LOS ANGELES •Awkwafina brought on the laughs last year in Crazy Rich Asians. Now, she is making viewers turn pensive with her role in The Farewell, whose world premiere over the weekend at the Sundance Film Festival drew a standing ovation.
The movie stars the 29-year-old as a Chinese-American who returns to China to visit her ailing grandmother. She agrees to help stage a fake wedding to make the elderly woman - who does not know of her terminal illness - happy.
"It enriches what we know about Asians, it adds substance to the characters," the Deadline entertainment portal cited her as saying about the subject matter in The Farewell.
"You have the first evolution, then you have the second evolution of stories," she added, alluding to Crazy Rich Asians, whose feel-good romantic-comedy vibe generated box-office buzz last year.
She is not upset that Crazy Rich Asians did not garner Oscar nominations, knowing that change cannot be rushed.
"I don't really know the exact reasoning behind it, but yeah, of course it would have been cool," she told trade publication Variety.
Still, "we actually won the Critics' Choice Best Comedy. I don't think we anticipated it to be nominated for any awards, so the fact that it got as much recognition as it did, I think that's enough".
The Farewell looks set to catapult her to a higher orbit, with the movie close to landing a deal with indie studio A24 for worldwide distribution rights, Variety noted. Netflix and Amazon were also reportedly keen to snap up the rights.
Awkwafina, who said in an earlier interview that she wants to play "something that's not necessarily meant for an Asian" - is set to lend her voice to the sequel of The Angry Birds Movie (2016) and is in talks to star in the follow-up to Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017).