Ki Hong Lee romances ‘Kimmy Schmidt’ on Tina Fey’s new Netflix show

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Audrey Magazine:

This past weekend, Netflix premiered Tina Fey’s new series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. While Fey doesn’t star in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt like she does in 30 Rock, the show is unmistakably hers with its sense of outlandish, wacky humor. Another commonality Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has with 30 Rock is toeing the line with racial humor, whether it’s the use of ironic blackface in 30 Rock or Jane Krakowski’s backstory in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

When Korean American actor Ki Hong Lee (from The Maze Runner and People’s “Sexiest Men Alive” 2014 list) shows up as an immigrant Vietnamese character named Dong in Kimmy’s ESL class, it’s hard not to see parallels with Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles.  As soon as Dong is introduced, he laughs at Kimmy’s name because “it means ‘penis’ in Vietnamese.”

There are numerous “dong” puns afterwards, but Kimmy quickly tells a character to get over the snickering since Dong is a common Vietnamese name.

The rest of the series both plays into and subverts Asian stereotypes with Ki Hong Lee’s character. On one hand, Dong is working as a Chinese food delivery boy, good at math (though this is mostly just used as an excuse to have Kimmy and Dong spend time with each other) and worried about being deported. On the other hand, Dong is the rarest of the Asian American male characters — a viable love interest.

Part of what made Sixteen Candles Long Duk Dong offensive and racist is that he is made to seem like a buffoon. Long Duk Dong is not a human character, he is simply an amalgamation of Asian stereotypes to be laughed at. His romantic interest in Molly Ringwald’s character is never taken seriously by either the other characters or the audience. And therein lies the key difference between Long Duk Dong and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s character, Dong.

While Dong’s character is not without stereotypes, he is never ripped of his humanity. His romantic interest in Kimmy is never played for laughs; they are both outsiders in New York, they share a childlike innocence and glee in the silliest things, and they actually like each other. It’s rare to see an Asian male character as a viable part of a love triangle and even rarer to see the Asian guy “win.” In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kimmy chooses Dong and their romance is shown as something real.

By the end of season one, Dong is stuck in a situation where he can either continue to show up in the second season or be easily written out (Ki Hong Lee is currently a guest star on the show). Yes, Dong is character that could be tagged as #YourFaveIsProblematic on Tumblr, but if Ki Hong Lee isn’t too busy running in more mazes, we would definitely like to see where his romance with Kimmy goes.

 

‘Interview’ star Randall Park glad to switch gears with TV comedy

Randall Park speaks during the "Fresh Off the Boat" panel at the Disney/ABC Television Group 2015 Winter TCA on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Korea Times:

The Interview” actor Randall Park says he’s glad the film was finally released and he’s ready to move on to his next role — a suburban dad in an ABC sitcom.

Park, who played North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the movie at the center of the Sony hacking incident, was asked at a Television Critics Association meeting Wednesday if he feared any personal fallout.

I was never worried for my safety or getting hacked during that process,” he said.

What was unsettling, a smiling Park added, was to watch a TV newscast “and they’re talking about Kim Jong-un and showing my face.”

He said he’s excited about his role in ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” adapted from the memoir by food personality Eddie Huang.

The comedy, about an immigrant Taiwanese family adjusting to life in Florida, debuts Feb. 10.

Brian Tee joins the cast of Jurassic World

Brian Tee in Universal Pictures' upcoming Hollywood blockbuster "Jurassic World" as Hamada. "He's head of security for the park that they've opened in the movie Jurassic World," said Tee.

Brian Tee in Universal Pictures’ upcoming Hollywood blockbuster “Jurassic World” as Katashi Hamada. “He’s head of security for the park that they’ve opened in the movie Jurassic World,” said Tee.

Korea Times (by Brian Han):

Actor Brian Tee is on his way back to the silver screen in Universal Pictures’ “Jurassic World” as Katashi Hamada, “a greying Japanese badass” according to a snapshot of the script from JurassicWorld.org.

As of late he has been playing significant roles in more and more blockbusters, but by no means is he even beginning to feel jaded.

