&ASIAN Roundtable featuring Lee Shorten: (Briefly) Exploring The East & South East Asian Experience In Different Parts Of The World

Three of our &ASIAN team members, Filipino-American Francesca Verceles-Zara, Chinese-Canadian Linda Wei and British Thai & Malaysian Chinese Aimée Kwan sat down with Australian-born actor Lee Shorten to chat about the variety of experiences someone of East or South East Asian heritage might have growing up in a Western country. Check out some of the most poignant moments from the session in our ten-minute highlight reel, or delve into the longer audio and transcript from the roundtable below!
Photo credit: Albert Nicholas (via IMDB)
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&ASIAN Roundtable featuring Lee Shorten: (Briefly) Exploring The East & South East Asian Experience In Different Parts Of The World

AIMÉE: Hey, everybody! Welcome to our &ASIAN roundtable today on Being East Asian and South East Asian Around the World. We've got some great people on the panel today. My name is Aimée Kwan, I'm a member of the &ASIAN team. And I'm going to let my other team members introduce themselves before we bring out our guest of honor today. So Linda, do you want to start off?

LINDA: Sure, my name is Linda. I'm based here in the UK - currently studying for a PhD here in the UK - and I'm also part of the &ASIAN team. Really happy to be here.

FRANCESCA: I’m Francesca and I’m based in the US - in New York specifically - and I’m a part of the &ASIAN team managing business development and growth. So happy to be here.

AIMÉE: Fab. And today, our guest of honor is the wonderful Lee Shorten. Hi Lee!

LEE: Hey everyone, thanks for having me! This is awesome, I appreciate it.

AIMÉE: Well, we want to kick off by telling everybody: all four of us come from very different perspectives growing up around the world. Lee, do you want to start by telling everybody who you are, what you do and where you grew up?

LEE: Sure. So my name is Lee Shorten, I'm currently an actor based in Los Angeles. But I actually grew up in Australia, and I was adopted, raised by a white family and then I was a lawyer for a while, and yeah, now I'm here.

AIMÉE: Francesca, I know you mentioned you're from the US. Linda, do you want to tell everybody about your background a little bit more?

LINDA: Sure. So I grew up in Canada, and then I came to the UK at eighteen to study at Oxford and just been in the UK since then. Fran, I mean, you've been in North America now longer than me.

FRANCESCA: Yeah. So before I actually moved up to New York, I grew up the majority of my life in North Carolina. So the American South, very different cultures… It was a little bit of a culture shock coming back to New York, because originally, I was from New York, moved down to North Carolina with my parents, moved back up post-college… but yeah, so very different experiences, from a rural place to a very metropolitan melting pot of being around and surrounded by multiple cultures.

AIMÉE: I was born in the south of England, in London, and I guess part of this roundtable is also to help our readers from all around the world understand what it is like being East Asian, or South East Asian, and growing up in these different Western countries; it might seem at face value to be very similar, but I'm sure we can dig up lots of differences and similarities between us. So Lee, why don't you start off with your experience? What would you say your experience and your childhood was like growing up in Australia?

LEE: So I grew up in a small rural town called Tamworth which no one has ever heard of, but it is the country music capital of Australia, if that gives you kind of a picture of what that place is like. And, you know, it's a very white, kind of conservative town and I was one of the only Asian people there, so you'd never really see any Asian people. So that's kind of what that was like. And I mean, when I grew up - I mean, obviously, media is still very white now - but I think media was even more white when I grew up.

So it was kind of a weird isolating experience, for sure and I think being adopted added a kind of an interesting extra challenge, because there was definitely kind of a disconnect between the way you’re being raised and the way you sort of perceive yourself first; the way the community perceives you, and you've experienced racism but you don't really have anyone who can explain what that is to you because your white family and friends don't really… you don't really have a system like you would if you grew up with someone else in the diaspora. So yeah, it was... it was like, I'm not complaining. You know, I had a lot of good memories too, obviously. But yeah, that’s kind of a snapshot.

AIMÉE: To what extent did your adopted family help you understand your heritage, and what was that process like for you as well?

