Tag Archives: asian-american

Interview with ‘The Wire’s’ Sonja Sohn: Not ‘Your Typical Black Girl’

by guest contributor Wah-Ming Chang, originally published at Tripmaster Monkey

Like all the characters on the acclaimed HBO drama The Wire, Lieutenant Kima Greggs is a fascinating mix: an ass-kicking black lesbian cop in a department dominated by men. And as it turns out, the actress who plays her—Sonja Sohn—is just as complicated. A husky-voiced woman of African American and Korean parentage, Sohn (who’s straight, in case you’re wondering) got her start in the New York slam-poetry circuit (including the Def Poetry Jam) before moving on to the TV and movie game (check her out in Shaft). TMM’s Wah-Ming Chang recently caught up with Sohn to pick her brain about poetry, gay cops and why she’s not “your typical quote-unquote black girl.”

TMM: One of the things that really distinguishes you is your voice. It’s so sexy and husky. Most of us can sound that way only when we have colds, but your voice is just so sexy. Does it help you get roles?

SS: I think that everyone has a certain kind of energy that places them, and I think that my voice helps me in how people perceive me in the business. So, I guess you can say that it does.

How do you use it for effect in slam poetry? Does it help you in your acting and your performance in having that background?

I think every poet, no matter what type of voice they have, has to use their voice for different kinds of emphasis. I just think that’s a part of performance they should own. When it comes to acting, though, I don’t think it can be a conscious kind of thing, unless you’re just having a problem with projection, unless it’s a technical issue, like working with mikes and in theater. Other than that, it can’t be something that you’re conscious of, otherwise you’re just taken out of the character and out of the moment. Depending on the kind of poet that you are and your material, you use your voice as an instrument, whereas in acting, you use your whole body. But you definitely use your voice as a tool.

You work with the mike when you’re doing poetry, you do have to know your voice, and you have to know how it carries over the mike and how close you should be to it, and how to work with the mike. Because all you have at the end of the day onstage is your voice. If you are someone who uses your body, uses a lot of body language, you have that, too, but I was pretty much just a vocal person. I was very dramatic, which is pretty much how I think I segued into acting. My type of performance lends itself to the craft of acting. Continue reading

Corbin Bleu and Brenda Song bring diversity to The Disney Channel

by guest contributor Karen Gilmore

corbin bleuThe Disney Channel is adding more diverse faces in its program line-up. Corbin Bleu and Brenda Song are ones to watch. Corbin Bleu is one of the stars of the Disney Channel’s break-away hit High School Musical. The half Jamaican, half Italian star has found his stride in the the ‘tween and teen audience. He stars in the upcoming Disney Channel movie “Jump In” opposite of Akeelah and the Bee’s, KeKe Palmer. He recently signed a record deal and has an album slated for Fall 2007 release.

I find it a little sad that a couple of the most asked questions he gets according to his journal are: 1.) What is your ethnicity? and 2.) How does he get his hair like that? In an interview Bleu was aked what are some of the struggles for him in the entertainment business? His answer:

…A lot of times, they’re not looking for your type, especially because I’m mixed, especially. A lot of times they either want to go full on Caucasian or they want to go full on black. They either want somebody who is really black and from the street, and urban, and a little bit ghetto, or they want a Caucasian. That’s probably one of the hardest struggles for me.

Then there’s Brenda Song. The leading Asian-American face on The Disney Channel. She’s Thai-American and Hmong according to her website. She’s a regular cast member on the Suite Life of Zack & Cody and she starred in the Disney Channel original movie “Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior”.

Although it’s nice to see her get a leading role, it would have been better if it wasn’t a martial arts movie. Our minds won’t melt if we don’t see a predominantly Asian cast do backflips.

Since The Disney Channel seems to groom its stars the old Hollywood studio style, we’ll probably be seeing Bleu and Song in various Disney related projects. And if they’re really blessed, they’ll get Hilary Duff type success and hopefully more interesting parts will be developed for them.

