A Fil-Am actor's life: Mary Grant
Sixth of a series
LOS ANGELES—“I once overheard someone describing me by saying, ‘You know Mary Grant, the Mexican.’ I stepped in, saying, ‘No, the Filipina!’ And it just stuck,” Mary Grant, the Filipina, explained how her moniker came about. She proudly goes by that name in her series of funny videos.
“I absolutely love entertaining and making people laugh,” she said. “Making videos as Mary Grant the Filipina is my favorite because I get to unapologetically be me. People were and are still so distracted by me being mestiza. I got tired of having to explain myself. They think that because my dad is white, I’m less Filipino. That’s their issue, not mine. I’m proudly Mary Grant, the Filipina.”
Mary is carving a name for herself with her viral videos, which are amusing peeks at the idiosyncrasies of being a Fil-Am. Among the titles of her videos are “Pinoy Pood (All About That Bass Parody),” “Filipino Aunties on Thanksgiving,” “In Da Philippines–Under the Sea Filipino Style” and “Dating a Pinay–Beauty & the Beast Filipino Style.”
“Social media has given me a platform that I never imagined was possible,” she said. “To know there are others in this vast world who can relate to oneself is comforting. From parody songs to food vlogs, short films and, more recently, producing promotional videos for Filipino-owned business, I only want to continue being an uplifting positive voice for our community.”
Even as a kid, Mary always saw—with fondness—the humorous aspects of being a Filipino. “One of the greatest things about being Filipino is that we are funny people and, we know how to laugh at ourselves,” she pointed out. “I love that my cousins and I all have nicknames like ‘Pot-Pot’ and ‘Putik’ (mud in Kapampangan). And I’m Baby ‘Damu’ (short for ‘damulag’).
“We all have the auntie who used to pinch our arm with her long fingernails. We all have had a spanking with a flip-flop. As a kid, that’s all I knew. That was my normal.
How would you describe your journey as an actor so far? So far, so good. I briefly pursued acting when I was younger, 15 years ago. I like to think of it as my practice run.
Now that I’m older and stronger, I’m able to be more thankful for the highs, as well as come out of the lows with more grace.
How do you prepare for an audition? Any good luck rituals? To be honest, I’ve had very few auditions, so no rituals yet. I’ve had maybe three auditions in the past two years. They say that when you go into an audition, everyone looks like you. That was not my case. Not one single person looked like me.
In one audition, at the last minute, I almost changed my delivery to something I thought they were looking for. I didn’t book it, but at the end of the day, I stayed true to myself.
What is the most frustrating part of trying to land roles in Hollywood? There aren’t enough roles written for me, which is the reason I’ve only been in three auditions in two years. I’ve been lucky to surround myself with creatively talented people, so either I will write and produce something to be in, or my friends will ask me to be a part of their projects. My path is not the normal route actors take.
I started off in social media and I am transitioning over. Hollywood is a different beast. It’s maddening waiting and waiting for something to come along that fits me. Until I land a network show, I’ll continue creating my own content and telling my own story.
How do you handle rejection? The beauty about writing and creating your own content is there’s no rejection.
But in auditions, I’ve learned not to take it personally. It’s such a waste of energy to get upset for getting so close when you can apply that energy to looking for your next gig. Same approach when I look for sponsors. I’ll contact and e-mail 100 people. Ten will get back, saying, “I am interested.” For the other 90, I just think, it’s their loss—next!
Have there been times when you almost gave up? What motivated you to keep trying? When I was 22, I did give up. It was the early 2000s and a casting agent told me that even if I lose 50 pounds, I will never have lines on screen because I’m not white. I was quick to believe her because of my own insecurities, so I immediately left the scene.
Fast forward 15 years, add some confidence, maturity, throw in the realization that the world is diverse and people want to see themselves on TV, so here I am trying.
What currently motivates me is my audience, my following on social media. They are always so supportive, which pushes me to continue representing the Fil-Ams.
Do you, as an actor of color, feel that opportunities for minority actors are improving or getting worse? And do you think that the inclusion rider (mentioned by Frances McDormand in her best actress acceptance speech in this year’s Oscars, which is added to an A-list actor’s contract to ensure that the casting and production meet certain levels of diversity) is helping? I do feel opportunities for us are improving. I recently moderated a panel that included casting director Karina Walters. She mentioned how the scripts she receives are changing. Some will no longer have the ethnicity in the breakdown. That allows more freedom and a bigger pool to draw talent from. That’s fantastic. Change has to begin somewhere, and I feel the inclusion rider is a great start to get the ball rolling.
What’s your stand on whitewashing—or the casting practice in which white actors are cast in nonwhite character roles—in Hollywood? Whitewashing is racist and archaic. To completely disregard a character’s written ethnicity by filling the role with a white actor “to make money” is offensive.
That’s when we as a community must come together and not support these films. Only then will the studios realize they may actually make more money if they have more of us onscreen.
Next: Marc Fajardo
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