For an artist, working on big budget films is like being on a playground,” Tee said with a grin. “Honestly, I feel like a kid again being in movies with dinosaurs and mutants with super powers.”

In fact, many of his roles resonate with fond childhood memories.

I grew up watching ‘Jurassic Park’,” the actor said. “And being a part of ‘The Wolverine’ brought back memories of Halloween when I was 10. I remember making my ‘Adamantium’ claws out of cardboard and aluminum foil.”

Actor Brian Tee on the set of Jurassic World, which was filmed in Hawaii, Kauai and Oahu. (Twitter)

Actor Brian Tee on the set of Jurassic World, which was filmed in Hawaii, Kauai and Oahu.

I think that’s just the nature of the business,” he explains. “You’re only really as good as your last job and as a result I’m not going to focus on some imaginary benchmark. With each role I want to grow, change and expand my skill set. I want to take on roles that matter and try to change the scope of Asian Americans in this industry especially. That’s my goal.”

Even with an increasingly impressive track record, Tee still doesn’t feel quite like he’s made it.

It’s a lofty one, but considering his background and experience, Tee seems like a fitting candidate to help reshape Hollywood’s sometimes outdated perception of Asian cultures in America.

The 37-year-old is of Korean and Japanese descent and takes advantage of his familiarity with both cultures to expand his repertoire of roles.

In my 15 year career so far, I’ve played characters that are Korean, Japanese, Cambodian, Chinese and so on,” Tee said. “I fully understand that each Asian culture offers something unique and that in some cases there are overlapping and conflicting histories. In America, Asian Americans certainly have a voice and if we can somehow make it much more united I think we would all be better off. I’m a perfect example of two cultures that traditionally do not get along with each other and I’m just a blend of the two.”

This ideology may be a bit too forward-thinking for older or more traditional demographics as illustrated by Korea’s and Japan’s lasting tensions over the latter’s controversial World War II practices, but his point is that there’s an attainable middle ground especially in the context of a modern day U.S.

When I was growing up in Hacienda Heights [L.A. County], I had Korean friends, Chinese friends, Japanese friends, Mexican friends, black and white friends,” recalls Tee. “Maybe that’s just the culture of the suburb, but we all just grew up together and had fun together and that was it. That’s just the reality I was presented with as a kid and so I believe it can work on a larger scale.”

Despite his melting pot American upbringing, Tee was born in Okinawa, Japan as Jae-bum Takata — a combination of traditional Korean and Japanese names.

He knew that tension was supposed to exist between the two cultures, but never really experienced it growing up.

Brian Tee as Chinese American hitman Chaoz in the Korean film "No Tears for the Dead" (Courtesy of CJ Entertainment)

Brian Tee as Chinese American hitman Chaoz in the Korean film “No Tears for the Dead”

I knew it existed,” Tee explains. “I always felt like I was a special case. My mom was very open minded. She was a reporter for some Korean news agency. They ousted her from reporting in the Vietnam War because she was a woman so she left for Okinawa to pursue her work and her artistry.”

His father was born in the states and went to Lincoln High School in Los Angeles.

I think he felt less exposed to the traditional cultural conflict so that’s why it worked and they fell in love,” Tee said.

As for his given last name, Takata, Tee recalls an interesting confrontation right after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley as a theater major that led him to change it to something more culturally ambiguous.

It happened when I was first starting out and this is a time when actors usually try anything and everything,” he said. “There was this student film with a Korean director. He was asking for people to come in and read for a Korean character. He looked at my resume and sees the last name Takata then says, ‘You’re not Korean.’”

After feeling a bit taken aback, Tee tried to explain why he would be a good fit regardless of his name.

I’m half-Korean, my Korean mom had a strong presence in my life and I understand Korean culture,” he told the director. “I mean, this character’s supposed to be Korean American anyway and I grew up in L.A.”

Brian Tee in "No Tears for the Dead" (Courtesy of CJ Entertainment)

Brian Tee in “No Tears for the Dead”

Tee was asked to leave the audition without a chance to show what he could offer. It was of no use.

It seemed that if a college student was going to reject him based on a name, he might as well make some changes in case he ran into any similar issues in the future.

