He also told the Herald Sun that the decision was a nod to George Takei, who played Sulu in the original 1966 “Star Trek” television series. Takei and his now-husband, Brad Altman, have been together for 29 years.
Sulu will be the first LGBTQ main character in the franchise, which is known for breaking boundaries. The original TV series famously featured American television’s first interracial on-screen kiss in 1968, only a year after anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
On paper, it looked like a rough year for Asian-Pacific Islanders on network television: The Mindy Project was on the verge of cancellation. NBC axed Community, and confirmed the end of Parks and Recreation for 2015. Sandra Oh officially left Grey’s Anatomy. Glee edged closer and closer to the end of its run while slowly pushing its Asian characters out of the credits.
According to an annual report on television diversity released by GLAAD, the number of Asian-Pacific Islanders on network television had been on the rise.
In the 2013-2014 season, 6% of broadcast series regular characters were Asian-Pacific Islander, but in the upcoming year, only 4% of characters will be Asian–the only ethnic group to see a decrease in diversity from the previous year.
“Aside from the need for more representation despite the real progress we’ve made, I was disappointed that we lost some really great Asian-American representation this past year,” Philip Chung, co-founder and blogger at YOMYOMF, said, listing Oh and Community’s Danny Pudi and Ken Jeong as examples.
But while the number of Asian characters appears to be shrinking next season, the quality of roles, Chung points out, has noticeably changed. Asian-Pacific Islanders in 2014 were cast in more prominent roles than the previous year, giving actors like John Cho, Ming-Na Wen, and Nasim Pedrad (who previously made headlines as Saturday Night Live’s first west Asian cast member) opportunities to step beyond smaller supporting and guest appearances on TV.
The leaps forward in casting choices have not come without their setbacks. After months of anticipation among critics and bloggers about the casting of John Cho, an Asian male, to play the lead in a romantic sitcom, his show Selfie was canceled after just seven episodes.
“It’s rare to see an Asian-American male as a lead in a comedy, especially one that has romantic possibilities,” said 8Asians editor Joz Wang, who called Selfie’s cancellation the biggest disappointment for Asian Americans on TV in 2014. “While the show didn’t catch on as quickly as the network would have wanted, many Asian Americans watched the show specifically for John Cho.”
“Getting [a show] about an Asian American family on the air is a frickin’ miracle.”
Even though Cho never received top billing in Selfie, many felt ABC’s choice to cast him as the show’s male romantic lead was long overdue. His elevation to “leading man material” appeared to be the first step in seeing more Asian-Pacific Islanders as true television stars, not just supporting characters.
To date, few Asian actors have ever been cast in lead roles on a network level. The first to break through was Pat Morita, in the 1976 show “Mr. T and Tina” (it was considered a flop, and went off the air after five episodes).
Today, Lucy Liu plays a prominent character in Elementary, though not the lead, as does Kal Penn in the upcoming CBS drama Battle Creek. Even Hawaii Five-O, which Wang noted has been “great because it’s set in Hawaii and there are many opportunities for Asian-American actors,” stars two Caucasian leads. “All the Asian Americans still play second fiddle in terms of billing,” said Wang.
The last network show to cast an Asian male with top billing was CBS’ Martial Law starring Sammo Hung in 1998. Hung, who spoke little English, had just a few lines in each episode, and was reportedly paid half of what his co-star Arsenio Hall made.
Currently, the total number of Asian actors to receive top billing on a network primetime series is one: Mindy Kaling. Since the 2012 premiere of The Mindy Project, Kaling has received praise for being the first woman of color to write and star in her own show since Wanda Sykes in 2003.
But Kaling has come under fire for what some see as her failure to leverage her influence for push for more diversity on network television.
In a letter to Fox, Media Action Network for Asian Americans President Guy Aoki said the show lacked diversity–particularly when it came to romantic interests. “We are concerned that in the course of two seasons, [Kaling’s] character, Dr. Lahiri, has had a ‘white-only’ dating policy involving about a dozen men,” Aoki wrote. “And except for this season’s addition of African American Xosha Roquemore the cast continues to be all white…She’s creating the impression that by surrounding her character with mostly white people and dating only white men that Lahiri’s become more accepted by the white population.”
