What It Means to Be an Ethnically-Ambiguous Actor

Updated: May 21

It means that you're a shapeshifter. Well, not exactly, but almost.


In an episode of the MAKE IT podcast featuring our good friend Sara Antonio, Sara mentioned to us that, in casting, she's seen as being ethnically ambiguous:


"It really is great for commercial work...it's the look that's really popular right now."


She credits her father who is from Jamaica and of Lebanese descent with the ethnic ambiguity that gives her a year-round tan and has opened new opportunities for her in film.


"A lot of people think I'm half Asian. A lot of people think I'm part Latina and maybe a little Native American."


"This is a huge asset for me, being sort of not definable. Let people project whatever they want on me. I don't care at this point. I'm here to do the work and if my look is interesting for you and it works for your project, then wonderful!"


This ambiguity provides actors with the privilege of diluting prejudice in mixed race relationships on screen and gives them the flexibility to play a variety of ethnic roles. It is indeed an asset when seeking commercial work at a time when cultural diversity is being promoted as a core aspect of so many brands.


But being ethnically ambiguous can also work in the opposite direction. This lack of clarity can also preclude an actor from getting a part designed to showcase specific ethnic traits. Being "stuck in the middle" can prove to be both blessing and curse depending on the role being cast. Though extremely beneficial for commercial work, this ambiguity may not favor the specificity in casting for a feature film or episodic series. In these cases, the physical characteristics and backstory of the characters may be more deeply-rooted in a specific ethnic background.


We're happy to report that Sara's ethnic ambiguity has been quite the blessing over the years and that her skills as an actor, combined with her unmistakable look, have landed her plenty of commercial work as well as casting in a number of feature films. She continues to grace the screen and our lives with her presence and we invite you to hear more from her on this episode of the MAKE IT podcast.


As always,


Be Better. Be Creative. Be Engaged.

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