The evening before earning a prestigious 11 Oscar nominations, including best picture, director and three of a record-setting four nods for actors of Asian descent, the cast and crew of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” gathered for dinner. in Monterey Park.
Their unlikely journey to the Academy Awards had been planned for weeks to celebrate. Then Saturday’s mass shooting, which left 11 dead and nine others injured, shocked the predominantly Asian enclave and the AAPI community at large over the Lunar New Year holiday.
Scared and devastated, the crew of the “EEAAO” decided to go ahead with dinner at Atlantic Seafood and Dim Sum on Monday night, making a point to support and uplift a community still reeling from the tragedy.
When their group arrived, actor Ke Huy Quan was sad to find the area and its businesses relatively empty. “We started the night recognizing what happened,” said Quan, who earned his first Oscar nomination Tuesday for his supporting turn as the kind-hearted Waymond Wang. “We had a moment of silence for the victims. We wanted to show Monterey Park that we love them.”
The film, which is also nominated for screenplay, score, song, costumes and editing, is the rare award contender made by and focused on Asian Americans. Filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert are nominated for best picture (with producer Jonathan Wang), original screenplay and director.
Oscar nominee Michelle Yeoh leads the sci-fi action ensemble as Evelyn Wang, a Chinese American laundromat owner who has the power to cross the spectrum – and is the only one in there to save it from destruction.
“Last weekend was really tough,” Yeoh told The Times, calling from London, where she is reuniting with “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu on a big-screen adaptation of “Wicked.” “Our hearts go out to the victims and their families in Monterey Park. It’s heartbreaking. Moving forward, we must help each other to heal.”
This is the first Academy Award nomination for the Malaysian-born actress, who won many accolades for her portrayal of a perfect mother and wife who unleashes limitless possibilities in her alternate life in “EEAAO”.
The role in particular is one of the few major Hollywood turns written for an Asian woman. If Yeoh wins, she will make history as the first Asian best actress winner at the Academy. Accepting the Golden Globe this month, Yeoh thanked Kwan and Scheinert, “who had the courage to write about an ordinary immigrant, an aging woman, a mother, a daughter.”
Yeoh, who began her career in Hong Kong, spent time in the San Gabriel Valley while filming recent projects in Los Angeles. After watching the nominations live via Zoom with her “EEAAO” family on Tuesday morning, she expressed her hope that the message of the medical film will offer a “flash of light” from generation to generation.
“We need to hold hands, hold each other and have hope in our hearts that we can step out and make things better,” she said. “I hope that this will be a small beam of light, that we can accept each other together and say, ‘Let’s lift each other out of this sadness and grief.’ We need hope, love and forgiveness.”
Born and raised in Torrance, Hsu earned her first supporting actress nomination alongside Jamie Lee Curtis for dual roles as Evelyn’s daughter Joy and her omnipotent ego Jobu Tupaki. When news of the Lunar New Year tragedy broke, she was far from home in Sydney, Australia, feeling “helpless and hopeless and angry”.
Growing up, “we went to Monterey Park every other weekend to grocery shop,” she said by phone. “I found myself thinking, what would make me feel better right now? How can I cry – and also, what can I bring out of this?”
She comforted herself by re-watching “EEAAO” over the weekend and on the plane ride back to Los Angeles, where she landed on Tuesday morning shortly after the nominations were announced. “I wanted to see the Chinese New Year celebration. I wanted to remember that this movie was about kindness and love,” said Hsu. “I wanted a dose of that.”
Former child star Quan, who made a comeback last year with his beloved turn in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” also has a personal connection to Monterey Park that left him grieving over the weekend. He and “The Whale’s” Hong Chau are the first performers of Vietnamese descent to earn an Oscar acting nod.
“I lived and grew up there for many years,” Quan said of Monterey Park, where 65% of residents identify as Asian, according to US census data. “It’s a place I’ve called home for a long time. I know the neighborhood well. I know the people, the community. I know many of the businesses. And I was struggling.”
As the news broke on Sunday, Quan found himself glued to the television. “I don’t even remember how much I cried,” he said. “But then I realized we can’t cancel. Now is not the time to stay away from Monterey Park. Instead we should go there and support them and show them our love. The local businesses need us.”
He encouraged people to show up for the people of Monterey Park and its local businesses, which rely on revenue during the Lunar New Year holiday.
“It was so sad when we saw that the streets were empty. We walked into the restaurant, and it was empty,” he said. “I’m glad we went. We didn’t shy away from it. We did not cancel. We went there, we showed them our love, we supported the business, and I think that’s what people should do. That’s what I hope.”
For those interested in donating, visit the victims’ fund sent by Asian Americans for Justice Southern California and other organizations.