LEE: Um, they didn't really. And I mean, I don't even know that they could, you know, even if they wanted to. It would still be through such a white lens of what they thought it would be; they didn't really have an interest in that. You know, it's funny, because as you grow up, you learn a lot more about the nuances of the difference between various East and South East Asian cultures, whereas that's something they probably wouldn't have been able to appreciate. The only Asian food we had in town was the Chinese takeaway restaurant that did like, honey chicken, and sweet and sour pork and whatever. That was my exposure to Asian culture until probably my teens, because there just wasn't anything around. I think, even if they wanted to, they wouldn't have had the tools or resources to do that.

AIMÉE: Something we as the &ASIAN team have talked about before is - you know, for Linda and Francesca, especially coming from North America – the way that Asian-Americans or Asian-Canadians are referred to are very different than, say, if you're British-Asian, where the term is very muddy and I think it's more used to refer to South Asians. So the kind of community feel in the UK is very different, in the sense that I think it's only just starting to grow in the UK. Having now had an experience of what it's like to be East Asian and South East Asian in the US versus your time in Australia, how would you compare the two experiences? Are there similarities, differences?

LEE: Um, it's kind of hard to compare, because my time in North America... I was in Vancouver, in Canada, for a number of years. Now I'm in LA, both of which have sizable Asian populations, and you know, a lot of Asian foods and all that kind of thing. And just by the nature of my work, a lot of my friends now are Asian, so it's been totally different. But you know, if I had grown up in Melbourne or Sydney in Australia, it would probably be comparable, because both those cities have large Asian populations and access to Asian culture. So, yeah, it's kind of apples to oranges I think, because it would be like growing up in North Carolina, right Francesca? 


LEE: I imagine the Asian population there is… non-existent?

FRANCESCA: I mean, it's very similar to how you were explaining your childhood. Like my childhood, I was the only Asian outside of my brothers: we were the only Asians at school, we lived in a very rural white town. It was just like, “Oh, she's different but we don't know why.” It’s very interesting to see people try to unpack that and just be like, “Oh, she looks different from us.” But it's not the usual like Black versus white versus Hispanic. And it's just like this Other that they didn't really know what to categorize us in… That sort of sounds terrible but essentially, that's like the thought process that I've witnessed. Especially when I was younger, it's just completely odd to watch it, honestly.

Moving to North Carolina from New York, it was just such a different culture. Like I said before, in New York, it's such a melting pot; you see so many different races and people and like different types of cultural aspects to life. But when you make it to the American South, it's just white. There's not much “culture” that you would see other than like the usual white country, very redneck... I don't even know if that's correct, but it’s very redneck culture that they have down there. I’m sure that, much like you Lee, if I were to have grown up in… Raleigh is probably going to be the closest to something “metropolitan” in North Carolina, but if I grew up there it would definitely be more diverse, and it would be a little bit more comparable to my experience that I have now in New York.

But yeah, it's just like regionally, it's vastly different. And you're in the same country! So it's just weird to see such different mindsets in different places.

AIMÉE: Lee name-checked Vancouver just now, Linda, which I know is your hometown. What were your experiences like?

LINDA: Growing up as Asian in Vancouver was different from what you just described, growing up in more rural areas. Vancouver is quite a metropolitan area. Perhaps it's not quite as much of a melting pot as, say, London or New York. But there was a sizable kind of Asian community that included East Asian, Southeast Asian and also South Asian people in Vancouver. So, for example, the high school I went to in Vancouver: the majority of probably 90% of the student population in my year were East Asian, actually. There were maybe four white kids in our inner class. So it was almost like the reverse. Whereas when I was growing up, like in primary school, I was one of the handful of Asian kids in a predominantly white class. So it changed.

It changes a lot I think, even within a city like Vancouver, depending on the kind of neighborhood district that you live in or go to school in. You see these enclaves, almost, of certain communities, and it’s localized very much within Vancouver. So I think a lot of people, when they think about East Asians, they think of Chinatown in various cities. But you know, it's not just Chinatown. Definitely in Vancouver, you know, the historic Chinatown is no longer the centre of where the East Asian community would be, it's actually spread out a lot more. So you get neighborhoods that are more East Asian, neighborhoods that are sort of more mixed, or neighborhoods that are more white. So there are geographical localizations.

