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Her Enthralling Characters Remind Us That Seemingly Solitary Upheavals
Can Become Transcendent Communal Experiences.

US ASIANS: Considering that many within the Asian Pacific American communities cannot define and/or know the history of the racial formation of the Asian American communities, how would you define somebody as an Asian Pacific American? Does it include and/or not include the following type of people: 1) People who are 50/50 with their heritage such as current examples in the media including Ann Curry, Keanu Reeves, Russell Wong, etc.; 2) Part of their recent heritage and less than 50% such as Eddie Van Halen, Reiko Aylesworth (of "24" fame) - similar to how people classify people who are Black if they have any "Black" blood and/or: People who were born in Asia, but raised in the United States?

English literature scholar Jeffrey Partridge calls (Gish Jen's) "The Love Wife" "post-multicultural" because not only does it present a picture of diversity, but it also demonstrates the futility of defining individuals with ethnic labels.
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MIA RIVERTON: I believe that anyone with Asian Pacific American blood who self-identifies as Asian Pacific American should be considered as such. Being Asian Pacific American is much more about cultural and social mores than “proportion” of genetic material.

ELAINE KAO: I would define someone as Asian Pacific American if he/she is at least half Asian, is an American citizen and has lived more than half their life in America. However, it is up to that person how they wish to define and identify him/herself.

US ASIANS: If the original 'Flower Drum Song' was a remnant of the way we were portrayed by white artists, what recent productions (film, theater, television, etc.) accurately portrays Asian Pacific Americans in the 21st century - in addition to “Red Doors”

JACQUELINE KIM: Plays by Alice Tuan, Diana Son, Julia Cho, Chay Yew, Han Ong, Micheal Chung, Judy SooHoo. Films by So Young, Susan Tuan, Eric Byler, Michael Idemoto, Chris Chan Lee, Grace Lee, Quentin Lee (popular name), Michael Kang, Justin Lin, the list goes on and on...

ELAINE KAO: Anything that portrays Asian Pacific Americans as human, complex people (not necessarily all positive images) experiencing all the trials and tribulations of life would be accurate. Films such as BLT, Saving Face, Charlotte Sometimes, are some examples.

MIA RIVERTON: The Motel, Charlotte Sometimes, Robot Stories, Undoing, Better Luck Tomorrow, Saving Face, Face and In Between Days

US ASIANS: To help people who are unaware of what makes an Asian Pacific American Experience (see “Definition of Asian Pacific Americans”) and/or one’s history in the United States - could you share what you feel are the differences between being authentic and stereotypical – along with how this affects/influences you as either an actor, director, producer and/or as a writer?

Dictionary.Com’s definition of authenticity being "The quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy, or genuine" - Conforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief: an authentic account by an eyewitness; Having a claimed and verifiable origin or authorship; not counterfeit or copied: an authentic medieval sword.

Dictionary.Com's definition of "stereotype" is as follows: A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image. One that is regarded as embodying or conforming to a set image or type

MIA RIVERTON: As an actor, my job is to embody the truth of human experience – physical, psychological and emotional. If I am doing that job, my work is by definition authentic because it emanates organically from my own being. If I feel a role is written to be stereotypical, I won’t accept it.

ELAINE KAO: Stereotypes are superficial outlines, images. There is no substance, soul, "groundedness" in stereotypes. Anything defined simply by outer, external appearances and actions can be a stereotype. But if you take a stereotype and fill it with emotional complexity, soul, conflict, and needs that are coming from a true, genuine space, then the stereotype dissolves and can become something authentic and real.

US ASIANS: Could you elaborate on your definition of authenticity that states that it is a debate over the quest to validate the humanity of various peoples - of all the people in this country? 

DAVID HENRY HWANG: I can't remember if I once said something to this effect. I now feel that there are myriad authenticities. Each artist puts forth a vision that is, hopefully, authentic to him/her, then it is for audiences to decide if the work feels authentic to them.

US ASIANS: What guidelines and/or barometers do you utilize within your writings that confirm that your writings are based on authenticity?

DAVID HENRY HWANG: Simply that the work reflects my vision of truth.
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US ASIANS: Recent National Institutes of Health study noted that people's notions about which personality traits are most common in their nations are rooted more in stereotypes from movies, books and jokes than from knowledge of those they know well that concludes that most of what everybody thinks when they generalize about their own culture is wrong – what do you feel needs to happen to change that and how did “Red Doors” address this issue?

ELAINE KAO: I think we need to see real characters where their race is secondary to the story. And RED DOORS does that by portraying real, honest characters that everyone, regardless of race, can relate to.

US ASIANS: Why "Asian American Cinema" has lagged behind other ethnic-American cinema (e.g. African-American, Could you share if the goal should be hopefully that there won't need to BE a niche category for the Asian/Asian Pacific American communities in the future?