Kaling defended the show at a SXSW panel early in the year, saying, “I have four series regulars that are women on my show, and no one asks any of the shows I adore — and I won’t name them because they’re my friends — why no leads on their shows are women of color, and I’m the one that gets lobbied about these things.”
Despite any criticism and low ratings, Kaling herself saw a year filled with successes in her own career, from being named a Glamour Woman of the Year to the announcement of her second book, Why Not Me?, which will be released next year. In November, Fox also added six episodes of The Mindy Project, stretching the season from 15 episodes to 21, and fueling speculation that the show will be renewed for a fourth season.
Kaling won’t carry the mantle for Asian network primetime leads alone much longer. She will soon be joined by Korean-American actor Randall Park, who will star in ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat–the first network show to feature an all-Asian American cast since Margaret Cho‘s 1994 series All-American Girl, which was canceled after one season. Following a slate of recurring roles on television (including The Mindy Project), Park will receive top billing when the series premieres in 2015.
“Getting a television series on the air is an incredible feat,” Park wrote in a post for KoreAm Journal online in June. “Getting one with no bankable name stars in today’s television climate is damn near impossible. Getting one about an Asian American family on the air is a frickin’ miracle.”
The series, based on the memoir of celebrity chef Eddie Huang, has received its share of praise and criticism since ABC added it to its mid-season lineup. Park is one of the targets of the early backlash because his character is Taiwanese (not Korean like Park is) and speaks with an accent (which Park does not naturally have).
But in the same KoreAm post, Park acknowledged he raised that same issue himself, but was repeatedly assured he was the right actor for the role.
“Hopefully audiences and the network will give it a chance.”
“In an ideal world, I would never have to play a character with an accent,” he wrote. “But this is a character based on a real person. So it’s something that I have to honor and try to perfect as the series moves forward.”
Early viewers of the pilot have been defensive of the series, hoping to save it from suffering the same fate as All-American Girl and Selfie. “I thought it was very funny and despite some of the early backlash from people who haven’t yet seen the show,” YOMYOMF’s Chung said. “Hopefully audiences and the network will give it a chance.”
Justin Lin is boarding the USS Enterprise and will direct the third installment in Paramount Pictures’ “Star Trek” franchise.
The hiring of Lin came two weeks after Roberto Orci backed away from the directing gig.
Orci had been hired for the helming job after J.J. Abrams had to exit the sequel due to his commitment to direct Disney’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Abrams directed the first two “Star Trek” reboots in 2009 and 2013.
David Ellison’s Skydance Prods. is producing along with Orci and Abrams. Paramount has not yet set a release date for “Star Trek 3″ but speculation has emerged that the studio will release the film in 2016 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the launch of the original “Star Trek” series on TV.
Patrick McKay and John D. Payne worked on the most recent draft of the script.
Lin directed the third, fourth, fifth and sixth installments of the “Fast and Furious” franchise.
Last year’s “Star Trek Into Darkness” grossed $467 million worldwide, including $229 million domestically.
On December 5, the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles nightlife was alive and well on the chilly winter night. On the outskirts of Koreatown stands the Legendary Park Plaza Hotel, the venue of Audrey Magazine and KoreAm Journal’s 13th annual Unforgettable awards gala.
When entering the hotel, guests were greeted with a giant, brightly-lit Christmas tree which was not only the perfect picturesque backdrop, but it also elicited a sense of holiday spirit. Curious as to what our guests had planned for Christmas, we asked a few to see what their responses would be:
Actress Ming-Na Wen, the recipient of the “Actress of the Year” award for her role in ABC’s hit television show Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., stated, “We’re going to Hawaii, but I’m going to decorate the house. I love decorating the house.”