I'd say that in general, the culture - when I was growing up in Canada - I’m pretty sure it must have been explicitly stated at some point, because I remember the term “multiculturalism” being really emphasized when I was growing up, and I think it is part of that message that Canada really promotes, maybe educationally, or just in cultural initiatives… So growing up you definitely felt even as people with Asian heritage, or, like some of my friends who sort of immigrated to Canada at a later age, I don't think anyone particularly felt put off, like we didn't feel like we were sort of excluded from the community because of where we came from or what we looked like.

And another point that I remember - again, I think it must have been explicitly mentioned in some class - it was emphasized that multiculturalism was different from assimilation. And there was a distinction, kind of almost implicitly made against the United States, where they’d say in the US, assimilation is more the goal, where every culture kind of assimilates to a central kind of medium or it leans more towards one culture; whereas the kind of standard growing up, what I remember was that it was accepted that there were many different cultures, and you weren't expected to conform to a particular culture. That was my experience.

AIMÉE: I mean, to carry on from what Linda's talked about, with memories of growing up: I remember in the UK, you know, I was a little bit like Francesca and I guess Lee as well in that respect: I was the only East Asian person in my class really up until sixth form (that's kind of high school for you guys). I remember kind of compartmentalizing what it meant to be Asian with what was easiest to "exist as" just as a human being. And it really took up until I was in my 20s to feel like, “Okay, what does this actually mean? How can I unpack these memories for what they are, not what I needed to remember them as in order to get me through stuff?” 

Something I would love to explore with both Linda and Lee actually is... I know Francesca and I, both of us have gone back since childhood to visit the countries of our heritage quite a lot. So I know Francesca, you've been back to the Philippines multiple times, and me and my mum and dad, you know, we do our kind of random trek across Asia to see various relatives. Have you been able to have those experiences?

LEE: So that’s kind of an interesting question, because I was adopted from Korea. And for many many years I thought I was just Korean. Then I travelled to Japan, which is actually the only East Asian country I’ve been to, maybe a decade ago, and everyone kind of thought I was Japanese which was interesting, especially because the two countries have such an interesting history, which is putting it diplomatically. Then you know, when I got into acting, now there’s this push towards ultra-specific authentic casting - which is a whole other thing - and I ended up taking a DNA test out of curiosity and it actually turns out I’m quite a blend of Chinese, Korean and Japanese.

So in terms of reconnecting with the homeland, that’s an interesting question because even though I was born in Korea, I never really had like this visceral connection to that because I didn’t grow up experiencing that culture. And then as a teenager, my access to Asian culture was mainly through Japanese anime and Chinese films so I kind of always felt more connected to those cultures more than Korean. That’s why I went to Japan first and I have to go to Korea at some point to see it but I haven’t managed to get back there yet. Again I think just because a lot of the roles I’ve played have been Japanese and have necessitated a lot of historical research of Japan, I weirdly feel probably the most connected to my Japanese side.

LINDA: I grew up in Canada so I don't have memories of being in other countries besides Canada growing up. There was a year between my studies where I went back to - I say that but it’s not really - I went to Singapore to do a work internship there and en route I stopped over in China; and that was my first time in China in twenty years at that point, which was very odd, because I think growing up in Canada there’s this wide acceptance of people, different cultures and obviously different ethnicities. But definitely like in primary school and just in general in Vancouver, the majority of the population is still white. So it’s not that you’re immediately sort of singled out as an outsider or something like that, but we do look different from other people, right? And the first impression I got when I was in Shanghai was “Oh my god, everyone looks like me, everyone has dark hair, has this similar kind of skin tone, they speak the language that I speak at home with my parents exclusively.”

