Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors
Currently Known For:
Actress and Singer
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors
“I think it was hard for people to cast me as an ethnic, as an Asian American woman.” Despite being only 26 years old, Chloe Bennet has already proven her talents as an actress and singer in Hollywood. While she launched her career in 2010 as a pop star, Bennet soon made the transition to acting when she landed the role of Daisy “Skye” Johnson (Quake) on the ABC hit television series, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In the role since 2013, Bennet continues to wow audiences with her performance and has recently reprised her role in the animated series, Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors. But, the actress’s greatest accomplishment, at least for now, is becoming a household name as one of the few multiracial female protagonists both on television and in the Marvel realm of superheroes. So, how exactly did she end up in the spotlight after getting her start in the Windy City? Let’s take a look!
“I grew up with six brothers and I’m from Chicago, so princesses and Barbie dolls were not around the house. It was more like sports and comic books…” The only daughter of seven children, Chloe Wang came into this world on April 18, 1992, in Chicago, Illinois where her Chinese father is an investment banker and her Caucasian mother is an internist. Raised in a rowdy household alongside three biological brothers, two African American foster brothers, and an adopted Mexican-Filipino brother, she spent much of her childhood reading comic books and playing wild games with her brothers before her interests shifted after she enrolled at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago. While there, Bennet’s passion for music blossomed and, by the age of 15, she was ready to pursue her talents abroad as she moved to Beijing, China to live with her paternal grandmother. Her goal was to launch her singing career as Chloe Wang.
Once in China, Bennet’s heritage made it easy for her to attract fans as she learned the country’s native tongue, Mandarin Chinese, and released two singles—“Uh Oh” and “Every Day in Between.” By the time she left China in 2010, she was a pop icon and set her sights on Hollywood to try her hand at acting. “I like to think my career in China as that awkward teenage job that everyone has whether it’s waiting tables or babysitting, I happened to be a pop star,” Bennet said of her early career. “But I never really felt like I was really connected to my own music, so I never really felt like it was the right thing for me. I felt like I was acting like a pop star. It’s been so different, but I’m so much more comfortable doing what I’m doing now.”
Bennet settled down in Los Angeles, California after her 18th birthday and still had ambitions to sing, which is how she snagged a hosting gig on the TeenNick television dance series, The Nightlife. The series was canceled after only four episodes, but Bennet had already moved on and made an appearance in the 2011 music video for “Tonight” by the South Korean band known as BIGBANG. During this time, she slowly made the transition to acting and changed her last name to Bennet to increase her chances of landing more prominent work. “Oh, the first audition I went on after I changed my name, I got booked,” she said after adopting her father’s first name as her last. “So, that’s a pretty clear little snippet of how Hollywood works.”
“Getting to work for Marvel is like my version of being able to be a princess… but once you’re cast in a Joss Whedon Marvel show, you go and become even more of a bigger fan. You do your homework.” As it turned out, Bennet’s name change was all it took to get her career rolling as the young actress landed her first recurring role on ABC’s popular television drama, Nashville, from 2012 to 2013. A year later, her life changed forever when she auditioned for and won the part of Daisy “Sky” Johnson / Quake on the comic-based television series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Coincidentally, Bennet had to lie about her age to get the part.
“Actually, to get cast on my show, I told them I was 27 when I was 20 years old,” she later admitted. “I lied because people always assumed by the way I acted that I was older. And I always saw my youth as a bad thing, because to me, it meant I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t experienced enough, I wasn’t capable enough to handle the responsibilities I had. I’ve always felt completely capable, but I also felt the pressure from everybody else around me. So, I lied to get the job. I remember when I turned 21 on the reshoot of the pilot of S.H.I.E.L.D. and everyone was like, ‘How old are you turning now?’ and I was like, ’21! I can drink!’ And they were like, ‘But really, how old are you turning?’”
Despite having to lie about her age, Bennet was thrilled to land the gig after so many years struggling to find her place in Hollywood—a land where Asian-American actors are few and far between. “When I was a kid, I genuinely didn’t think I’d get to be on TV without having blonde hair and blue eyes. When I first got to LA, I was told I wasn’t ‘white enough to be the lead or Asian enough to be the best friend,’” Bennet admitted. “And I thought that was true! It’s crazy, in hindsight, how racist that really was, and I accepted it and thought that it was normal and okay. The show has been so empowering for me in that way, to have young people of all different backgrounds come up to me and tell me they feel they can be an actor, because of me. It’s incredible to be that face.”
