Ali Wong says it was important to her that all of her character's love interests were Asian-American
Ali Wong knew exactly what she was looking for when it came to casting her love interest in the new Netflix rom-com Always Be My Maybe.
The comedian, who co-wrote the script with costar Randall Park, needed someone funny with solid acting chops, but most importantly, someone of Asian descent.
Enter Keanu Reeves.
Wong, who plays Sasha, a celebrity chef reigniting a childhood flame with former best friend Marcus in the When Harry Met Sally-esque comedy, says Reeves, 54, fit the requirements to a T.
“It was really important to me that all of [Sasha’s] love interests were Asian-American,” Wong, 37, told PEOPLE. “And we wanted to find a sexy Asian-American man who would be Marcus’ worst nightmare if he decided to confess his feelings. In everything I do it’s very important to show my attraction and desire towards Asian-American men.”
And as she elaborated to The Hollywood Reporter: “The only person in the entire universe who fits all those parameters is Keanu Reeves.”
The John Wick actor, who grew up in Canada as the son of an American with Chinese-Hawaiian ancestry, has long been on Wong’s radar, she told Vulture, ever since he starred in the 1994 flick Speed.
“Since I first watched Speed, I was very aware that Keanu was Asian-American because my family and community wouldn’t shut up about it,” she said. “Maybe other people didn’t know but I never forgot that.”
Though the team behind the film brainstormed other possibilities, including Tony Leung, Mark Dascascos, M. Night Shyamalan and even Paul Giamatti, Reeves remained the “dream guy,” director Nahnatchka Khan told Vulture.
“We all thought it was going to be impossible to get him. What was the likelihood of him being available, and then also him being willing to play himself?” Park, 45, told Vulture.
As viewers know, Reeves plays (spoiler alert!) a heightened, eccentric version of himself in the film, something Wong says he immediately embraced upon signing onto the role.
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“The part where he’s listing off all those Chinese dignitaries, that was his idea,” she told PEOPLE. “And then the part where he’s like, ‘I don’t have a problem, Sasha, what’s your problem?’ and starts air fighting, he improvised that as well.”
She added, “He’s a funny, sweet, professional guy who’s really like, about the work. And so much so that it wasn’t intimidating. He was very approachable.”
Always Be My Maybe is streaming now on Netflix.