A performer that night, David Choi attended the event along side YouTubers Arden Cho, Anna Akana, and Philip Wang. When asked how he was going to be spending the holidays the singer/songwriter simply replied, “I’m just going to spend it with family, visit my aunt with all my cousins.”
For his main role in the romantic comedy television series, SELFIE, John Cho was awarded “Actor of the Year” as well as Royal Salute’s “Mark of Respect Award.” Having just had his second child last year, he replied, “I’ll be around; the kids are too young to travel right now.”
Canadian-British actress Karen David, Princess Isabelle in ABC’s Gavalvant, is also going overseas, “For the holiday season, me and my hubby are going to Australia this year because my friend is getting married. I promised my parents that when we get back that we’re going to do a sort of post-Christmas celebration with them because it’s all about time with the family and having good food. And quite frankly, I miss my mother’s Chinese cooking, so I’m going home.”
Star of Disney’s newest animated film Big Hero 6, Ryan Potter answered matter-of-factly, “I have a bunch of videos to put together for my portfolio for CalArts, so that’ll be it. I’ll just be shooting and editing throughout the holidays, but I’ll still see my family. We’ll have a honey baked ham, so ya.”
Actress and YouTube personalityAnna Akana’s response was a change of pace: “I’m going to Italy in ten days! I’m really excited. Me and my boyfriend are going to for seven days over there and then we’ll come back to spend Christmas with my family.”
Known for her powerhouse vocals, The Voice winner, Tessanne Chin performed two amazing songs that fully displayed her talents. With the mention of the holidays, she sprung right into things, saying, “I’m so excited to see my family because we have been traveling so much this year. I actually get some special time with my husband, my sister, my daddy and my nephew. I can cook up some good food and just do nothing for at least a week or two. That sounds like bliss to me right now.”
In addition to John Cho and Ming-Na Wen, Arden Cho and Ki Hong Lee both received an award for “Breakout Star of the Year.” And this night wasn’t just about awards. There were a number of live performances that kept us on the edge of our seat.
Urban dance group KINJAZ kicked off the night with captivating moves followed by a performance by Tessanne Chin, whose powerful vocals left the entire audience in disbelief. Choreographer/dancer Mike Song and beatbox champion KRNFX teamed up for an equally entertaining and humorous performance followed by another duet courtesy of David Choi and Arden Cho. The audience sang along with the sweet duo before G.NA dazzled them with K-pop. Following an opening act by Howard Chen, Yoon Mi Rae hit the stage and brought the audience to their feet. This was followed by an unforgettable encore performance with Tiger JK and Bizzy.
Living up to its name, this night was truly Unforgettable.
–STORY BY AMBER CHEN All photos courtesy of White Rose Production.
Selfie put together one of the most promising interracial couples on television in the past ten years so it’s easy to understand the general dismay over its quick cancellation. There was protest over the internet, petitions made and many articles about ABC’s decision to pull the new show. And there is reason for it: Selfie was just getting good.
The show had begun to grow out of the initial premise of “the internet sucks and this is why,” and instead became more about the on-screen leads’ friendship and ability to help each other develop. John Cho and Karen Gillan’s characters had occasional moments of intense on-screen chemistry and fun. Their relationship, at its core, was a friendship first.
“When I was growing up, I was very much influenced by what I saw, and more importantly what I didn’t see on television.” said winner of reality TV show Survivor: Cook Islands, Yul Kwon. Whenever Kwon saw an Asian man on television, he was a kung-fu master who could kick ass but couldn’t speak English. Or a computer geek who could figure out algorithms, but who couldn’t get a date. As Kwon grew up, he began to realize that there were many more shades to an Asian American male than what was represented on television.
Seven years later, the video of this conference is still relevant. Sure, strides have definitely been made thanks to a range of Asian actors such as Steve Yeun and Danny Pudi. In fact, the conversation has extended itself to Asian American females in entertainment as well.
