It was a notification from Upworthy as one of three The Daily Upworthiest that we got into the video early April.
Dubbed as “3 Non-White Actresses Show Up To An Audition, I Think We Know Where This Is Going,” we clicked the link and enjoyed the parody of Lorde’s Royals, Grammy 2014 Song Of The Year.
The name of the lead, Tess Paras, was already familiar to us. We just wanted to confirm her Filipino roots as many bashers on social media would come out from hiding once we attribute affinity to a rising celebrity or one who’s recognized in the international arena.
Yes, we confirmed that Tess is the same Tess Paras in the Aswang episode of Grimm. It’s also the first time for Filipino thespians playing Filipino characters in an American TV series.
Tess Paras: Effervescent actress-writer-dancer-singer-producer
A Magna Cum Laude graduate from New York University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Media, Culture, and Communication minor in Journalism, Tess was on the Dean’s List throughout college and inducted into Lambda Pi Eta, the National Communication Studies Honor Society.
Also a dancer, she was captain of her high school dance team. She attended undergraduate studies in London and Amsterdam and traveled to Australia and New Zealand as chosen participant of the prestigious People to People Student Ambassador program.
She has a Best Actress Award for 72 Hour Film Shootout sponsored by the Asian American Film Lab and Asian CineVision in 2008.
Her other credits: Backup Singer/Dancer for Whoopi Goldberg in Broadway Backwards 4 at the American Airlines Theater in 2009; Print Model for various campaigns that include Disney Asia and Verizon Hawaii; One of 20 cast members chosen to perform in the 2014 CBS Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase.
The Royals parody, titled Typecast, is a swipe at the prevalent culture of typecasting colored individuals in America. Tess herself wrote and produced this two-minute-and-18-seconds video featuring Haneefa Wood and Hayana Hampton, directed by Rebekka Johnson, music produced by Jack Dolgen. It was uploaded on March 24, 2014.
We sent Tess a message thru Facebook that we’re writing an article about her and the video and got an immediate reply. She said she wouldn’t want for us to have to conjecture or just grab quotes from other places. So we sent her a set of questions which she gladly answered.
For the first time, Filipino actors played Filipino characters on mainstream American TV in the ‘Aswang’ episode of ‘Grimm’
What’s the background of your Filipino ancestry/connection?
I was born in Houston, Texas and my parents are from Manila and Dagupan (Pangasinan).
In an article published on March 27, the video was only over 50,000 views. How soon do you think your parody video be considered a YouTube sensation?
I just checked and the video is at 422k! Wow! I don’t really use the term “YouTube sensation” because it sounds funny to me. I’m just glad folks are watching it and, hopefully, having productive conversations about media consumption and representation because of it!
Lea Salonga said her agent one time told her she won’t get a call because she’s Asian. Have you experienced similar reason of rejection and how do you face such situation?
I don’t think any casting office has outright “rejected” me because I am Asian. I think that would be oversimplifying it. My intention is to get folks to think about when they imagine the heroes and protagonists in their stories. What do they look like? I would hope, sometime soon, that baseline image is a person who is from a diverse background. There’s room to tell all sorts of types of stories from different perspectives and have heroes who look all sorts of ways aside from the archetypes we’re usually served.
Do you see more definite Filipino characters on TV or movies following the ‘Aswang’ episode on ‘Grimm’?
It’s only been a few months since we shot Grimm and I am excited about being a part of such a ground-breaking production. These days, I do see and hear more about Filipino characters in the independent production world. However, not on network t.v. Maybe they’re out there and not calling me? I kid, but, obviously, I hope we’ll all see change and make that change, soon.
Having excelled academically, have you considered joining the corporate world instead of pursuing your artistry?
For a while I was in the corporate world and I worked in public relations in New York, but it has always been a means to an end. As a writer and actor, I think of myself as a small-business owner, but never ever do I think of doing anything else. My left-brain leanings serve me well as an artist and I can’t escape them, it’s who I am… but, it’s an actor’s life for me!
Typecast is nearing 460,000 views as of this writing.
Tess with Romany Malco (who played her husband) on the set of the 100th episode of ‘Weeds’
To know more about Tess Paras, please click the links below:
Photos from Tess Paras’ Facebook page.