David Henry Hwang has come clean over the “Yellow Face” controversy surrounding the 1991 Broadway transfer of West End hit Miss Saigon. “I lied to Cameron Mackintosh,” revealed the American playwright in The Guardian about his dealings with the mega-producer at the time.
When Mackintosh announced that Jonathan Pryce, the British Caucasian actor who had originated the role of the Engineer in London, would play the part in New York, Hwang wrote a letter objecting to the casting, since the Engineer is Eurasian. The playwright subsequently leaked the missive to the press, in the process becoming the public face of the many protestors. Hwang now admits: “Frightened and overwhelmed, I denied having done so.” He now wants to "apologize to Cameron Mackintosh for my deception.”
Pryce kept the role, winning a Tony for his performance, although subsequent Engineers have been played by actors of Asian descent. Meanwhile Hwang, with his plays Face Value and Yellow Face, explored racial identity. A new production of Miss Saigon will open in London this month; Jon Jon Briones, who was born in the Philippines, is playing the part of the Engineer.