Originally from São Paulo, Brazil, Jessie Liang has appeared in a variety of theatrical and television shows including Netflix’s The Night Agent and Virgin River, The CW’s Supergirl, and Arts Club’s 2020 touring production of Kim’s Convenience. More recently, she was the Assistant Director to Redbone Coonhound (Arts Club) and her play, Surrender, was workshopped as part of vAct’s MSG Lab 2022-23, as well as presented at Ruby Slippers’ Advance Theatre Festival 2023. A Studio 58 acting alum, Jessie also coaches actors and teaches Business of Acting workshops. You can connect with her @jessieliang21 on social media.
Share a time that you had to deal with racism in the course of your career:
I am immensely grateful for the privilege to have attended theatre school, though there are moments I think back on that definitely stalled me instead of set me up for success. Having Taiwanese parents but being born and raised in Brazil and eventually attending an American school throughout all my formative years meant that my first language was Mandarin but quickly replaced by Portuguese and English simultaneously. I was repeatedly told by instructors they couldn’t understand me because of my accent and to use Mandarin to connect to text, even though I stated I know and connect better to Portuguese. It wasn’t until our voice instructor helped me understand it was not in fact an accent, but a rhythm that I have that sounds different to North American speakers that I realized how insidious it had been to hear “my accent is too strong”. It was an incorrect assessment from faculty I trusted and was in no way helpful in building my acting skills. This isn’t outwardly racist, but it points to how learning institutions can only benefit from diversity in their own staff – whether it be in age, experience, gender, backgrounds, or languages.
Share something that you are proud of achieving as an Asian Canadian working in professional performing arts:
I’m proud of representing my Taiwanese heritage and multicultural background in a society that doesn’t seem to be aware of Latin-Asian populations, having done so in multiple mediums and various roles. Asians are not a monolith, and being an artist is rarely just one career lane either, so I’m very happily living a life that contains multitudes! I can only hope that my joyful existence inspires others to do the same.
What does it mean to you to be an Asian-Canadian working in the performing arts?
It means that I can honor my family and my cultures visibly, while proving to governing bodies and other organizations that hold power that it benefits everyone to hire diversely, fight for equity, and invest in stories from the POV of marginalized or minority groups.