Gemma Chan has admitted the decision to swap law for acting was a “painful” experience.
After finishing her studies at Oxford University, the Crazy Rich Asians actress received a training contract at a prestigious law firm, but she decided to walk away to pursue an acting career after taking night classes at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama.
She revealed the decision to ditch law and do a three-year course at Drama Centre London was difficult because it didn’t go down well with her parents.
“In all honesty, it was really painful,” she told British Vogue magazine. “My dad was always very much like, ‘Work for something that they can’t take away from you…’ I guess (‘they’ means) the world, or circumstances. Hence: get your qualifications. Hence: it was such a scary or completely inconceivable thing to pursue an unknown career in the arts.”
The 38-year-old admitted she used to have a lot of sleepless nights at the start of her career wondering if she had made the right call.
“Have I made a big mistake? Am I going to let down my mum and dad? Could I have had a secure career?” she shared. “You feel that responsibility more when you’re a child of immigrants.”
At drama school, the British-Asian actor was warned that she would find it tricky securing roles in the U.K. and suggested it would be better to go to America to launch her career, like Idris Elba. However, Gemma decided to stay, thinking, “Well, the thing is, if everyone just leaves and goes elsewhere, then what’s going to change?”
After years of small parts, Gemma’s breakthrough came with 2015 TV series Humans, which she has since followed up with roles in films such as Captain Marvel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Eternals.