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considering his background and experience, Tee seems like a fitting candidate to help reshape Hollywood’s sometimes outdated perception of Asian cultures in America.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

Link

Five Films Where the Asian Male Lead Gets the Girl

 

Korean star Jang Dong-Gun made his American film debut this past weekend in the martial arts Western The Warrior’s Way. A number of Asian Americans have pointed out that Jang gets to share an on-screen kiss with co-star Kate Bosworth—a rarity in Hollywood for an Asian male to be both a lead and a romantic lead (watch almost any American film starring Chow Yun Fat, Jackie Chan or Jet Li to see how chaste their relationships with their leading ladies are).

But as rare as this is, this isn’t a “first” as I’ve heard some folks proclaim. Hollywood has indeed produced other films where the Asian male lead does get the girl (sometimes even “defeating” his white rival in the process). Here are five of them in no particular order:

1) THE CRIMSON KIMONO (1959)

No other non-Asian probably did more to advance three-dimensional portrayals of Asians and Asian Americans in Hollywood than director Samuel Fuller and nowhere else did he do it as well than in this gritty, crime noir set against the backdrop of L.A.’s Little TokyoJames Shigeta and Glenn Corbett are best friends and LAPD detectives investigating the death of a stripper. Beautiful Victoria Shaw is the witness who steals the hearts of both men; creating a racially tinged tension in their friendship for the first time. Since this is a Hollywood movie where an Asian American man and a white man both vie for the same white woman, it’s obvious who’ll win in the end, right? Well, luckily, this is Fuller who never did the obvious. Shaw realizes she loves Shigeta and the two even share a passionate and controversial (at the time of its release) kiss in the middle of the Little Tokyo Nisei Week parade.

2) HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY (2008)

John Cho and Kal Penn are back in this hilarious sequel to Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle as the titular stoners who are mistaken for terrorists and find themselves on the run. The plot may be kicked off when the two friends embark on a plane trip so Cho’s Harold can track down and win the love of his hot neighbor Paula Garces, but Cho isn’t the only one to have a love interest this time around. Penn must also stop the impending wedding of former flame Danneel Harris who is engaged to rich douchebag Eric Winter. Not only do both dudes win their respective girls, but they also get to romp around the magical city of Amsterdam in the process. Some guys have all the luck.

3) FLOWER DRUM SONG (1961)

The Crimson Kimono wasn’t the only Hollywood flick where James Shigeta gets the girl. In fact, he probably got more play on screen than any other Asian American leading man in movies like Bridge to the Sun and this musical based on the Rodgers and Hammerstein (The Sound of Music) Broadway stage hit where he gets to romance both Nancy Kwan and Academy Award-winning actress Miyoshi Umeki. And it’s not only Shigeta who gets in on the action, the late character actor Jack Soo also finds himself some lovin’. In the turbulent 1960s, Asian American activists found fault with Flower Drum Song for its stereotyped view of American Chinatown life. While there may be some truth to that, this is also a fun and even progressive film that showed Asian Americans could sing, dance and have as good a time as anyone else. And any Hollywood movie where the only white people who appear are either extras or a token thief with two lines of dialogue is more slyly subversive than it might appear on the surface.

4) DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY (1993)

This biopic of the late, great martial arts superstar features then newcomers Jason Scott Lee and Lauren Holly as Lee (no relation) and wife Linda and doesn’t back away from exploring the different facets of their relationship including both the racism they experienced and a healthy sexual life. Like Shigeta, Jason Scott Lee would have a brief run as a Hollywood romantic lead in films like Map of the Human Heart, but it’s here where he really showed audiences that an Asian male could headline a Hollywood project and be sexy, strong and charismatic. Too bad that’s a lesson that hasn’t been taken to heart in the intervening years since this movie’s release.

5) DAUGHTER OF SHANGHAI (1937)

Chinese American Anna May Wong stars as the daughter of a Chinatown merchant who is killed by illegal immigrant smugglers. Korean American Philip Ahn is the FBI agent who teams up with her to successfully bring down the international smuggling ring. What’s pretty amazing is that this is a studio film from the 1930s that features two Asian American actors as the heroic leads (Ahn is an American FBI agent) and the white characters as the villains. Reflecting the social mores of the time, the relationship between Ahn and Wong is pretty chaste by today’s standards (off screen, the two were longtime family friends), but when Ahn asks Wong to marry him at the end of the movie and she accepts, it carries a real impact. At a screening of the film at UCLA a few years back, the audience erupted into thunderous applause at that moment, which shows how powerful it still is but, sadly, how far we haven’t come since then either.

 Check out this link:

Five Films Where the Asian Male Lead Gets the Girl