Immigration drama ‘Yellow Rose’ wants to diversify Asian-American stories in Hollywood

The dreams of an aspiring musician, interrupted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is the basis for a new film opening in May at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

Staring Eva Noblezada, Princess Punzalan, and Tony-winner Lea Salonga, “Yellow Rose” tells the story of Rose Garcia, a 17-year-old Filipino American girl from Texas who secretly dreams of becoming a country music star. When her mom is arrested by immigration agents, Rose runs away and is forced to embark on a journey to forge her own path or face deportation with her mother back to the Philippines.

The film features original music composed and performed by the cast and director Diane Paragas, who said she took her inspiration from 1960s and ‘70s country music stars — like Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson — in an effort to create a protagonist immersed in Austin’s music scene.

Inspired by her own upbringing in the heart of Texas, Paragas wanted to make a film with her hometown of Austin as the setting and spent 15 years developing the movie.

In 2014, Paragas released a short version of “Yellow Rose” with the intent of expanding it to a feature film.

While casting for the feature, Paragas said she had her eye on Noblezada, who was performing in London in the West End production of “Miss Saigon” at the time.

When Noblezada came to New York for the Broadway production of “Miss Saigon,” Paragas scheduled a meeting with her after one of her shows and offered her the role on the spot, adding that she would be willing to wait for “Miss Saigon” to finish its run.

“When you cast people that come from theater, which is big, you wonder if they can transition into film acting, which is more nuanced,” Paragas said. “Eva had this unusual cinematic style of acting on stage that is rare in musical theater. There’s something really special about her. Beyond her voice, she’s just an extraordinary charming natural actress.”

By Saleah Blancaflor for NBC NEWS

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