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Why Leona From What Dreams May Come Looks So Familiar

The following slide discusses suicide.

When the fantasy film "What Dreams May Come" first premiered in 1998, the majority of reviews were mixed. However, now that it's finding new life on Netflix, viewers are discovering a new appreciation for the imaginative film. Loosely based on the novel of the same name, it follows a pediatrician named Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) who dies in a car accident, leaving behind his wife, Annie (Annabella Sciorra). Overcome with grief, Annie ends her life and is sent to hell in a nightmarish reality built from her pain. Chris then goes on a fantastical journey through his imagined Heaven to rescue Annie and spend eternity by her side.

"What Dreams May Come" is a tearjerker (to say the least), and is made even more powerful thanks to the stunning performances of the cast. One of the supporting characters that Chris meets in heaven is a woman named Leona, who resembles a stewardess that Chris once saw during his time on Earth. The actress who plays Leona is an accomplished performer in her own right and has been in countless films over the years. Here's where you may have seen her before.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Rosalind Chao's breakout role was on M*A*S*H

Rosalind Chao started her acting journey in the '70s and landed her breakout role in the American war dramedy series "M*A*S*H" in 1983. She played the role of Soon-Lee, a South Korean refugee who went on to marry one of the show's stars Maxwell Klinger (Jamie Farr) in the series finale. The final episode, titled "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," set records for the highest-rated television program, the largest total audience, and the most households to watch a television program (per Finest Kind). Chao continued to portray her role as Soon-Lee Klinger in the show's successful spinoff, "AfterMASH."

Although Chao went on to become a celebrated actress, the start of her career had some hurdles due to the lack of Asian representation in Hollywood. In an interview with Variety, Chao reflected on her childhood and what drew her to acting. "I remember seeing Connie Chung on TV and that was my first memory of seeing an Asian-American woman who spoke like me and looked like me on camera," she explained. "I think that's why I flirted with being a journalist. I thought, 'That's something I can do.'"

After landing her role on "M*A*S*H," there was no going back, and Chao realized acting was her true calling. "Acting is an addiction," she went on to confess to Variety. "It kept coming back and there was nothing I loved more."

Rosalind Chao was part of the Star Trek crew

"M*A*S*H" isn't the only iconic series that Chao's been a part of. In 1991, she landed the role of Keiko O'Brien in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Keiko was known for being a botanist alongside her eventual husband Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney). Chao reprised her role in the sequel "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and had a larger role on the show, where she eventually became a teacher.

As is often the case in science-fiction media — see Kelly Marie Tran's treatment after appearing in "Star Wars" (via The Hollywood Reporter) — Chao's character has gotten mixed reactions over the years. As noted by The Mary Sue, Keiko has been called "boring, resentful, generally insufferable" and even unnecessary as a character, while on the other hand, the book "To Boldly Go: Essays on Gender and Identity in the Star Trek Universe" notes that Keiko and Miles' marriage has been dubbed "the only successful long-term relationship" in the entire "Star Trek" franchise, offering a more positive view on Chao's character.

Despite the conflicting views around Keiko, Chao's role was groundbreaking and another step toward more inclusive entertainment.

Rosalind Chao received recognition in The Joy Luck Club

Aside from television, Rosalind Chao has also made her mark in the film industry. One of her most notable roles was in the 1993 adaptation of Amy Tan's novel "The Joy Luck Club," which tells the stories of four mother-daughter relationships. Chao played Rose Hsu Jordan, whose marriage to her husband Ted Jordan (Andrew McCarthy) grows strained when life and work get in the way. To prevent her daughter from succumbing to a similar unhappy fate, Rose's mother An-Mei (Yi Ding) tells the story of her own mother's difficult life, and Rose becomes empowered enough to demand change from her husband.

"The Joy Luck Club" also broke the typical Hollywood movie mold by featuring a mostly Asian cast, something that wasn't notably done until "Crazy Rich Asians" came out in 2019. While many would've expected the success of "The Joy Luck Club" to inspire tons of other projects with more diverse casts, screenwriter Diana Son noted that the inherent bias in the industry prevented it. "It's not that 'The Joy Luck Club' failed to inspire Asian-American writers and directors to try to sell their stories," she told InStyle. "What it failed to produce was more financing opportunity. That just comes down to, were the people who were making decisions about what TV shows and movies get made, were they interested in our stories? And I think the answer was no."

Thankfully, Hollywood does seem to be changing for the better, as more recent Asian-led films like "Always Be My Maybe" have been hugely successful — and they have "The Joy Luck Club" to thank for paving the way.

Rosalind Chao has been in tons of other iconic films

Before she was in "The Joy Luck Club," Chao was in several other notable films, including the groundbreaking Western "Thousand Pieces of Gold" alongside Chris Cooper and Michael Paul Chan. After appearing in "What Dreams May Come," she continued to land roles in movies all throughout the 2000s, including "I Am Sam" as Lily, the "Freaky Friday" remake as Pei-Pei, and "Just Like Heaven" as Fran. Even today, Chao continues to appear in movies of varying genres. She was in the 2019 romantic comedy "Plus One" as Angela; the biographical dramedy "The Laundromat" as Gu Kailai; and, more recently, the live-action remake of "Mulan" as Hua Li, Mulan's mother.

"Mulan" is yet another notable film for Chao thanks to its predominantly Asian cast full of iconic stars, although it's had its share of controversy as well. Chao expressed her joy at seeing "Mulan" come to life on the screen, and told Variety, "If you were an Asian girl and this movie had come out when you were nine years old, wouldn't that have made a difference if how you felt about yourself? When I was starting out, everyone would say, 'Why would you do that? Do you see any other Asians in movies?'"

Rosalind Chao is a television star

Rosalind Chao is perhaps more well-known for her dozens of television roles, which prove just how talented of an actress she is. In the '70s, she had one-episode appearances in shows including "Here's Lucy," "The Incredible Hulk," and "A Man Called Sloane." Then in the '80s, Chao had longer stints in shows like "Diff'rent Strokes," "Falcon Crest," and "Max Headroom." And after her recurring role in the "Star Trek" shows, Chao landed roles in "ER," "The O.C.," "Six Feet Under," "Don't Trust the B—- in Apartment 23," and "Shameless."

Throughout her long and storied career, Chao has been in just about every genre imaginable. She told Variety that she can typically gauge fans by the projects they know her from, or want to talk to her about. "If it's 'Star Trek,' I know it will be an intelligent conversation. If they bring up 'Joy Luck Club,' I say something like, 'You must love your mom!' I get a lot of 'What Dreams May Come' and I know they're open to different ways of thinking of the universe. Then there are people who just think I'm their gynecologist or their daughter's teacher."

To get a glimpse of Chao in one of her earlier films, check out "What Dreams May Come" on Netflix.