly women have been saying it for very long and men have chosen not to listen to us for decades,
Masami: Yeah. It begins with you and ends with you. You can end it.
Ashwini Prasad: It does
Masami: That’s the Right
Ashwini Prasad: Yup.
Masami: Thank you so much for another amazing conversation just to, so in-depth and so real.
Ashwini Prasad: Thanks for having me.
Masami: It’s perfect. so what’s, what’s next for you? is there anything you’d like to share?
Ashwini Prasad: Yeah.
well, love for, for people to connect to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s
Ashwini Prasad: screenwriters, also my Instagram handle. and then my, I have my own podcast as well, inclusive storytelling. And so I’m excited as we were discussing kind of off air, season two. [00:56:00] so season two, which will begin in January is going to be different than season one, season one, I’ve been doing this, the step of conversation, what it means to be inclusive, highlighting, different people.
But in season two, I’m going to actually focus in on, stories and people in groups that I really believe should be either a, a, a miniseries, a limited series, or have a movie made about them. And that’s going to be super exciting. I’m looking forward to that. And then I, just want to, you know, continue. During my work with people who actually want to, do the work and be insight insightful for themselves and want to do the hard work of confronting their, injustices that they’ve had in the past fast, whether willingly or unwillingly and make, on create really safe spaces in the arts. That’s really important for me.
And then second is to tell the stories of those that have been erased or under, marginalized or underrepresented in past. I want to be a part of making those stories. So that’s definitely just moving forward and then working with you and our side projects, I [00:57:00] feel like it’s like at least two, right.
That we have with site projects of that needle and that degree, especially around representation especially around Asian and Pacific Islander representation, within Hollywood, which, and I would say also, you know, there’s so many spaces that we can make these movements as well in Canadian and UK, cinema that, us as living in the United States can influence.
Masami: Yeah, well, we’re going to make that change. I see it already happening,
Ashwini Prasad: Yeah I do I’m hopeful. I’m actually seeing a lot, I’ve seen more change, I would say, in the last 18 months than I’ve seen, you know, in the last 18 years.
Ashwini Prasad: So I’m hopeful
Masami: Well, thanks so much for joining me for coming out and just coming out, but coming out of bod,
Ashwini Prasad: coming out on the
Masami: I’m gonna go right back here. but thanks again. And yeah, we’ll we’ll connect again. I’m sure.
Ashwini Prasad: absolutely. Thanks so much for having me.
Masami: All right. Take care.