Stephen Hoo interview

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Posted: Thu Jun 2 2011

Gay British-Chinese actor Stephen Hoo talks takeaways and Tom Jones

'Takeaway' is billed as 'the first British-Chinese musical' and stars openly gay British-Chinese actor Stephen Hoo. Written by New York-based playwright Robert Lee, and directed by Kerry Michael (artistic director at the Theatre Royal Stratford East), it's a fantastical story that challenges some of the stereotypes surrounding the young British Chinese experience. It also features a strong gay storyline. Stephen Hoo tells us more.

Tell us about the play and your role?
'I play Eddie Woo - a British-born Chinese boy working in his father's takeaway shop. He's at a crossroads in his life. He's failed his A-levels, juggling two girlfriends and in his spare time fantasises about being Tom Jones. “Takeaway” is a musical with lots of music, dance and
most of all humour. It's about identity, self-perception and finding who you are.'

What attracted you to the part?
'I really liked the vision that the writer, Robert Lee, had for this musical - the way in which stereotypes are turned on their heads and how people deal with racial identity. But also doing it
in a way that's fun. Kerry Michael, the director, also had the same desire as I do, to try out new things and go where other people haven't. Theatre, musicals, film and TV programmes about the lives of British-Chinese are few and far between, so I was attracted to that aspect too. Also, Theatre Royal Stratford East's devotion to theatre which actively includes representing the lives of multicultural Britain.'

How significant is the gay storyline involving your character?
'I think it's very important. “Takeaway” is a musical that presents a boy who works in a Chinese takeaway as more than just a servile person behind a counter, and as a complex sexual being who's doing the nasty with boys and girls.'

Many actors are reluctant to come out as gay…
'It's not issue for me. My job as an actor and my sexuality are two separate things that, depending on the job, completely inform each other or have absolutely nothing to do with each other.'

Is there a fear of being typecast, not only as gay but as gay and Chinese?
'I've played gay, straight,a homophobic rudeboy bully, a gay footballer, an American-Chinese alcoholic chef, a bleach-blond male gigolo, a transsexual and now a British-born Chinese bisexual
Tom Jones wannabe. Being gay and Chinese has only ever been a good thing!'

How do you think heterosexual audiences will react to the play's gay content?
'Well, being a liberal, lefty, artsy creative-type gay Londoner living in the twenty-first century, I would
be perplexed if anyone had a problem with it. The gay content is just one small part of what makes life so varied and rich. If people have a problem with it, then they can eat me!'

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