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SNL's Bowen Yang recalls reaching out to Shane Gillis amid the comic's racial and homophobic slur controversy

  • GQ

    In a profile of Yang, GQ revisited the groundbreaking moment Yang was hired as the first cast SNL cast member of Asian descent, along with Gillis and Chloe Fineman. "When SNL announced additions to its lineup—Bowen, Chloe Fineman, and Shane Gillis—there was an air of excitement," writes GQ's Chris Gayomali. "Notably around Bowen, the first Asian American person to join the cast provided you discount things like the one-fourth-Filipino part of Rob Schneider. But the mood shifted when the internet uncovered a video from 2018 in which Gillis was heard participating in a rambling tangent about Chinese food, Chinatown, and the people who inhabit it. Gillis said the word 'chink' in the clip, and soon his name became a trending topic on Twitter." “It was hurtful, but at the same time it wasn't even that surprising,” Bowen says of the incident. “It's sh*t I've heard all my life.” Gayomali adds: "Gillis was ultimately removed from the show. As the chaos swirled around them, Bowen tracked down Gillis's contact info, opened up some space in his heart, and texted him something along the lines of: 'Hey, this is all really crazy.… Let me know if you want to talk.' Bowen didn't hear anything that night. The next day, in an odd bit of cosmic symmetry, he was on the set of Nora from Queens for the last day of shooting, surrounded by his Asian cast mates, when Shane finally hit him back....When they talked, Bowen says Gillis was contrite. The two reached an understanding, and that was that." “He deserves some level of progression out of this,” says Yang. “We both deserve to not live in this moment that was unfortunate for everybody for the rest of our careers.” Gayomali says of the controversy: "Folks on the internet (myself included) pitted Shane against Bowen when neither of them asked for it, inadvertently showing how tricky it is for a young artist burdened with being a 'first': You might be a product of your different overlapping identities, but you don't want to be defined by any one of them. All you want is the basic human luxury of being seen as multidimensional—to have the opportunity to grow and live in your complications." ALSO: Check out SNL's Season 45 cast photo.

    TOPICS: Bowen Yang, NBC, Saturday Night Live, Shane Gillis