It's been several years since Sherlock last went off the air, but the buzzworthy and polarizing BBC series still manages to be a topic of conversation in the time since. The series saw Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman) traveling throughout the modern day to solve an array of mysteries, elements of which have already taken on a different meaning in hindsight. Among them is the series' second episode, "The Blind Banker", an episode that has been criticized due to its stereotypical portrayal of Asian characters. Crazy Rich Asians and Marvel's Eternals star Gemma Chan, who appeared in the episode as Soo Lin Yao, recently addressed the problematic aspects of the episode in an interview with British Vogue.
"Would I necessarily make the same choices now, if given the choice? Maybe not," Chan explained. "I think I would speak up more if I felt that a role was leaning into an orientalist trope of some sort. I'm much more aware. And I think I'm in more of a position where I could say something."
"With complete respect to everyone involved… I'm not here to throw shade on anyone… but yeah, I totally hear what you're saying," Chan continued. "I don't look down on anyone doing any position or in any job on set. The industry has really shifted, even in just the time that I've been working. Changing the actual culture – changing in practice – takes longer."
In "The Blind Banker", Chan's Soo Lin Yao was a pottery expert at London's National Antiquities Museum, who catches the suspicion of Sherlock and Watson. Eventually, it is revealed that Soo Lin and her brother are tied to the Black Lotus Tong, a secret society whose work involved smuggling antiques out of China. Soo Lin was then murdered by her brother in the ensuing fight.
Elsewhere in the interview, Chan spoke about the experience of Asian representation in the entertainment industry, revealing that she hopes to open the door for other Asian talent.
"There's a way that you can honour the spirit of your ancestors by actually trying to do something different, which I know is a privilege," she says, thoughtfully. "This is the argument I tried to put to my parents back then, when things were tough: hopefully, you work to make sure the next generation has even more of a chance to do something different and change things for the better for the rest of the community, or the next generation after that."1comments