Actress Chloe Bennet believes her luck in Hollywood changed within days of adopting a new surname.
The 22-year-old actress was born Chloe Wang, the daughter of a Chinese father and Caucasian mother in Chicago, IL.
“I was having trouble booking things with my last name. I think it was hard for people to cast me as an ethnic, as an Asian American woman,” Bennet told The Toronto Star. “But I still wanted to keep my dad’s name, and I wanted to respect him, so I used his first name.”
Bennet says that within a matter of days, she landed her first big role, a recurring spot on ABC’s hit musical drama Nashville.
Bennet appeared in seven episodes of Nashville’s first season.
From there she went on to become what some consider one of the breakout stars of the 2013-2014 television season when she landed the role of computer hacker Skye on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
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— Agents of SHIELD (@AgentsofSHIELD) May 14, 2014
Bennet is joined on the Marvel adaptation by another actress of Chinese decent, Ming-Na Wen, who was born in Macau and lived in Hong Kong before moving to the United States as a child.
“It’s been great to be a part of a show which is groundbreaking in terms of being an American woman and being Asian on television because there’s people who don’t see a lot of that and I’m really proud of it,” Bennet has said.
Bennet disagrees with critics who say the cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is too homogenous:
“It’s funny to see people say it’s not an ethnically diverse cast,” she says. “This is the first show where two of the regulars are Asians of Chinese extraction.”
Far from being out of touch with her Asian roots, Bennet has embraced them throughout her life.
When she was 15-years-old, she left her investment banker father, doctor mother, and ethnically diverse set of six brothers (“two African American, one Mexican American, and the rest half-Chinese,” according to Bennet) behind in Chicago to pursue a music career in Shanghai.
“It was pretty difficult,” Bennet admits. “I didn’t know anyone there and didn’t speak the language. For the first few months, every day was the same: six hours of dance and four hours of Mandarin. But I had to grow up fast. I like to call it my high school job.”
After a few years in Shanghai and Beijing, she returned to the US, changed her last name, and set her sights on an acting career.
“I wanted to be racially ambiguous,” she says.”It must have worked. The first audition I went to was for Nashville.”
Bennet keeps her Mandarin skills sharp by practicing with Ming-Na on the set of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she says. “We’ll talk in a nasty tone and pretend we’re saying bad things about the other actors when really we’re paying them compliments.”
Image via Chloe Bennet, Instagram