"HUNDRED MEN WIVES"
Interview with Various Broken Trail's Cast Members
PROJECT'S HISTORICAL RESEARCH ALAN
was inspired by the true life story of Donaldina Cameron and of her courage
to stand up against social injustice. She rescued over 3,000 young women
who were brought over to America to be enslaved in brothels at mining
camps to work as prostitutes. The leading causes of death for these women
were suicide, homicide, and then disease. Many did not live more than
5 years after them came to the United States. To help these young women
escape from ill fate, Donaldina helped create a shelter called the Cameron
House, which still exists today. It is at 26 Sacramento Street in San
ALAN GEOFFRION: I was inspired by the true life story of Donaldina Cameron and of her courage to stand up against social injustice. She rescued over 3,000 young women who were brought over to America to be enslaved in brothels at mining camps to work as prostitutes. The leading causes of death for these women were suicide, homicide, and then disease. Many did not live more than 5 years after them came to the United States. To help these young women escape from ill fate, Donaldina helped create a shelter called the Cameron House, which still exists today. It is at 26 Sacramento Street in San Francisco.
OLIVIA CHENG: It was amusing walking into the audition room and realizing that none of the non-Asians involved in casting had a clue as to what I was saying since I speak in Mandarin for Broken Trail. I definitely had deeply rooted concerns about whether this project would genuinely illuminate a realistic slice of Chinese history or simply reduce the Chinese women to two dimensional caricatures. Almost every negative stereotype in America regarding Chinese females stems from this period. It’s a complex issue to highlight and I’m proud to stand behind Broken Trail’s portrayal of the era. I truly feel the Chinese women come off as complex human beings rather than living props. And I really hope audiences will respond to Broken Trail as I have.
Our screenwriters and crew did an excellent job researching the era and were very sensitive about respecting Chinese culture. It was cool to see how the wardrobe and production departments replicated our outfits and settings based on historical photos and descriptions. In doing my own research, I realized that each of the girls’ individual plot lines and outcomes are historically plausible and we’re pretty much composites of the countless Chinese girls who suffered in silence and died in shame. Plus, what I really love about Broken Trail is how the cultural divide that separates the cowboys and Chinese girls become a non-issue as both sides learn to relate to each other as fellow human beings. The language barriers and physical differences melt away as this odd group of travelers transforms into a family unit. I really feel the story transcends the obvious racial lines and at its heart is just a simple story about humanity and the gift of compassion.
DONALD FONG: My interest is what drives me to be in the entertainment industry. I love acting. Whenever I get an opportunity to participate in a movie, a TV show or a stage production, I will put all my effort to perform my part as best as I can.
OLIVIA CHENG: It’s just what I’m good at and am passionate about. I’m a storyteller and whether I find an outlet for that gift through my work as a media personality or as an actor – I’ll do what I can. It’s not an easy path because of all the instability that comes with my career choices but bringing stories to life is what I do best. And I’ve seen the effect it can have on people when I help them find their voice to tell a story. It’s empowering for people to speak up about their experiences and it’s incredibly rewarding as a story teller. It’s all that keeps me going sometimes when I don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from and I’m banging my head against a wall wishing I had the chops for a regular job.
JADYN WONG: Change – my motivation in what I do as a performer is to ignite change. The greater desire is to create understanding and empathy for characters that are not simply fictional, but whom resemble the many lives that view them through film. Because this profession does not have a high priority within the Chinese community, I feel very ambitious to work and create a greater need to share and expand our presence in this industry.
VALERIE TIAN: I want to change the world and there's a lot that I want to say. I enjoy working, I don't want to do this just to be famous or rich for my own vanity.
GWENDOLINE YEO'S MUSIC VIEWS
GWENDOLINE YEO: I'm so glad that you asked that. Corrine May and I are great friends. Her mother and my mother went to dental school in Singapore together. They were great friends since their early twenties and we lived a few blocks from each other. We lost touch, and years later, we found each other in Los Angeles. We were at the same performance once, where she played the keyboard and sang a beautiful song and I played a solo piece on the Chinese Zither. (Note: Visit Corrine May website at http://www.corrinemay.com.)
At one point, I had to make the choice of where to focus... would it be acting or music? But not to fear, music is merely on the back burner. Now Corrine and I both live in Hollywood experiencing the American dream--she in music, and I, in acting. She has a beautiful album out and I have the opportunity to do work on Broken Trail and now I’ve become a regular cast member on a hit show like “Desperate Housewives.” She is a lovely woman and it warms me deeply to have a fellow Singaporean, someone who is kind and genuine, enjoy the kind of success that she so deserves.
US ASIANS: Recognizing your expertise in the Chinese Long Zither (gu-zheng), what are your views on other similar artists such as Karen Han, Twelve Girls Band, Jon Jang (jazz artist that incorporates the ehru) and others – along with their usage in projects such as Broken Trail and other projects that has a Chinese plotline/involvement?
GWENDOLINE YEO: I am always humbled in the presence of other musicians. I am an actress first, then a musician. I have a lot to share, but also, a lot to learn. I think what these other musicians have created is absolutely breathtaking and I cheer them on. With one strum on a Chinese instrument, the sound is distinctive--taking us back to the deep history of China. As an Asian American woman--I approach the eastern instrument of the gu-zheng with some of my western side as well. My music is merely an extension of me as a human being--a blend of both cultures.