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Kelsey Asbille's Ethnicity and Her Role in 'Yellowstone'

Edduin Carvajal
Jul 15, 2022
01:28 P.M.
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Representation has become a crucial element in Hollywood, which is why Kelsey Asbille's ethnicity sparked a debate after being cast in Kevin Costner's "Yellowstone."

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Born on September 9, 1991, in Columbia, South Carolina, Kelsey Asbille has been active in the entertainment industry since 2005, when she landed a part in "One Tree Hill."

Asbille claims to be of Cherokee descent, but some Native American actors felt offended after learning that she was cast as a Native American in "Yellowstone" even though she was not an enrolled member of that tribe.

Kelsey Asbille and Kevin Costner on May 30, 2019, in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

Kelsey Asbille and Kevin Costner on May 30, 2019, in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

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KELSEY ASBILLE'S ETHNICITY

Although Asbille's career in the entertainment industry has been outstanding, she raised many eyebrows in August 2017 following a New York Times news article about the difficulties of casting Indian actors in Indian roles.

Kevin Noble Maillard, the reporter who wrote the piece, used one of Jeremy Renner's "Wind River" scenes to plead his case that a White person would always be a foreigner in Indian Country no matter what.

Asbille played a young Indian woman murdered in "Wind River," and Maillard, an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, described her as an actress of Taiwanese, British, and Eastern Band Cherokee descent.

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Kelsey Asbille on February 09, 2020, in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

Kelsey Asbille on February 09, 2020, in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

Asbille pointed out that while she did not grow up in an indigenous community, she felt an "intense connection" to her character. Asbille added that the role was in her blood more than any other.

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Things complicated two months later when Asbille was cast in Kevin Costner's "Yellowstone." "Suicide Squad" star Adam Beach asked people to boycott the TV series because of Asbille's ancestry.

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Actor Sonny Skyhawk wanted to corroborate that Asbille was indeed a descendent of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and made an inquiry to the nation's Tribal Enrollment Office.

The tribe, according to the office, had no record of Asbille and could not find evidence that she was a descendant. Beach wanted to boycott the TV series because multiple Native actresses needed a job, and he felt they should have gotten the part instead of Asbille.

Asbille referred to [William] Moseley as her boyfriend in 2018.

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DeLanna Studi, the SAG-AFTRA National Native Americans Committee Chair, said Indian actors would not be that protective of their roles if showbiz were more of a level playing field. She added:

"[Native American actors] don't get the same opportunities as other groups, so that makes every Native role precious."

Maillard later clarified that while Asbille told him she was Cherokee, she never claimed to be an enrolled member. He also got her specific lineage from the Weinstein Company's press materials.

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KELSEY ASBILLE'S FAMILY

Asbille was born to Jean Chow and Brigadier General Jim C. Chow and is the older sister of Forrest and Kiersten. For her parents' first date, her dad, who is in the Air Force, took her mum out flying in his plane.

She started acting at 11 after her mother took her to a basic development class to build her confidence since she was a shy kid. At 13, Asbille got her first TV role in "One Tree Hill." For her first time on set, her mother drove her to Wilmington.

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If she hadn't fallen in love with acting, she would have studied public health because her family is involved in the health sector. Asbille's grandparents worked with the World Health Organization, her father is a well-respected surgeon, and her mother has a background in clinical psychology and law.

Despite her parents' professional background, they fully support her acting career, and when she attended the premiere of "Top Gun: Maverick," her father was her date. Asbille revealed that her father, who served in the Air Force and Air National Guard, had waited 30 years for that moment.

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Asbille's father is also the reason she started learning Chinese because he is Chinese. However, no matter how well she feels she speaks the language, her father tells her she says it all wrong.

Besides learning the language, the "Yellowstone" actress also honors her heritage through food. She revealed that food had always been something emotional and nostalgic for her.

Brigadier General Jim C. Chow and Kelsey Asbille at the premiere of "Top Gun: Maverick" on May 04, 2022 | Source: Getty Images

Brigadier General Jim C. Chow and Kelsey Asbille at the premiere of "Top Gun: Maverick" on May 04, 2022 | Source: Getty Images

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KELSEY ASBILLE'S ROLE IN YELLOWSTONE

Beach's proposed boycott didn't change anything as Asbille kept her job, and "Yellowstone" already has five seasons and three spin-offs.

Asbille plays Monica Long, the Native American wife of former US Navy SEAL Kayce Dutton, a man played by Luke Grimes. Their romance sparks a "Shakespearean war" between Long's people and the man she loves.

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Still, Long tries to honor her people by keeping a good relationship with the Chief and the rest at Broken Rock Reservation after she starts living with Kayce and the Dutton family.

Asbille has acknowledged the importance of her gig in "Yellowstone," and having Kevin Costner playing her father-in-law made everything more surreal. She labeled him as a living legend, adding that she is "forever starstruck" by him. She said:

"[Costner is] such a team player, so when you're working with him, you feel immediately very comfortable. It really was such a treat. To all be there, and be at the table with [Costner]."

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KELSEY ASBILLE DOES MORE THAN ACTING

In 2020, Asbille was still studying at Columbia University, where she was pursuing a degree in human rights. The school let her take her classes after each season of "Yellowstone" concluded, which has helped her balance both worlds.

Even though being a college student and a working actress has not been the simplest thing she has ever done, Asbille has managed to find a way to make them work for her.

When she is not at school or working, she loves to ride horses and see old film classics such as "Ball of Fire" in a movie theater. However, she grew up watching "My Best Friend’s Wedding" on VHS.

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KELSEY ASBILLE'S DATING LIFE

Asbille's love life has also made headlines, especially after rumors about her dating Ethan Peck made the rounds on the internet in 2011. They never confirmed their relationship, though.

The "Teen Wolf" actress dated "The Royals" star William Moseley. They worked together in 2013's "Run," and Asbille referred to Moseley as her boyfriend in 2018. However, sources said that they had started dating in 2012.

At the time, she mentioned that he was her boyfriend; she also revealed that her favorite piece of art at home was the one Moseley had gifted her for her birthday. The couple has kept their relationship private, and there is no news on whether they are still together, engaged, or broken up.

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