Lissa Neptuno is an award-winning, Asian-Canadian multidisciplinary artist who was born in Brunei and raised in Western Canada, and is currently based on the unceded territories of the Qayqayt First Nation. She has been creating, collaborating, and finding her way through a gratifying career in acting, writing, and producing for film and theatre, which has brought her across Canada and to Europe. Her favorite credits include Morris in “The Nether”, Second Consort in “The Five Vengeances,” Madame Midnight in the award-winning short film “Reverse”, Mr. Average Joe in “Supergirl”, and no less than eight doctors on TV. Lissa credits her parents for her lifelong love of acting and is grateful to have their support.
Share a time that you had to deal with racism in the course of your career;
I was in an acting class and working through something with my scene partner, something about not finding enough love for each other in the scene. The instructor asked, “Well, do you like [your scene partner]?” and I replied, “Of course! It’s [his name],” and people laughed but the instructor didn’t. Instead this instructor turned to everyone, really getting everyone in on it, and said, “That’s defensive. That is defensive.” And I start crying because I was so deeply humiliated. We get through the scene and other people go up, and when a white man did the same thing I did – turn an answer into a light-hearted joke – the instructor didn’t do anything. Instead this person laughed and smiled along with everybody.
So that is another level of racism that us POC have to deal with all the time in this business – being called out, berated and humiliated for something that a white person would get away with, unscathed.
This incident happened in 2018, and I’m pretty sure this instructor is still teaching.
Share something that you are proud of achieving as an Asian Canadian working in professional performing arts;
I’m proud of trying everything and not giving up and outlasting a lot of gatekeepers. I’m proud that I’ve been able to write and produce my own work. I’m proud of the friends I’ve made and of the collaborations that have come out of those friendships. I am a proud survivor.
What does it mean to you to be an Asian-Canadian working in the performing arts?
It means making a statement and being true to yourself even when everyone expects you to be someone else. Disturbing the comfortable, and making people question whatever preconceived ideas they have about me and people who look like me. Sometimes the quiet, small revolutions are what create big change.