There was all the food that I had at home because in Vancouver; there was a lot of East Asian food but also when my friends and whatever went to restaurants, we would always eat predominantly North American/European cuisines, like burgers and that sort of thing. The fast food is all that: McDonald’s and KFC. But when I went to Shanghai, it was Asian street food that was like what I had at home. It was just very odd, kind of like the reverse, because everything from when I was growing up which was just within the home or within my very very small community was all of a sudden the majority of everything that I could see around me. That continued when I was in Singapore because at times - I don’t speak Chinese very well, and I wouldn’t consider myself fluent by any means - but you know there were times when I would use Chinese instead of English in Singapore because it was just easier to communicate with the street vendor, for example, when I was trying to tell him “I want that particular cake” in English and he was like “What are you talking about? I don’t understand you” in Mandarin and so I had to just say what I wanted in Mandarin.

So yeah, it was a really interesting experience being in Asia because it was almost reassuring to know that there were that many people that look like me, but it was also awfully identity-erasing. Because all of a sudden, you just blended in with the crowd so well; it was very odd. And when I came back, then it was another cultural reset.

AIMÉE:  The funny thing about language and I guess you'll relate to this Lee, as actors: you know, Lee and I, we're kind of taken very much at face value. And I don't know about you, Lee, but I get language requests to my agent all the time. Like, “Can you speak this language? Can you speak that language?” Lee, what's that process been like for you?

LEE: Yeah, same, there’s always language requests and I don’t really speak any other languages, not fluently or anything. I mean, I wish I did speak another language; I’m jealous of you guys, it’s amazing. Not even just you guys, but anyone who is bilingual, trilingual or multilingual, it’s such a wonderful thing, it's beautiful. I think interestingly, Canada is officially a bilingual country, that is a fascinating thing; and when you look at now, what’s going on in China with the Mandarin versus Cantonese: language is such a powerful thing. 

I definitely have a love-hate relationship in terms of the business. Because I think we’re at such an interesting point with Asian representation. Because on one hand, there's more Asian representation and I think that's a very positive thing. On the flip side, it's overwhelmingly…it's not like Asian-American or Westernized Asian representation. It still tends to be like, very East Asian-focused, like a lot of our stories do have these language requirements, or they're about like, first generation immigrant families or they’re period pieces, and I think it's tough in that there's a double standard placed on Asian actors, because, like, prime example... two prime examples: HBO’s Chernobyl was like a hugely successful show, everyone loved it. Yet everyone on that show was like British actors doing their own British accents, you know?

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s upcoming movie The Last Duel is based on French history; they're American actors doing British accents and none of these things are questioned. No one's like “why aren't they speaking ancient Greek or ancient Latin in sword and sandal pictures.” But then when we tell an Asian story, suddenly you can only be cast if you're actually Japanese, or actually Chinese, and you have to be able to speak Japanese or Chinese... and I see the argument for the authenticity.

But then it's also very alienating to a lot of Westernised Asian actors in the diaspora who don't necessarily have any of those things. And it's a double standard that's placed on us that would never be placed on white actors who can do whatever they want. And it just seems kind of odd. Then you have the the other disconnects of things where - I don't know if you see this in Britain - so many times if it's a Chinese project or Japanese project, they'll demand that only Japanese or Chinese actors read for it, yet when you step behind the camera you'll have white creatives, or you'll have like Chinese creatives doing a Japanese story. And it's so fascinating that the ultra-specific authentic requirements only seem to exist for personnel in front of the camera.

AIMÉE: Why do you think that's the case? What do you think has precipitated that?

LEE: Well, I would say my cynical, cheap, quick answer is that actors tend to be the face of the project, and they're the ones who do the most press. So it's like, if they're authentic, no one will look any further because they'll kind of absorb all the positive and negative flack and they'll be able to deflect any other questions. That would be my kind of quick answer.

AIMÉE: In Australia - I know you don’t work there all the time now - do you think they might have similar issues in the industry over there too?

LEE: I think there's only been like one Asian project over there, and it was about a Vietnamese family, and I believe they had ultra specific requirements there. But again, I tend to view things through the lens of opportunity and I would definitely say, South East Asians have less opportunity than East Asians; one hundred percent. East Asians have way, way more advantages.

