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.
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 Pinoy in Hollywood
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
Dave BATISTA 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Notable role: Prudence in Across the Universe
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.
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.
Notable role: Suzuki St. Pierre in Ugly Betty
A San Francisco native born into a Filipino funny guy is a staple on Hollywood TV, having appeared in memorable shows such as Desperate Housewives, Jonas LA, Ugly Betty, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Switched At Birth. He was also on You Don’t Mess With The Zohan and Marley and Me.
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.
Nicole is known for being part of the Pussycat Dolls, who has sold 54 million records worldwide. Since their split, she’s sold 16 million records as a solo artist! Her father, Alfonso Valiente, is of Filipino descent.
Notable role: Adam Sandler movies
Rob’s maternal grandmother was a Filipina. Rob’s name started to ring a bell when in 1999, he starred in the film Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. This was followed by such films as: The Animal, The Hot Chick and the sequel Deuce Bigalow; European Gigolo. Notable films he appeared in are: The Bench Warmer, Muppets from Space, Around the World in 80 Days, The Water Boy, Little Nikki, 50 First Dates, The Longest Yard, Click and cameo role in the films, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and You Don’t Mess with a Zohan.
Notable role: High school musical
Best known as Gabriella Montez in High School Musical, Vanessa Hudgens is half Filipina, thanks to her mom Gina Guangco! Post-HSM, she’s done movies such as Sucker Punch with Zack Synder, Gimme Shelter, and Spring Breakers with fellow young stars Ashley Benson and Selena Gomez. Currently she’s performing in her Broadway debut as Gigi in the musical Gigi.
As far as Pinoy pride is concerned, Hailee Steinfeld will do you proud indeed! At only 14 years old, she was nominated for an Oscar for her work in True Grit, making her one of the youngest nominees by the Academy. If that isn’t talent, I don’t know what is! Now 18 years old, she’s starred in other films since then such as Romeo and Juliet, Begin Again, and in Pitch Perfect 2! Her mother, Cheri Domasin, is a Filipino interior designer who hails from Bohol.
What else is there to say about Bruno Mars? He is a superstar! The Uptown Funk singer’s mother Bernadette San Pedro Bayot was Filipina, who sadly passed away from a brain aneurysm in 2013. There isn’t anything that Bruno Mars can do that would not make us love him!
The Black Eyed Peas’ singer is unmistakably Filipino, Allan Pineda Lindo or Apl.de.ap of Black Eyed Peas, has an inspiring success story that’s truly worth telling. Allan was born in Sapang Bato, Angeles City, Pampanga. His father was a US serviceman at Clark Air Base, who abandoned him and his Filipina mother as soon as he was born. It was a hard life from thereon.
Amid life’s uncertainties, music provided Allan a refuge and, eventually, salvation. His early music heroes include Stevie Wonder, Eagles, the Beatles and the home-grown folk music of Asin. He soon discovered hip-hop music, which led to his fascination with break dancing. Forming a break-dancing group, Allan went to the States where he became a familiar fixture in Los Angeles’ hip-hop and break-dancing scene. The group he formed soon morphed into the Black Eyed Peas. They adapted a more palatable kind of hip-hop combined with funk music, a big departure from the prevalent gangsta rap of their Los Angeles peers. Despite all the success achieved by the Black Eyed Peas, Allan is lauded for incorporating Filipino themes into the group’s music, as we hear in songs like The Apl Song, where he talks about his roots and even borrows the song’s refrain from Balita, an Asin original.
He also wrote a song entitled Bebot, a Filipino street word for “woman”. The video of the said single was shot around LA featuring Filipinos, Filipino-Americans, and other Asian ethnic groups around the bay area.
Any other Hollywood celebrities with Filipino blood you love? Who was your favorite on this list? Let us know below!