I changed it so I could give myself more opportunities,” Tee explained. “I didn’t want to be prejudged prior to showing my skills just because of a name. It was mostly a career move.”

Fittingly enough, there is now a demand for the actor in the Korean film industry.

He most recently took on a lead role alongside well-known Korean actor Jang Dong-gun in Lee Jeong-bum’s 2014 feature film “No Tears for the Dead.”

I’m a huge fan of Korean cinema so it was an honor to work with those guys and it was such an amazing experience,” Tee said. “There were a lot of translators on set, but I’m proficient in Korean so I could understand about 70 percent of what they were saying. We all spoke pretty freely. It never felt like it slowed down the process.”

Although there are many differences between how Hollywood and Korean film productions operate, one quality stands out in Tee’s mind.

For some reason there is still this old school idea in Hollywood, which is changing, that portrays Asian males as reserved, never showing emotion, and that’s good for certain situations and character types,” he said. “But after awhile it becomes a caricature.”

After venturing outside of the world’s entertainment capital, Tee found a creative freedom that he couldn’t elsewhere.

Korean cinema is the exact opposite of that,” he says in comparing the two industries. “They want you to emote and express and feel. It’s shown throughout a lot of their work, and audiences respond to that. Hopefully that will transfer into Hollywood and it already has on some level.

Tee continues to spread this progressive attitude through his work and that’s good news considering that he feels his acting career is just starting to blossom.

I really and truly love acting,” Tee said as he reflected on his career. “If it’s one thing I can tell other aspiring actors is that you need to love it, love it more than anything. I don’t say that lightly because there are so many pitfalls, rejections and disappointments and it’s that love that pushes you to stick with your craft. I think I can say I’ve lived that and I still am. I feel like my career is starting to hit its stride and we’ll see where that takes me.”

Daniel Dae Kim makes directorial debut on episode of Hawaii Five-O

Production kicks off Tuesday on Kim’s episode, which will feature McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Danny (Scott Caan) spending some time together while staking out the apartment of a beautiful criminal in order to catch her even more dangerous accomplice. As EW first exclusively revealed, this episode also features Cloris Leachman as a nosy neighbor.

I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to direct for a long time and I’m glad it’s with Five-0,” Kim says. “Peter Lenkov and the production team have been nothing but supportive, and I’m excited to work with my cast mates in a fresh new way. After working on a show for 100 episodes it’s easy to ‘take your foot off the gas’ a bit, but this has reinvigorated me in a great way.”

Adds EP Lenkov: “We are so thrilled to have Daniel direct this really fun episode. He knows our show inside and out, understands what fans love about Hawaii Five-0 and his creativity will be a welcomed asset. I’m proud he feels comfortable enough to take this leap with his Five-0 ‘ohana.”

‘Walking Dead’ star Steven Yeun on resisting Asian stereotypes

‘Walking Dead’ Star Steven Yeun on Resisting Asian Stereotypes

Backstage:

Within months of moving from Chicago to L.A. to pursue his acting dreams, Steven Yeun was running from brain-eating zombies on the AMC series “The Walking Dead.” But the newbie was understandably nervous when he started preparing for his first major television role.

When I moved to L.A. and I booked ‘Walking Dead,’ all I could think about was how not to screw it up,” he says. So during the initial wardrobe fitting prior to shooting the show’s first season, Yeun kept it to himself when his outfit reminded him of a certain Asian sidekick from another iconic action franchise.

They put me in these clothes that made me look like Short Round [from ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’],” he says, “and I didn’t say anything because I was just like, ‘Oh, don’t make a fuss, even though this is absurd and you look like Short Round.’ Nobody noticed until it aired, and then they all said, ‘Wait a minute, you look like Short Round.’ And I was like, ‘I know!’ But I was too afraid to say anything because I didn’t want to mess it up.” (His costumes have been tweaked since then.)

But years earlier, Yeun had turned down a theater gig because he thought he would be contributing to similar negative stereotypes if he took the role.