However, the de-sexualization of Asian men has not been cracked wide open as much as it has been separated. So far, Asian American males on television were either de-sexualized or pointedly given a loveline. Asian American actors still teeter on the edge of meeting the Western definition of a man, but we’re still missing a seat at the table of owning the agency to change that definition. As San Francisco Chronicle’s Jeff Yang says, “Coming from my own perspective…every time I hear people say ‘Oh you know, Asian American men shouldn’t be portrayed as geeky-looking and having glasses, and being nerdy and all this,’ I’m like, ‘You guys are, like, protesting in front of my mirror.’”
Which brings us back to Selfie. The goal right now is not what is the right kind of representation for Asian Americans, but instead, let’s try to represent as many Asian Americans as possible. John Cho’s character Henry was one that had seldom made it on-screen. Yes, he was a romantic lead, but sometimes he rhymed when he spoke. Sometimes he sold pharmaceuticals. Sometimes he was neat. He didn’t like Facebook, he had vulnerabilities and things to learn, and his role was fully inhabited by Cho. He had depth and intricacies beyond Hollywood’s cookie-cutter Asian American male.
The good news is that a character written like Henry made airtime and the show developed a solid fanbase. The so-so news? There is still progress to be made in sustaining characters once they developed. The de-sexualized, the international, the John Chos — there are still more Asian American characters waiting to be created and the cancellation of Selfie took a character who was not de-sexualized and not “made only here for a loveline,” but instead something in the charming middle, and set it aside.
Harold and Kumar — a.k.a. everyone’s favorite Asian stoner duo — are getting the animation treatment.
Some marquee names associated with the films — including star Kal Penn (who plays Kumar), actor David Krumholtz and producer Jon Hurwitz — tweeted several photos from the new cartoon’s very first table read this week.
“Had a wildly inappropriate morning,” wrote Penn in a tweet accompanied by a few photos of his character’s animated version.
Since the release of the first film “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle” a decade ago, the movies have earned cult classic status among fans and millions in box office bucks. Critically, the it was called “delightfully stupid,” but also “one of the few recent comedies that persuasively, and intelligently, engage the social realities of contemporary multicultural America,” by The New York Times’ A.O. Scott.
The network Adult Swim announced back in 2012 that it was working on the “Untitled Animated Harold & Kumar Project.”
The one thing the actors were vague about was when the series would actually debut. But fans can breathe a sigh of relief, actress Paula Garces assured her Twitter followers that it would be “sooner than u think!”
John Cho and Karen Gillan co-star in this fall’s “Selfie,” a series based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.“
The Star:(By: Tony WongStaff Reporter,Published on Wed Jul 16 2014)
John Cho in a romantic lead?
It’s hard to remember the last time an Asian male played a romantic character in a television series. Unless you count the time George Takei as Sulu in Star Trek groped Uhura. But that’s because he was momentarily insane.
Asians are among the most under-represented minority group on TV and Asian males in romantic leads are practically unheard of.
But Cho now finds himself starring in a modern remake of Pygmalion and the color-blind casting of himself as “Henry” with co-star Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) as Eliza Dooley in ABC’s Selfie for the fall TV season.
“I would call this revolutionary. It’s certainly a personal revolution for me,” said the 42-year old actor who says he normally never gets offered such roles. Fans may best know the actor as the current Sulu in the rebooted Star Trek, or as stoner Harold Lee of Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle.
“Asians narratively in shows are insignificant. They’re the cop, or the waitress, or whatever it is. You see them in the background. So to be in this position . . . is a bit of a landmark,” says Cho.
Selfie tells the story of Dooley, who seeks the help of Henry, who happens to be a marketing whiz, to remake her Internet brand. In the process, he changes who she is as a person.
Creator Emily Kapnek says producers initially thought along more conventional lines, casting someone who was British in the vein of the original Henry Higgins character.
“The casting process was pretty extensive . . . the idea was to find someone several generations older and British,” says Kapnek. “We looked at tons of different actors, and really once we kind of opened our minds and said let’s get off of what we think Henry is supposed to be and just talk about who is, we just need a brilliant actor—and John’s name came up.”
Kapnek said it was ABC who first brought up the idea of color-blind casting.