Race and videogames: A look at ‘True Crime – Streets of LA’

by guest contributor Pat Miller, originally published at Token Minorities

true crime streets of LAWell, I finally got to sit down and get a somewhat satisfying session in with True Crime Streets of LA. I haven’t finished it, but I think I can safely say that the elements of the game’s plot that caught my attention – the strong presence of racial minorities in the game, including a biracial protagonist, set in Los Angeles – ended up more as a product of the mix of two film genres – a cop movie and a kung-fu movie – than anything else. Nick Kang may be half-Chinese, half-Caucasian, but lines like “It’s dim sum time!” don’t really hold a whole lot of progressive appeal. I do have a weak spot for Nick Kang, as Asian American men rarely get roles as cops who play fast and loose with the rules, but he doesn’t do a whole lot to redeem the game.

One thing that caught my attention was the focus on international organized crime. The main forces (possible spoiler?) in True Crime: Streets of LA are the Chinese Triads, the Russian Mafia, and the North Korean People’s Army, putting Nick Kang and the rest of his Elite Operations Division in the position of Saving America From The Rest Of The World. On one hand, that should establish the multi-colored EOD as the vanguard of America, disassociating the identity of ‘white’ with that of ‘American’. On the other hand, it’s not quite clear whether some of the characters are Chinese or Chinese American, Russian or Russian American, etc. Certainly, ethnic enclaves like Chinatown or Little Tokyo will have some kind of connection to China or Japan, as those places are often the easiest points of entry for new immigrants, but I can’t say I like how True Crime: Streets of LA seems to equate those centers as universally working against the good of America.

For a game that does invoke race, ethnicity, and nationality as often as True Crime: Streets of LA does, I’d think that they could have utilized the setting much more eloquently than they did. The only Los Angeles in TCLA is in the street names. Yes, we have Asians and Chicano/Latinos and African Americans working together, and I’d like to think that somewhere in LA is a police department that looks like the EOD. But they could have done so much with the racial tensions that historically have actually occurred in Los Angeles. Wouldn’t you rather play Nick Kang, a Korean American police officer fighting to protect Koreatown from the LA riots?

Asians in James Bond films: the best, the baddest and the bedded

by guest contributor Bryan Thao Worra, originally published at Tripmaster Monkey

james bond asiansWhen People magazine asked Daniel Craig to name his ideal Bond girl, he pointed to the Japanese American film producer at his side, his girlfriend Satsuki Mitchell. The chap sure knows how to dodge a bullet. Sadly, Mitchell’s not 007’s love interest in the latest release of the franchise, Casino Royale. But that doesn’t mean the British superspy exists in a whitebread world of international intrigue. No, Asians have been central to the 21 films, from evil genius Dr. No to Hong Kong masseuse Peaceful Fountains of Desire. Join us now for a look at the best, the baddest and the bedded.

1962: Dr. No

dr. no james bondWow. It’s “yellow peril” right from the start with Dr. Julius No, a brilliant Eurasian scientist, who describes himself as an “unwanted child of a German missionary and a Chinese girl of a good family.” Aren’t they all?He later became treasurer of the most powerful criminal society in China and escaped to America with $10 million in gold bullion. He specialized in atomic energy, a hobby that cost him both of his hands. Never one to let that sort of thing get him down, he replaced them with bionic ones. And bit the big one by getting boiled alive. A fat lot of good those robot hands did him.

The other notable Asian in Dr. No is Miss Taro, played by Zena Marshall, a Dr. No flunky working undercover at the Colonial Secretary’s office in Kingston, Jamaica. Her brilliant idea to help her boss is sleep with Bond until a nerdy professor can come along to kill that pesky 007. She ends up getting arrested instead. But this sets up a dynamic to be repeated throughout the series. Not quite a case of sisters doing it for themselves.