For my first audition ever, in Chicago, the producers of this little show asked me to do an ’80s monologue,” he recalls, “so I came in with Ferris Bueller’s opening monologue. They said, ‘That was good, but can you do an Asian accent?’

That’s when Yeun realized they just wanted to see his version of stereotypical “Sixteen Candles” scene stealer Long Duk Dong. “After that, they wanted to book me and I just refused,” Yeun says.

Not that he advises others to turn down jobs. Yeun says he understands why actors often end up in projects they’re not proud of.

All the power to anybody that takes work, because getting work in this business is hard as hell,” he says. “So you get work and you take it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But for me, I just couldn’t do it. I knew I couldn’t do a good job because I just didn’t believe in it.”

Like his onscreen alter ego, Yeun was born in Korea and moved to Michigan with his family at an early age. Yeun says he feels especially fortunate today to be playing a well-rounded character like Glenn—thankful not just for a prominent role in a hit show but also for the opportunity to portray an Asian-American character who is not defined by his race, ancestry, or accent.

Audrey Magazine: Get to know “The Interview” actor Charles Rahi Chun

CHARLES-RAHI-CHUN-sony-hacking-the-interview2

 Audrey Magazine:

Looking back at 2014, there was no movie quite like The Interview. A comedy about a fictional assassination attempt of North Korean’s current sitting leader Kim Jong Un, The Interview‘s release was preceded by the largest corporate hack in history, an online terrorist threat, and a last minute cancellation of the release which was quickly amended to a limited and online release after Sony, the distributor, was criticized by none other than President Obama himself. We spoke to one of the actors from The Interview, Charles Chun, who plays General Jong.


 

Audrey Magazine: What made you decide to become an actor? 

Charles Chun: My dream as a kid was to be an actor, but despite enjoying it in junior high school and performing and choreographing dance at Connecticut College, I didn’t honor this dream [until] a friend of mine took me to a dive bar in the lower West side of Manhattan to check out a cajun rock band called the Cowlicks. Physically, they were standing on stage, but emotionally, spiritually, and artistically, they were so into their music as if nothing else mattered, because they were doing what they love. In that moment, I realized I needed to pursue my dream of being an actor, and whatever the result, to know that I went for it.

AM: Can you explain your role in the movie?

CC: Sure. I play General Jong, the right-hand general to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. He’s an amalgamation of some of the hard-line generals of Kim. Seth and Evan, the movie’s co-writers along with Dan Sterling really did their research and wanted to illustrate the real life dynamics of North Korea, which is naturally comedic in a very tragic way. My hope is that the film will bring much needed attention to the atrocities that have been happening in North Korea under this fear-based totalitarian regime for way too long.

 

AM: What was the audition process like?

CC: I’ve played a variety of roles now in North Korean themed films and tv episodes, from U.N. Ambassador in The Art of War III, to a defecting North Korean scientist in Undercovers and a terrorist in Lie To Me, and it’s the job of casting directors in the entertainment community to know this. The casting folks at Sony reached out to my manager for a meeting, at which I performed two key scenes in the script and I was hired. Once I arrived on set in Vancouver and Seth and Evan saw that I worked well with their improvisational film-making style, they kept adding me to more and more scenes. It was a blast.

 

AM: What was it like on set? I imagine it must have been a set full of laughter, so what was the funniest joke that someone made? 

CC: I find Canadians to be amongst the friendliest and good-natured people I know. Seth and Evan, the co-creators and co-directors, have been best friends since pre-Kindergarten in Vancouver, and Seth and James Franco have been friends since their years on Freaks and Geeks.  Randall Park, who is amazing as Kim Jong Un, is a friend who I’ve known for 15 years as well.  So given all of these familiar dynamics, the set was very open and friendly, which is the best atmosphere for creativity, particularly for their improvised film-making style.

The funniest gag was probably when [spoiler] one of my North Korean comrades’ head explodes and his brain matter splatters onto my face. They use this machine that blows a chunk of red corn syrup with bits of fake brain matter with a kind of force that simulates… well, not that I would know, but a head exploding.  We had to get it in one take, given the mess involved and this huge splatter of blood and brain matter landed squarely onto my face. But as I was grieving for my comrade, a glop of brain matter began to slowly slide over my left eye while I was crying and I had to stay focussed and serious in grief, while this gross goop was sliding down my face. Everyone had a good laugh with that sequence.

