Ever since Darren Barnet first captured the collective hearts of the internet playing Paxton Hall-Yoshida in Netflix’s teen drama series I have never, the breakout star tapped into his own identity to bring high school idol Sherman Oaks to life. Not only did Barnet’s own Asian American ancestry influence Hall-Yoshida’s part-Japanese background on the show, but the actor’s identity also influenced the show’s storyline and sparked important conversations. Amid Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month (May 1-May 31), the actor sat down for an exclusive interview with Elite Daily, and quotes from Darren Barnet about his legacy for AAPI Heritage Month get real about his “ambiguous” experience of being mixed race – and why he loves it.
Barnet — whose mother is of Swedish and Japanese ancestry, while her father has German and Cherokee roots — says starring on the show put more emphasis on her Asian roots on a personal level, actually.”[putting] on the breath. Not only did creator Mindy Kaling seek permission to incorporate Darren’s legacy into Paxton Hall-Yoshida’s identity after hearing the actor practice Japanese with an assistant director, but Hall-Yoshida can also be seen exploring his legacy in the series. For example, when an extra credit draft revealed that Paxton’s grandfather had been one of more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry imprisoned in an internment camp in the United States.
Barnet, who says the show’s open discussion of Japanese internment camps has been met with an outpouring of support from fans, told Elite Daily it was rewarding to represent his Japanese heritage on screen. , especially as a person of mixed background.
I really didn’t fit into any box, which I personally appreciated.
“I have always been very proud of my Japanese heritage. . .” he says. “I’m not always the guy you look at and say, ‘Oh, he’s an Asian American person.’ But to be part of I have never really highlighted that for me where I’m a part of the show and I really immerse them in my culture. It’s something I’m really proud of. »
Barnet hopes portraying a character of Asian descent will inspire others with similar backgrounds to feel empowered and inspired. “We live in a very diverse world, and I think it’s important that every young person or old person can look at something and see themselves. [in a character] and see the possibilities,” he says.
While Barnet has already opened on struggling with his mixed identity and not feeling “white” or “Asian” enough, depending on whether he hung out with his white and Asian friends, he says that ambiguity is something he really appreciates now.
“Growing up and having white friends, the fact that I was Japanese wasn’t a deterrent or anything, but it was always something I was proud of,” he says. “I was always happy when people talked about my Japanese culture and so on, but then I had Japanese friends and [other] Asian friends, and it was almost like my white Indian or Cherokee side was more of a topic.
Barnet says this ethnic and cultural ambiguity has not held him back, but rather made him feel more free in terms of expressing himself and finding a place as an individual of mixed background.
“I didn’t really fit into any box, which I personally appreciated,” he says.
While fans will have to wait until summer 2022 to see Paxton Hall-Yoshida return for I have never Season 3, the 30-year-old actor is currently breaking boundaries as PINK’s first male ambassador for the retailer’s first gender-neutral collectionwhich you can buy from VictoriasSecret.com.