Once Cho was cast, writers decided not to dwell on the interracial relationship, making it a non-issue in the storyline.
“To not even talk about it is a really new and, I think, mature way to look at it,” says Cho.
There aren’t obvious similarities between Cho’s tech-savvy character and the curmudgeonly Henry Higgins who teaches Eliza Doolittle linguistics in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.
But Cho says he could relate to the role from his experience as a high school English teacher in California.
His immigrant background (he was born in Seoul, South Korea) also helped him to further appreciate the spirit of Henry Higgins, a character who has spent his life studying the mannerisms and speech of others.
“As an immigrant, I learned by watching other people,” says Cho. “When you’re not born in this country, you kind of study how people talk and how they act and you try and break things down.”
Unlike Eliza, Cho doesn’t have a lot of choice when he finds himself needing a mentor for his upcoming role. The question is, will his new-found leading man status pave the way for other actors of color?
Fans of the original “Star Trek” television series, which aired from 1966 to 1969, are familiar with the old trope of the expendable Asian crewmember. Every week, one or two unlucky marginal characters, wearing the red shirt of a Security Officer, would join a landing party that usually consisted of Captain James Kirk, First Officer Spock, and Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy from the starship USS Enterprise. The trio would beam down to the planet’s surface along with the Expendable Crewmember – who would promptly get killed off by a space monster/mysterious sentient cloud/primitive hostiles. The Expendable Crewmember became such a routine part of the storyline that it was spoofed on the animated television show “Family Guy,” and became a running joke in the 1999 film “Galaxy Quest,” in which Sam Rockwell’s character, “Crewman no. 6,” is a nervous wreck named Guy, so forgettable to everyone that even he knows he’s doomed to die.
As little kid, I found it a bit odd that the Klingons always missed Kirk and hit the guy in the red shirt standing next to him. And as I got older, I couldn’t help but notice two strange trends beginning to pop up in Hollywood summer blockbusters: 1) Random storylines would detour to someplace in Asia for no particularly good reason, and 2) One useless Asian character – only one – would show up and stick around just long enough to make a vague impression as a villain. Then he or she would die at the hands of the good (white) guys, who would then march off victoriously into the sunset.
Now, it has been pointed out to me that the business of killing off villains is an equal-opportunity plot device, and Asian people are not being singled out for horrible deaths. Which is true. It’s long been the case that Hollywood casts ethnic minorities as bad guys so their heads can be blasted off. In horror films, there is also the bimbo rule, which requires hot blondes to get killed off first. This is neither racist nor sexist (see no. 7 on this list, John Cho, hot blond), but the norm.
The Expendable Asian Crewmember is different from the phenomenon known as the “Asian sidekick,” whose ranks include Cato in the “Pink Panther” film series from the ’60s and ’70s and remade in 2006; Kato in the “Green Hornet” television series from the ’60s, remade as a film in 2011; Mr. Miyagi in “The Karate Kid,” 1984, remade and moved from California to China, 2010; and the mutant Yukio in “The Wolverine,” 2013. But the vast majority of blockbuster film franchises have no Asian characters in them at all. In general, both New York City and The Future are curiously free of Asians except for Maggie Q, whose time-traveling powers enable her to pop up briefly in “Divergent,” 2014. There are so few Asians in the galaxy inhabited by Star Wars that a hilarious blog, “You Offend Me You Offend My Family,” has scoured the entire franchise for signs of Asian life. The results were: one rebel officer, and a dubious claim that Admiral Ackbar, fearless cephalopod leader of the Rebellion, was “Asian-like.”
Which brings me to the 2013 “Star Trek” reboot, with Zoe Saldana as Lt. Uhura and John Cho as Lt. Sulu, plus loads of “Asian-like” aliens, including Vulcans. When the most diverse cast in a Hollywood summer blockbuster happens to be based on a television show that debuted a half century ago, it’s better to be the Expendable (Asian) Crewmember than not be allowed on board at all. But I’m hoping it won’t be another 50 years before Mr. Sulu not only takes the helm but gets his own ship – and can star in his own film.