So in terms of who has the most opportunity, and you know, you never take from people who have less: so I think if you're telling a story about a South East Asian family or culture, you should probably use South East Asian actors, because they're already excluded and disadvantaged. Because again, it's such a uniquely POC thing. I guess it all comes down to opportunity, right? There's so much opportunity for white actors that no one cares. No one cares who's doing what, but there’s such limited opportunity for us that it does become like, “who does get to tell these stories?” because we're all scrambling for the tiniest, tiniest slice of this pie.

FRANCESCA: I know, Aimée, we've talked about this before: when it boils down to production and pitching to people about different stories that you wouldn't necessarily see in the mainstream. It's like, you pitch, they think it's great, but they're just like, “this might not be palatable to the general public” or what have you. That in and of itself, it's a very systemic thing, because you see white figureheads, at the top of corporations, and they're just like “this sounds great, but it's not gonna bring in the dollars of the revenue that we want to see.”

So that's sort of another level of complexity to throw into this conversation, outside of Asian stories not being just one specific thing; it's multiple things. But until figureheads decide and figure out how to tell these stories in the appropriate way and provide these opportunities, I feel that as a consumer, we'll get there like, little by little, but as of right now, it's just like… This is what you get.

LINDA: I mean, growing up in Canada, I honestly don’t remember any media that my friends and I really watched that featured Asian people, and as a primary character... I'm struggling really to remember any representation in the media. The only time I saw Asian people in primary roles was when my parents wanted watch Chinese dramas, like literally dramas, TV series, movies, etc, that were produced, casted and made in China. And obviously these series were all about Chinese history, or Chinese contemporary culture, or any sort of people who looked like you doing things that you do.

But otherwise, growing up, you just kind of learn to… I don't want to say “see past the skin,” but it's a little bit like that; you kind of have to just assume that the character, regardless of the ethnicity that is being portrayed on screen, you kind of have to squint and think of the commonalities that you can perceive to to your own story. But obviously, there's nothing that's very, very specific to this kind of Third Culture or identity. 

Growing up, there's no media that showed what it's like to grow up as someone with Chinese heritage in a predominantly Western or non-Asian community, and the sort of tensions within your identity. Even going from school to home, we switch between languages and switch between value systems and beliefs, and you learn to juggle almost two identities. But that's not something that's ever on the screen, shown as something that happens.

You know what I mean, like, onscreen these people go to these, like, college parties, or whatever. Live, none of my friends went to these keg parties, at least when I was growing up; in high school, no one went to a keg party and just got fabulously drunk on beer, even though that was on the dramas like Glee or whatever with people hooking up. The reality is so different from our reality, that you just kind of had to have a leap of faith like… suspended disbelief! That’s the word for it, you had to suspend your disbelief and just imagine that you could relate to the motivations of the characters in that world that was so unlike yours.

I think growing up it would have been nice in a way to see more emphasis on this kind of Third Culture heritage, how people with that kind of mixed identity grew up, with the very specific issues or challenges that they face. It would have, you know, helped me realize that some of the things that I went through were normal or not so normal.

AIMÉE: I guess all of this, in some way, boils down to education and how we raise kids. Kids from no matter where you are, from the ground up, in terms of how they talk to people, how they accept people. I have a memory from when I was a kid, where two girls that I had literally known since I was maybe five or six - we were probably maybe 12 or 13 at this point - and they were making like, you know, the “slitty eye” gesture? We learn very early, “okay, that's a racist thing,” “that's a thing that's upsetting,” “that's a thing that's very difficult.” But people that don't see it from our perspective, don't have to learn.

I guess a lot of what's been thrown around in various industries during this period is education around diversity to help future generations going forward, and what is or isn't being done.

So this is a very loaded question, but what would you guys want to see in terms of helping conversations around diversity and helping the next generations come through? 

FRANCESCA: I mean, I feel like generationally, we're getting better. Because like - I don't know, you guys tell me if I'm totally off base with this - but with millennials, we're definitely becoming more open to different cultures. No matter what your background is, whether you're white, black, Asian, Latino, etc, with the globalization of everything, and with kids having the literal globe in their hands, at their fingertips, all of the information on their hands. I think we're sort of moving in the right direction where that education is starting very early and kids are learning “Oh, that's a terrible thing to say to this type of person.” And this is why I think generationally, we're getting better, and we're like moving out of that mindset.