1964: Goldfinger

goldfinger james bondThe man with the Midas touch can afford to cart around the iconic Oddjob, a hulking brute played by Harold Sakata who flings around a mean bowler hat and can crush golf-balls to a fine powder. And he never got a bit of dialogue. In the novel version, he apparently also ate cats. Greeeat.

1967: You Only Live Twice

you only live twice james bondAnd twice is the only way to live, with Nancy Sinatra croaking out a drippy pseudo-Japanese tune that could only come from the 60s. The film opens up in a bedroom with Ling played by Tsai Chin. After some bedroom antics with Bond, Ling presses a button on the wall flipping the bed into an upright position with Bond still on it. She then lets in a couple of gunmen who assassinate Bond. They’re not promoting an idea of crafty backstabbing Asian dragon ladies here at all. The killing, of course, is staged in order to give Bond more freedom to complete his real mission, an entire film that boils down to a big ninjas vs. SPECTRE throw-down in a volcano. Also known as Austin Powers.Of course, logic necessitates Bond undergoing special surgery to make him look Japanese to uncover the bad guys. And sleep with his friend Tiger Tanaka’s best agents, like Kissy Suzuki, played by Mie Hama, who fell for one of the worst cases of yellowface since Charlie Chan.

Tiger Tanaka was played by the recently deceased Tetsuro Tamba. Tanaka is the head of the Japanese Secret Service in You Only Live Twice, aiding Bond in defeating Ernst Stavro Blofeld, using a team of ninja warriors he just happens to have readily on hand for just such an occasion.

Of course, there has to be an Asian bad guy in this film, and that’s Mr. Osato, played by Teru Shimada. The head of Osato Chemicals and Engineering, he’s also moonlighting for SPECTRE as a henchman of Dr. Evil, um, I mean SPECTRE #1, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Unfortunately, his worst nightmare comes true: he’s shot by his own boss. Continue reading

Before they were stars: Masi Oka, aka Hiro on “Heroes”

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Wow, great find by Angry Asian Man! Check out Masi Oka, before he became a household name with his breakthrough role as Hiro in the hit series Heroes. Loooooove that show, by the way. He’s the kid on the left with the dark blue shirt.

So what happened to all the other kids in the picture? If you know any of them (or heck, if you are one of them), let Angry Asian Man know! :)

I’m secretly hoping that all of them are now totally unsuccessful by model minority standards. Like, they’re tattoo artists or yoga instructors or something. Especially that girl with the glasses! Oh man, I had glasses just like that when I was her age. So glad I survived those horribly awkward years between ages 9 and 14.
hiro masi oka time magazine cover

YouTube Wire: Free hugs, Harajuku and The Pimp Chronicles

by guest contributor Luke Lee, Racialicious’s senior YouTube correspondent

If there’s one fad that doesn’t seem to die down in online popularity it’s blackface. Despite all those millions of Weird Al “White and Nerdy” views and iTunes purchases (seriously, it’s been on the iTunes top 10 for a while. People aren’t just listening to it once and laughing, they’re buying the song.) people still feel the need to perform BWTAB particularly when sandwiched with a popular hip-hop song or a stereotypical rap beat. The so-called “Kings of MySpace” come in with their video which, simply, it sucks.

And speaking of music and music videos throwing around weird racial representations, we have of course good old Gwen Stefani who comes in with her “Wind It Up” music video which features those creepy Harajuku Girls (but in blonde hair this time). People, we’ve got to free the Harajuku/Gwenihana four!

Continue reading

MadTV spoofs Korean dramas

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Hat tip to Angry Asian Man and Mike Kang for this one! Apparently MadTV did this spoof of Korean dramas awhile back. Even as someone who hasn’t watched any (though I’ve seen plenty of Hong Kong and Japanese dramas, and I have a feeling they are somewhat similar stylistically) this is pretty damn funny. Love the long subtitles whizzing by. :) And Bobby Lee and Sung Kang are hilarious.

[If you’re reading this post in your RSS reader and can’t view the video please click on the post title to see.]