Here is a mere sampling of the Expendable Asian Crewmembers I’ve spotted over the years:
“X-Men 2: X-Men United,” 2003. Yuriko. The perfectly coiffed, impeccably manicured and silent assistant to evil mastermind Stryker, Yuriko turns out to be a super-villain called Lady Deathstrike whose abilities closely parallel those possessed by the Wolverine. Wolverine kills her by injecting her with the rare metal adamantium in its liquid form.
“X-Men 3: The Last Stand,” 2006. Kid Omega. As the Mutant Brotherhood organizes against humans, Kid Omega becomes one of Magneto’s new recruits. Played by Ken Leung, he can project spikes out all over his body in the manner of an angry porcupine. He dies in a blast of psychokinetic energy unleashed by the super-mutant, Jean Grey/Phoenix.
“Mission Impossible III,” 2006. Zhen Lei. Played by Maggie Q, this femme fatale joins the “Impossible Mission Force,” experiences a staged death, and disappears from the story. The fact that she is Chinese does not explain why the action relocates to Shanghai as opposed to, say, Southern California, which is also inhabited by white heroes plus a few Chinese people eating noodles.
“Live Free or Die Hard,” 2007. Mai Lin. Once again played by Maggie Q, Mai Lin is a cyber-terrorist with nefarious plans that vaguely involve computer hacking. Bruce Willis blames her for the awful script and throws her down an elevator shaft.
“The Dark Knight,” 2008. Lau. Played by Chin Han, Lau is a mob accountant who hides the mob’s money and flees to Hong Kong for the express purpose of getting Batman to Asia for an extended tourist commercial involving many tall, sleek skyscrapers. Batman brings Lau back to the U.S., where he is killed by the Joker.
“X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” 2009. Agent Zero. A mutant expert marksman, Agent Zero, played by ethnic Korean actor Daniel Henney, not only looks fine in a tailored black suit, he has better hair than Wolverine. After many tries, Wolverine finally succeeds in mussing his rival’s hair by downing his helicopter and blowing it up.
“Total Recall” (remake), 2010. Bob McClane. Played by John Cho, better known as Lt. Sulu from the “Star Trek” reboot, Bob gets killed off when he stupidly asks secret agent Doug Quaid about his feelings. This taboo question prompts a police raid that results in everybody except Quaid getting shot.
“Pacific Rim,” 2013. My friend Minsoo Kang, who is an expert on the history of automatons, told me that not one but “two Chinese robot operators” show up and get crushed when monsters mash their robots. (They die at the same time and don’t have names, so I will count them as one.) Not only does this film have a female lead played by Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, but it’s set in Hong Kong, which gets smashed by machine-monsters. This film didn’t do very well in the U.S. but did extremely well in Asia (e.g., China, Korea and Japan). As summed up by Forbes, Pacific Rim was “the rare English-language film in history to cross $400 million while barely crossing $100 million domestic.”
“Red 2,” 2013. Han Cho-Bai. He is an international assassin sent to kill retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses. Moses is played by Bruce Willis, so you know he doesn’t get killed off. Neither does Han Cho-Bai (played by Korean actor Lee Byung-Hun), because he’s a red herring who is really a disguised sidekick. Though I enjoyed the display of his martial arts skills, he’s got no business being in this film except to sell tickets. It made nearly twice as much in foreign receipts as it did in the U.S., and the bulk of those tickets were sold in Japan and South Korea. Could there be a theme developing here? Why, yes! And it leads directly to…
“Godzilla” (remake), 2014. Dr. Serizawa. Played by the legendary Ken Watanabe, the Serizawa character appears in the 1954 version set in Japan, where he unexpectedly dies. Crucially, the original Godzilla hit U.S. theaters around the same time as the first wave of Asian immigrants, in the aftermath of WWII and the Korean War. Sixty years later, the newer, sexier version of the giant lizard suggests that Godzilla is a strong, charismatic, assimilated Asian-American who wants his own starring role in a summer blockbuster without so much goofy metrosexual makeup. And just as some of the funniest Internet memes focus on the giant lizard’s new Hollywood look, it’s not a done deal that Serizawa’s character gets killed off this time around, even if he is the only Asian character with a name, thus adhering to the one-Asian rule. I guess you could call that progress.