But it also depends on a kid's parents or whoever the kid interacts with on a daily basis, because I can't say the same for someone who lives in like, let’s call it Topeka, Kansas, in literally the middle of America, and they’ve never seen an Asian person in their life outside of movies and TV shows… like, I wouldn't expect them - which is sort of terrible to say - but I wouldn't expect them to go out of their way to learn about, “oh, this person looks different from me.” Something has to spark that curiosity, and if the diversity isn't there to do that, how much can you expect the person to really do the legwork to learn or change something about themselves?

But from a generational standpoint, I think education is getting better in surfacing these harder conversations at an earlier age, from my viewpoint.

LINDA: I would say that beyond media representations, for someone growing up in the middle of Kansas who wouldn't otherwise maybe have that exposure, diversity in media representation is super important, because that's the only way that they're going to get access to diversity, within their own homes, within where they're located. Maybe an overlooked aspect of education is not just about educating “other people,” i.e. people of non-Asian heritage; it’s about education for us, Third Culture kids who had to negotiate between different identities.

I think that you have to come to a kind-of balance, you have to get to a point where you're able to assess what works for you from each culture, and maybe what doesn't work for you from each culture? And I felt like my time here in the UK, being in a third country that was not tied to my identity of being Canadian, or my heritage of being Chinese, is actually very helpful in giving me the space and also the distance to process what worked for me and what didn't, and to find that balance point in my identity where I can feel comfortable saying that I’m Chinese-Canadian. 

So maybe it's not practical for everybody, but I think having more experiences outside of your immediate community in different parts of the world, for sure is something that can help with educating people of other cultures and also how to really navigate your own identity if you're going up between cultures.

LEE: I’m ever the cynic but it's such an interesting problem. I think I agree with you Francesca, that generationally, I think things improve. As a general point of view more specifically to whiteness, but when you look at the history of whiteness, whiteness is ever expanding. You know, traditionally, Irish immigrants are outside of whiteness, then Italian immigrants are outside of whiteness, Greek immigrants are outside of whiteness, and whiteness tends to expand to allow them in. So, you know, maybe there is hope for all of us when we talk about the lunchbox moments: sushi is so much more accepted, ramen is so much more in the cultural zeitgeist. So I think you know, food-wise, we're getting there. 

I think I used to be a big believer in education, too. You pointed out, you know, we live in a world now with the internet where you have unlimited information, and I used to think that would make us better, but then when you look at the state of the world, I'm not convinced that's true anymore. And I think part of the problem... let's say, it used to be ten of us at a table; someone says something racist, and the nine of us are like, “that's really fuckin uncool,” then you're like, “shit, all my friends think that's uncool, I might adjust my behavior.” Now you can be at a table, your nine friends will be like, “that's racist.” and then you just go to a forum on the internet, where a million people will tell you your friends are wrong. So if anything, I actually think the Internet and the access to information has maybe made us more isolated, and it's easier to find the confirmation bias, and it's easier to continue to be racist and entrenched in your views.

I think the answer isn't necessarily exposure to other cultures, because that's so specific. You know, the way that people work, it's like, “Ah, now I've met an Asian person, maybe Asians are okay, but now I'm still racist against Latinos or the Middle East.” I just think fundamentally, we need to start somehow teaching empathy as a general tool, because then that's a skill that's applied everywhere. Then the moment you meet someone, as I think it's Ted Lasso would say, you're "curious before judgmental" and that's not specific to “o h, I understand this Asian food,” or “I understand this Latino language,” or “I understand this cultural religious moment.” That's just generally my approach to life: “this is new, but that's not bad.” But I don't really know how you teach that, especially when we live in a world of people taking ivermectin and believing that the Coronavirus is some worldwide conspiracy or whatever. So, I don't sadly, I don't have the answer.

AIMÉE: Part of the fun of why we wanted to do this roundtable was to really see how many similarities and differences there are between the four of us who have all grown up in really different ways, in really different places in the diaspora.