It was a really fun shoot, and at the time, no one sensed the crazy escalating series of events that would make this such an international controversy and symbol for America’s freedom of speech and expression.

 

AM: What was it like for you when Sony announced that they would cancel all the screenings of the film? How did your friends and family react? Have you had to worry about any of your personal information being leaked?

CC: Everyday since our world premiere on December 11th, there has been some new twist or development. It feels like a gripping Netflix series. I was really bummed that Sony cancelled the Koream/Audrey red carpet premiere because it’s the kind of film to celebrate with our community. I’m just returning from my annual kundalini yoga retreat, and having been without news for just a few days, now that I’m back, it’s like catching up on several missed episodes of a Korean soap opera.

My friends and family have been really supportive and also in disbelief over this unbelievable series of events. It’s a comedy that’s gotten our President, the Republican National Committee, the far left and far right to all agree on saying, “go see this movie!”  It’s become a symbol of American freedom.

I’ve been asked by a number of reporters whether I’m concerned about my safety and I feel it’s shocking that this has become a legitimate question to ask. I’m an American actor living in Los Angeles, not in some Communist state and yet, this is a valid question to ask given the circumstances, which is just crazy. I love my freedom and choose not to live in fear.

 

AM: Have you been in contact with any of the other cast or Sony? How have they reacted?

CC: I’ve been in touch with both Randall and Diana since shooting the film and since our premiere. Can I just say that Randall is really amazing as Kim Jong Un. The film really hinges on his role and performance and the way Randall plays him is so smart and pitch perfect. Diana Bang, who they discovered in Vancouver and plays Sook, is also really excellent and I know audiences will be seeing a lot more of them both and rightly so. I think everyone involved with the film was really disappointed when Sony cancelled the opening, and equally elated when they decided to release it. It’s a very funny movie and it should be enjoyed by audiences who want to see it.

 

AM: What do you hope to take away from all this and what is next for you?

CC: It’s my greatest hope that what WE take away from all of this, as a society, is that the US and the world refuses to be intimidated by the fear tactics of others, whether it’s this corrupt North Korean government who is cruelly oppressing their own people or some other entity. And I hope the take away for the international community is that we cannot continue to allow for North Korea to treat their own people in such soul-crushing, horrific ways.

As for me personally, in addition to enjoying playing doctors, dads and North Koreans in tv and films, my other passion is holistic health and somatic healing, to expand the body’s natural capacity to experience energy and pleasure. You can find more detailed information about the health benefits of these sacred practices and my work here. I’m happy to go into more detail about my journey with this specialized modality, but that would constitute a whole other interview. Suffice it to say, that as an actor, holistic healer and Korean American, I believe we are here to realize our dreams, and hold nothing back within our mind, body and spirit in realizing this.

Celebs react furiously to Sony’s cancellation of ‘The Interview’ 

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 Audrey Magazine:

On December 17th, Sony Pictures announced that they would not only cancel all advance/private screenings of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s The Interview, they have completely pulled the plug and will no longer release the film in theaters on Christmas day. In fact, the studio has no further release plans for the film at all.

As you may already know, all of this is in response to cyber attacks on Sony Pictures which resulted in a leak of countless private emails. The hackers, known only as “Guardians of the Peace,” then threatened to perform an “11th of September”-style attack on all movie theaters showing the film which portrays the assassination of North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un.

As a result, the nation’s five biggest theater chains (Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Cineplex Entertainment and Carmike Cinemas) all decided to cancel showings of The Interview. Sony Pictures then cancelled the film entirely. Despite our efforts to support talented Asian American actors, even our very own screening of The Interview was cancelled.

Sony released a statement on Wednesday:

In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.

Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.

 

Some support this decision and claim that safety must come first. Others shake their heads in disappointment over Sony’s decision and point out that this cowardice gives hackers even more power to control. Many Hollywood celebs have put in their two cents and it is clear that this news does not sit well with them.