Overcoming those early challenges, Bennet has been on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for the last five seasons and is thrilled at how her character has developed. “When I found out about how skilled Daisy was, I wanted to make sure that came across as authentically as possible,” Bennet said of embracing her role as Daisy. “So, during our hiatus, I put myself through my own training. They said, ‘Oh, a week before we start filming, you’ll do some training,’ and there was just no way, in my mind, that was going to be enough. So, I did two months of rigorous stunt training—kickboxing, boxing, krav maga, jiujutsu—to kind of build up my ability to do what Daisy does effortlessly. I mean, I try and make it look effortless.”
Bennet certainly makes her stunts look effortless on S.H.I.E.L.D. as the show wrapped up its fifth season in May 2018 but not before ABC renewed it for a sixth and seventh season. “I’m so proud of what the show has done, and I think we haven’t gotten enough credit for the amount of diversity we bring to our show,” Bennet says of the series’ ongoing success. “Our showrunner is an Asian-American woman, and our two lead females are Asian-American women. 90% of stunts and the ass-kicking and the saving on the show are from the women. I don’t think that’s talked about enough! We’ve quietly been breaking new ground.”
Part of the show’s success is its openness to allowing its stars to try their hands behind the scenes, which is exactly what Clark Gregg has done beyond starring as agent Phil Coulson. Gregg was invited to try his hand as a director in the show’s fifth season, which came as a pleasant surprise for Bennet. “Throughout the series, I’ve always looked at Clark as a guide creatively and as a mentor on set, because every eight days, we have a new director come in and out,” Bennet says. “He’s really been a staple for me throughout the series, so having him direct an episode didn’t feel that crazy, because I’ve always kind of looked at him as a leader, on and off screen.” So, how did Gregg do behind the scenes?
“He basically gave us permission to play more, and to bring different nuances to scenes that I wouldn’t have probably had the opportunity to do before or have thought to do before, and because he’s spent so much time with us actors and he knows where we thrive, whether it’s bringing out a comedy bit, or being like, ‘Why don’t you really mean this, rather than say this sarcastically?’” Bennet said. “So, there were a lot of little tricks—he had a good strategy with us and I think he really elevated the script in a way I don’t think any other director could have done.”From Television to Film: Silver Screen Projects and Beyond
Apart from her work on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. over the last five seasons, Bennet has also made her way to the silver screen with her first appearance in the 2014 short, Nostradamus. She then lent her voice to Chase in the 2015 animated film, Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Never Beast, and reprised her role as the voice of Daisy Johnson / Quake in the 2018 animated film, Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors. Her latest voice project will hit theaters in 2019 and will find Bennet voicing Yi in Abominable.
Bennet recently wrapped up production on her first full-length live-action flick, Valley Girl, which is a remake of the 1983 romantic comedy classic starring Nicolas Cage. Bennet will star as Karen or Queen Bee in the musical, which means Bennet will get to show off her beautiful voice in the film. Coincidentally, Valley Girl also stars YouTube celebrity Logan Paul, whom Bennet dated from July to October 2018.
While the release of Valley Girl has been postponed due to the controversy surrounding Logan Paul, Bennet has plenty of ideas in mind for the future and admits that she would love to one day join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “I can’t lie,” she says. “It would be so cool to fight alongside the Avengers. But I think Jessica Jones would be cool, too. She and Daisy would have great backtalk, and funny conversation. I’d probably like to hang with Jessica but fight alongside the Avengers.”
Beyond her dreams of joining the MCU, Bennet is grateful for her Hollywood stardom and the chance it’s given her to shed an even brighter light on her heritage. “I think what’s really dangerous with what, continuously, is happening with Asian-Americans in Hollywood is there’s a narrative that white Hollywood or just any other ethnicity really in Hollywood gives to Asian-Americans that, ‘You’re the butt of the joke,’” Bennet told NPR in 2017. “They’re determining that we’re the nerds, that we’re the shy girls or that the guy that can’t be sexy because he’s an Asian man.”
Bennet’s opinion even turned heads in late 2017 when actor Ed Skrein stepped down from his role as Major Ben Dalmio in Hellboy. At the time, many wondered why Skrein, a Caucasian actor, had been chosen to play the Japanese-American from the Hellboy comics. Bennet used social media as a platform and posted her thoughts on Instagram writing, “Changing my last name doesn’t change the fact that my BLOOD is half Chinese, that I lived in China, speak Mandarin, or that I was culturally raised both American and Chinese. It means I had to pay my rent, and Hollywood is racist and wouldn’t cast me with a last name that made them uncomfortable.”
While Bennet has since taken the post down, the 26-year-old actress is the first to admit that social media is a double-edged sword since it makes it easy for her to compare herself to others in a negative way while also giving her a platform to inspire others. “I feel more heard,” she says. “I feel like I’m being taken seriously. I feel like I can say something and it won’t be judged because of my race or my sex or my age but because I have the insight and the knowledge to say something about it because of who I am.” That insight is exactly why Bennet is one of the most beloved stars in the Marvel television universe!