But I would love for your perspectives as well... how have you perceived this to be, and where do you think in terms of all the different little pockets of diaspora – how connected are we?

FRANCESCA: Just through &ASIAN and doing my own research, there’s a lot of beef within the Asian American community and the Asian community in and of itself. So we definitely need to work on ourselves. From the larger picture, yes, we do have a lot of commonalities, and we can relate to each other. But at the root of it all, if we can't come together as like Asian Americans, because we are Vietnamese, American, Filipino, American, Chinese, American, Korean-American, Japanese-American… There are so many different stories, and it's so hard to just smush us into one box.

I feel like at the top of the meeting, that's what we were talking about: “Asian” is not a monolith. There are so many differences. There's so much historical trauma that we all have to unpack, because of things that have happened in history to make us think certain ways, towards certain people. Trying to unpack that, and relearn how to come together, at least from the Asian American perspective, I feel like there's a lot that needs to be worked on, especially when it comes to boosting “Stop Asian Hate,” or to boost the Asian American experience and getting that representation. I think we're getting there, I think we're definitely trying to get there. But I know that it's a long road for us to come together, but I'm optimistic 

LINDA: If you’re, let's say, a Chinese Canadian in the UK, and you meet another Asian person who has a similar experience, you know, growing up in the US with Canada, or Australia or whatever: because you're surrounded by that Third Culture that is different from where you grew up, it forces you to find the commonalities, because you want to find that anywhere. I think it's always going to be a struggle when you've got a minority... the hardest part is when you have a sizable minority, because there's also much more pressure from outside, that you need to kind of find the commonalities within your community and stand together; and it can lead to those situations where it feels like even within your little community, there are already tensions and differences and people are actively kind of looking [for them].

So I think it requires - without that external environment or that external pressure - I think it takes people wanting and trying intentionally to find commonality with people. It's a mindset difference. I think that that's what matters, because while situationally you can kind of shove people together a little bit, the best way to affect change is through changing people's mindsets young. Maybe like... a bit of an optimistic mindset, definitely sort of an open minded mindset, but it is a mindset difference.

LEE: I guess it's not just unique to the diaspora, but just life in general. I think, fundamentally, most of us all face the same kind of struggles. And then it's as you move up, or as you drill down to specificity, that's where we tend to splinter. It's like, if you meet another person within the diaspora, you immediately have something in common, and then it's when you start to drill down that suddenly it's like, “well, I'm a second gen Chinese immigrant, you're a fifth gen Japanese immigrant” and like, “you're bilingual, I'm not.” and then it all becomes so splintered…

I guess... moving forward, I suppose, you find the commonalities, then you find where the first breaking point is: How do you reconcile that breaking point? Or how do you leverage that breaking point so that you both grow, as opposed to grow apart? But I don't know... it is such a concerted effort to do anything, really. As Asian Americans, too, I think it's taken me a while to realize... I can't remember who told me this, but it was like “Asian American is a political identity, not a cultural identity.” Not to say that the African American community is homogenous, but I think they have more cultural common ground because they share the experience of all being uprooted from their own home against their will. Whereas we’ve dribbled in over centuries, from all different parts of the world that have their own beefs and issues. So I don't know: how do we, and should we, come together more? I don't know.

AIMÉE: When we pitched this round table, the idea was to put an American, a Canadian, an Australian and a Brit in a room and just see what would happen. I think it's been a success in the sense that there have been no bar brawls, it's all been good, it's all been civil, which has been great. I guess it’s down to me to say thanks so much to my team members, Linda and Francesca, for joining me at the table today.

And of course, thank you so much Lee, for being our guest of honour, for being here at the table. Is there anything you are up to right now? Where can people who are watching find you?

LEE: If you're a gamer, I’m in Ghosts of Tsushima: I play the lead character’s dad. Then I've got a movie called Swan Song with Mahershala Ali, Glenn Close and Naomie Harris out on Apple TV.

AIMÉE: Wicked. Well, thanks so much for joining me today, and take care.

LEE: Thanks everyone!

Lee Shorten can be found on Instagram, Twitter and is in Swan Song on Apple TV+.