Tag Archives: mixed race

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.

One Tree Hill gets biracial

by guest contributor Karen Gilmore

one tree hill biracial derekOne Tree Hill pulled out a refreshing plot twist: Peyton’s real half-brother Derek is biracial (black and white). And the really surprising part was that it didn’t take them five episodes to explain “how” that could happen. The writers deserve big kudos for that alone.

Ernest Waddell’s (Derek) portrayal of the tough as nails Marine with a big heart is the best addition to the series. On the good side, this shows that the American television audience is ready to embrace the fact that multi-ethnic families do exist and that they are growing in numbers. This new turn gracefully counters the “you can only pick one” line of thinking.

On the bad side, what took Hollywood so long to do an episode like this? And better yet, why aren’t there more shows with this kind of content? One Tree Hill may have an abundance of teen angst melodrama but this storyline is a true diamond in the rough.

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?