The number of Asian American actors on network television shows will increase this fall season. John Cho will star in ABC’s comedy “Selfie,” which is described as a modern version of “My Fair Lady.” On CBS, Kal Penn will appear in “Battle Creek,” a show about detectives working in a small town, and Maggie Q was cast in a new thriller entitled “Stalker.”
A new comedy show based on chef Eddie Huang’s memoir will be on ABC and is the first sitcom in two decades that focuses on an Asian American family. “Fresh Off The Boat” will star Randall Park and Constance Wu and features the culture shock 12-year-old Eddie experiences after moving to Orlando from D.C.’s Chinatown. In addition, CBS picked up “Scorpion,” which will be directed by Justin Lin, who is known for the “Fast and Furious” franchise.
Walking Dead‘s Glenn Rhee, played by Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, is not the stereotypical Asian-American male in most Western mainstream media. He is just a former pizza delivery guy from Michigan who is pretty good at stabbing and stomping zombie brains. His love and devotion to his wife, Maggie, and his bonding with group in the prison are no different from most men of other cultures. Glenn does not use any mathematical genius to calculate the time it takes for the group to travel from one place to another, nor does he use any special kung fu kicks or ancient Chinese secrets to overcome ravenous zombies or sociopathic tyrants and bandits. For example, in Season 3, a simple headbutt was his response to Merle’s snide comments about his wife. No karate chop needed.
There has been much discussion about the lack of legitimate film and TV roles for Asian-American men in a predominantly “black and white” entertainment industry in the United States. Not only are Asian-American portrayed as shy and somewhat anti-social nerds, martial art masters, or bumbling immigrants who speak with a heavy accent, they are sometimes substituted by White actors to play Asian roles. Examples of this can be seen in the movies21 and The Last Airbender and in the 1970s TV series Kung Fu, starring the late David Carradine.
The stereotypes among Asian-American males did not stop Yeun from flying to L.A. from Chicago to star in The Walking Dead. He was nervous about what is expected of him during the initial wardrobe fitting, and he tried not to think about who he looks like. “They put me in these clothes that made me look like Short Round,” Yeun said, referring to the sidekick who screamed, “You call him Doctor Jones!” in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He bit his lips and told himself to not to worry about his appearance or what others may think of him.
Yeun’s character fulfills roles that can be played by anyone. Of course, there are a few times when Glenn’s race and Korean heritage are mentioned, such as in Season 1 when Daryl referred Glenn as a “Chinaman,” in Season 2 when Maggie’s father, Herschel, asked where he’s from, and in Season 3 when Merle remarked to Daryl that he “damn near killed that Chinese kid,” in which Daryl corrected, “He’s Korean.” These are very minor details that can be changed or omitted according with the character.
Before the Walking Dead star became a familiar face on prime time television, Yeun had worked briefly in theater in Chicago and had turned down a gig. He thought that would be portraying the negative stereotypes among Asian-Americans. The producers of the gig asked him to do an eighties monologue, and Yeun opened one from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. After that, they asked him if he could do an Asian accent. Yeun turned skeptical. What the producers really wanted to see was Yeun playing the character Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles. “After that, they wanted to book me and I just refused,” Yeun said.
The Walking Dead is not the only show that portrays more variety among Asian-American male actors who are playing roles that are not dictated by stereotype, race, nationality, or accent. These actors including John Cho from Harold and Kumar, Daniel Dae Kim from Hawaii 5-O, and C.S. Lee from Dexter. However, the pioneer to resisting Asian-American male stereotypes should be accredited to George Takei, the famous helmsman of the U.S.S. Enterprise on the original Star Trekseries who proved that Asians can drive.