Movies & TV

These Filipinos in Hollywood Will Make You Proud

When one of our own makes it to Tinseltown, Pinoy pride goes haywire.

Filipinos in Hollywood rarely go unnoticed, at least not by Philippine media. When one of our own makes it to Tinseltown, Pinoy pride goes haywire—no matter how much Filipino blood they actually have.

Famous Filipinos in Hollywood

It's difficult to make it in Hollywood, so you can imagine how much harder it is for a people in the minority: Latinos, Africans, Asians. The fact that we've been seeing more Filipinos (as well as other races of color) in Hollywood is already a huge leap forward (though we still have a long way to go). 

Following the footsteps of Shay Mitchell of Pretty Little Liars fame, Vanessa Hudgens from Disney’s High School Musical, and Rob Schneider, the sidekick in almost every Adam Sandler film, here are some of the Filipinos (or at least part-Filipino actors) taking on the big screen.

1| Jacob Batalon

Notable role: Ned Leeds in Spider-Man: Homecoming 


Born and raised in Hawaii to Filipino parents, Batalon’s claim to fame began with the recent release of Spider-Man: Homecoming where he plays the title character’s best friend, Ned Leeds. Batalon’s certainly a far cry from comic book Ned, since that version is tall, white, and blonde. Nevertheless, the film received praise for going against the grain and introducing some much-needed diversity to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

2|Dave Bautista

Notable role: Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy 

Prior to landing a major role in a Marvel movie, Bautista went by the name Batista—a household name in the world of wrestling. Now retired from the sport, Bautista’s film career shot to fame after playing the deadly warrior Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy. With Filipino paternal grandparents, Bautista proudly displays his Filipino heritage with two Philippine flag tattoos on his left shoulder and elbow.

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3| Reggie Lee

Notable role: Sergeant Drew Wu in Grimm 

Hailing from Quezon City, Reggie Lee (previously Valdez) and his family emigrated to the States when he was five. He entered the world of entertainment and eventually landed the role of Sergeant Drew Wu in the hit US TV series, Grimm. Bringing his heritage to the show, the 14th episode, “Mommy Dearest,” of season 3 centered around Lee’s character and the aswang.

4| Dante Basco

Notable role: Rufio in Hook


Listen to Basco's voice and you'll no doubt be transported back to your childhood (that is, if your childhood was set in the 2000s). Basco voiced Jake Long in American Dragon: Jake Long and Prince Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Born to Filipino parents and raised in California, the Fil-Am is an avid supporter of Asian American representation in the entertainment industry.

5| Steve R. McQueen

Notable role: Jeremy Gilbert in The Vampire Diaries

If his name sounds familiar, that's because it is—Steve R. McQueen is indeed related to the legendary '60s King of Cool, Steve McQueen. In fact, he’s his grandson. McQueen (the younger) gets his Filipino heritage from his grandmother, Neile Adams, McQueen’s (the elder) first wife and a well-known actress in her own right. Adams was born and raised in Manila, and later emigrated to the U.S. in the '50s.

6| Charles Michael Davis

Notable role: Marcel Gerard in The Originals


Gerard’s African-American father hails from Kentucky and his mother Manila. Of his heritage, Davis has shared how pleased he's been to see the increase of diversity in television nowadays. In an interview with The Wrap, he said “I didn’t have too many people to look up to [then], definitely no one who was half-black and half-Filipino.”

7| Conrad Ricamora

Notable role: Oliver Hampton in How to Get Away with Murder

Ricamora’s Filipino heritage is only assumed, seeing as his father was born and adopted in the Philippines, but that didn’t stop the actor from playing Ninoy Aquino in the 2013 Off-Broadway musical Here Lies Love which follows the extravagant life of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos. Aside from his theater pursuits, you can catch Ricamora in the hit show How to Get Away with Murder.

8| Sharon Leal

Notable role: Miss Martian in Supergirl


Born in Arizona, Leal’s mother is a Filipino while her father is an African-American police officer. Her stepfather, who later adopted Leal, was a United States Air Force sergeant previously based in Clark Air Base. Before her latest role in the CW’s Supergirl as Miss Martian, she starred in the Oscar-winning film Dreamgirls as Michelle Norris.

9| Joel de la Fuenta

Notable role: Ruben Morales in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit  

The son of Filipino immigrants, de la Fuenta boasts a Master of Fine Arts degree from the world-renowned Tisch School of the Arts. The New York native is best known for his television roles in the alternate history show The Man in the High Castle and the Netflix horror series Hemlock Grove.

10| Charlyne Yi

Notable role: Dr. Chi Park in House


Born to a Filipino mother, Yi was raised in California where she grew up to be an actress, comedian, and writer. Aside from starring in the indie favorite Paper Heart with Michael Cera, Yi has also appeared in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up and This is 40, and voiced characters in the animated series’ We Bare Bears and Steven Universe. She has a role in the much-awaited remake of cult-classic Twin Peaks.

11| Shannyn Sossamon

Notable role: Jocelyn in A Knight’s Tale

With Filipino roots from her maternal grandmother, Sossamon is probably most well known for her breakout role as Jocelyn in A Knight’s Tale where she starred alongside Heath Ledger. You can also catch the Hawaiian native as Pandora in the supernatural thriller Sleepy Hollow.

12| TV Carpio

Notable role: Prudence in Across the Universe  


Carpio's maternal grandfather who was a Hong-Kong based Filipino jazz drummer.  Aside from starring alongside Bradley Cooper in Limitless, TV Carpio also appeared in the Beatles-inspired musical film, Across the Universe, as Prudence where she showed off her singing chops.

13| Allen Evangelista

Notable role: Adam in Project Almanac

A full-blooded Filipino, Evangelista’s roots hail from Papampanga and Manila. Before starring in the time travel film Project Almanac, Allen played Henry Miller for five years in the teen drama, The Secret Life of an American Teenager. According to Allen, the show made his character Filipino just for him.

14| Alec Mapa

Notable role: Suzuki St. Pierre in Ugly Betty


A San Francisco native born into a Filipino family, Mapa is best known for his comedic roles in shows such as Seinfeld, Ugly Betty, and Desperate Housewives. Openly gay, Mapa is a strongsupport of LGBT rights and Asian American representation.

15| Michael Copon

Notable role: Lucas Kendall/Blue Time Force Ranger of Power Rangers Time Force

Copon was born to an American mother and a Filipino father from Cavite. Aside from playing the blue ranger in every millennial’s favorite childhood series, Copon also starred as Felix Taggaro in The CW’s One Tree Hill.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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