There were also other pioneering [East and Southeast] Asian American actors like Benson Fong, Victor Sen Yung, Lotus Long, Suzanna Kim, Barbara Jean Wong, Fely Franquelli, Chester Gan, Honorable Wu, Kam Tong, Layne Tom Jr., Maurice Liu, Teru Shimada, Willie Fung and Wing Foo; all began their film careers in the 1930s and ‘40s.
With the relatively small percentage of actors that support themselves by acting, it was only logical that they should try to limit the available talent pool as much as possible. One way of doing this was by placing restrictions on minority actors, which, in the case of Asian actors, meant that they could usually only get roles as houseboys, cooks, laundrymen, and crazed war enemies, with the rare “white hero’s loyal sidekick” roles going to the big name actors. When the script called for a larger Asian role, it was almost inevitably given to a white actor. (A Brief History of Hollywood Yellowface)