Nahnatchka Khan and Hasan Minhaj On Storytelling For People Of Color: “It’s Better Than It’s Ever Be
The third CAA Amplify kicked off with a panel featuring Always Be My Maybe and Fresh Off The Boat’s Nahnatchka Khan; stand-up comedian and Patriot Act host Hasan Minhaj and NBA All-Star, President of the NBA Players Association and producer Chris Paul spoke about the current landscape of storytelling for marginalized communities in Hollywood — particularly for people of color and the intersections thereof.
The terms “diversity”, “inclusion” and “representation” have been thrown around the industry and at times, they have been just terms but the trio on the panel look at them as an opportunity to empower.
“Sometimes you can’t really control the language around you,” said Khan. “All you can do is follow your voice and your path — dedicate yourself to stories that matter.”
Minhaj said of the terms: “They are buzz words that are really hot right now — it’s an opportunity to create great art.” Paul adds to the sentiment saying that growing up he always wanted to see things that pertain to his identity and now, with his recent overall deal with Big Fish Entertainment, he has that opportunity to create that kind of content.
As culture creators in Hollywood, they spoke about their responsibility when it comes to storytelling and representing their community. As host of Netflix’s Patriot Act, he said that his point of view gets to exist in a space that is predominantly white. He points out how the late night and political talk show space is predominantly white and male with “Jimmys”. “American news media is myopic in its world view,” he points out adding that if you look at the front page of the New York Times, you’ll see stories about Sudan and the country’s tense relationships with Iran.
As a child of immigrants and an American citizen, Minhaj brings a fresh perspective that is rarely seen. As he puts it, he has the ability to see America through a lens “the way the rest of the world sees us.”
“These stories haven’t been told before from this point of view,” adds Minhaj.
“It’s about storytelling,” Khan chimes in. “It’s about making sure that you’re connecting to material and amplifying voices and staying true to those voices.”
Khan certainly adheres to that philosophy, specifically with her latest rom-com Always Be My Maybe. She may not be of the same heritage as the characters in the movie, but she knows how to give them shine through collaboration. “Special things happen when you center people who haven’t been centered before,” she said. She points out that Ali (Wong) and Randall (Park) are so many things beyond their race. “You can be layered and more than one thing — you can exist outside of the box.”
She later shares how when she first started in the industry, she was the only woman, person of color and a member of the LGBTQ community in other people’s rooms and how her bosses were mostly white men — but now she definitely sees a shift.
“It’s definitely been better than its ever been,” she said. “When you take stock, there are so many more choices and points of view that are necessary. All I know is what I bring to the table and what is considered important (with storytelling) — it’s just about opportunity.”