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Gemma Chan doesn’t want to answer questions about her race anymore, for this powerful reason

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Hollie Richardson
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Gemma Chan looks forward to not having to answer questions about her race ever again

I Am Hannah star Gemma Chan has discussed the barriers for actors of colour while promoting her highly-anticipated new Channel 4 show. 

I Am is the powerful new TV drama anthology which tells three women’s different personal stories about relationships, identity and empowerment.

Last week, Vicky McClure drew from her own experiences to play Nicola, who was a hairdresser stuck in a coercive relationship. Both critics and viewers applauded the emotionally raw and thought-provoking episode for highlighting such a prevalent yet hidden issue.

This is why we’re looking forward to seeing Gemma Chan play Hannah in the third and final episode next week (6 August), following Samantha Morton’s turn as Kirsty tonight (30 July).

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Speaking about the project, Chan explained: “Like many women I know, Hannah is struggling with the anxiety that comes with living in a society that constantly reminds women about their ‘biological clock’. At its core, her story is about someone trying to free themselves from expectation, both internal and external.”

Fertility pressures in your 30s is definitely something that a lot of women will be able to relate with, which is why the actor’s words around the issue have made for interesting reading. But Chan has also had another important issue to discuss while promoting the show.

In an interview with the Guardian, she talked about how there were very few roles for actors of colour when she first started professionally acting 11 years ago. However, the fact that she is still asked about her race in interviews proves that there is still a long way to go in diversifying casts.

I Am Hannah
I Am Hannah: Gemma Chan starred in the first season of the Channel 4 show.

“I don’t think we’ve turned a corner until we don’t have to talk about it,” she said.

“The ideal place would be for it to be completely normalised and not a big deal. And I feel like we’re working towards that, in all different kinds of areas, not just to do with race, to do with sexuality, gender, body type, body size, everything.

“I feel like we’ve made huge strides in the last couple of years. But I’m really looking forward to the time when I no longer have to answer questions about race.”

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So, what is I Am Hannah about?

I Am Hannah tells the story of a woman in her mid-thirties who struggles to satisfy the societal expectations that surround her. Hannah (Chan) has reached a crossroads in her life. She is single and has a successful career. Yet she’s hungry for freedom to make her own choices and is hesitant of getting tied-down. She must endure her mother’s appeal to start a family before it’s too late, while watching her friends settle down and have children. Searching for meaning Hannah goes on a series of dates which ultimately push her into a deeper sense of insecurity and anguish. After a disastrous blind date, she hopes to find love and trust in James (Arinze Kene) but has to decide if they have a future together. Hannah faces impediments both within and out of her control, and is confronted by a crisis of aspiration and identity.

Watch the trailer for Channel 4’s I Am

Images: Getty and Channel 4

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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