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Sumi Haru, 75, insisted that Hollywood create better roles for Asians




Screen Actors Guild president Barry Gordon passes the gavel to first vice president, Sumi Haru, who becomes acting president (July 1995).
Screen Actors Guild president Barry Gordon passes the gavel to first vice president, Sumi Haru, who becomes acting president (July 1995).
SAG-AFTRA

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Sumi Haru might not be a household name, but she did a lot to influence the way Asian-Americans are seen on screen.

She passed away late last week at age 75, and the actress had modest success with TV roles in the 1960s and 70s.

However, she found her true calling as an activist.

"It wasn't until I came to Hollywood that I found out that I was Asian because that's all I was going to play -- I wasn't going to be the girl next door," she told the website Genius in Motion, "and so then I had to get steeped in not being Filipino because most of the roles were Japanese -- that's what the name Sumi Haru comes from. My real name is Mildred Acantilado Sevilla."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLVkJ4uFM8s

Haru founded many of the diversity initiatives at SAG, working with Hollywood executives to have more roles for Asians that weren't limited to being domestic workers, dragon ladies or martial artists.

Her friend and fellow actor Jack Ong explains that she had no regrets in putting her activism ahead of her own career.