MIA RIVERTON: In an ideal world, there would be many genres within “Asian Pacific American Cinema”, and films would transcend the “Asian Pacific American” label to stand on their own – sci-fi, horror, drama, slapstick comedy, animation, etc. This will only happen if Asian Pacific American audiences proactively support Asian Pacific American films and filmmakers, which has not happened as much in our community as it has in African-American or other communities. The only color Hollywood sees is green, so it will take at least one breakthrough “Asian Pacific American” film to convince studios that casting Asian Pacific American actors in multiple lead roles and hiring Asian Pacific American directors is good business.

US ASIANS: What is your assessment of the current status of mono-ethnic theaters such as the Asian theaters, the black theaters and the Hispanic theaters?

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: At first I was very resistant to the idea of mono-ethnic theatres because I thought it limited actors and placed them in the very same box they were trying to escape. But now since I have worked more and more with these organizations, I truly see that they serve a particular purpose to provide a creative outlet for expression that might go undeveloped otherwise. It creates a safe, supportive environment for creativity and sometimes becomes a source to find qualified artists of a certain ethnicity.

RYUN YU: I've only examined the Asian-American theaters . . . . we are in a period of flux. The older Japanese Americans, that seemed to be the principal audience for East West Players, is getting older - and because of out-marriage rate, the next generation coming up doesn't seem to be as strong… Lodestone is banking on a community of Asian/Asian Pacific Americans who crave entertainment that reflects themselves… As to artistically - I think that we're still finding our stride… For more info, click HERE

US ASIANS: It has been mentioned by David Henry Hwang and others that class will be more important than race in terms of determining how people are classified in this society and what types of options they have, would you like to elaborate on this issue?

MIA RIVERTON: I think that social class is already more important than race in terms of defining interpersonal relationships and available opportunities. How people dress, where they live, their level of education, their income bracket – these are more relevant commonalities in social circles than race, at least in my experience.

US ASIANS: Could you share the vision and goals of Harvardwood, a nonprofit arts and entertainment association, and its procedures to have diversity accurately reflected the American media – as seen by children (40% are children of color) every day at sporting events, at the doctor’s office?

MIA RIVERTON: The goal of Harvardwood is to strengthen ties between arts, media, entertainment, and education. We are very conscientious about incorporating diversity elements into the programs and events we provide, both in the audiences / participants and in the guest speakers / administrators.

US ASIANS: Will the annual “Harvard in Hollywood” conferences change the assumptions made in Hollywood and within the general public that when it comes to race and culture - people don't listen; they go in with their minds made up . . . . then try to batter the other side with their opinions? This is prevalent in Hollywood, as noted by the words of an attending high-level executive who, when asked what the next ten years held for Hollywood as a business, stated in essence that the people who had run Hollywood "in 1920" were still running it now and would still be running it "ten years from now."

MIA RIVERTON: The goal of the “Harvard in Hollywood” conference is simply to explore a particular topic in depth with a diverse array of guest speakers interacting with each other. Hopefully the organic diversity in the audience and the panels as well as the intellectual discourse and debate engendered by the guest speakers will naturally plant the seeds of change in the minds of all attendees, so they will go forth and break down racial/cultural/sexual barriers.

Marian Liu Interview with Lea on Diversity
Marian Liu: After your roles in ``Mulan'' and ``Flower Drum Song,'' do you feel pigeonholed for only Asian parts?

Lea Salonga: I would like to think that I am not pigeonholed, but with the exception of Eponine (in ``Les Misérables''), all the roles I have done in the States have been Asian or half Asian. It's a shame. Friends look at me and say, `You don't look Asian,' or `You don't look Filipino.' Well, I am. . . . I can get cast as anyone and anything, provided that I can sing the stuff and act the type. So it's a little bit weird for me to find myself just up for Asian roles. Send me out for what I can do, not just what I look like.

Marian Liu: How difficult is it for Asians to break into theater?

Lea Salonga: In theater, you're a little further away than in movies or on TV. You can hide stuff. I mean, I played a French waif in the middle of Paris. My mission was to be the best I could and make the audience believe I was that person, and completely not me. I think I did OK. Nobody ever said: ``Who's that Asian chick in the middle of Paris?''
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US ASIANS: With artists such as Lea Salonga still having problems getting substantial roles in television for reasons that include "not Asian-looking enough, You must look really Chinese/Japanese/Korean, if I wasn't so mixed already - "mga Pinoy, may halong ganito, may halong ganyan;" 'Where do we put her?'" What do you feel is some of the main factors behind this situation and how prevailing is the "Yellow Ceiling" is in Hollywood?

ELAINE KAO: Hollywood likes to pigeon-hole actors and conveniently label them into archetypes. It happens to non-Asian actors as well. If they don’t quite know how to categorize you as bad guy, hero, hot chick, lawyer, cop, etc, then they have a hard time casting you. Unfortunately, sometimes they don’t have the creative eye of looking beyond appearances for casting a role.


US ASIANS: What do you feel is the required commitment of the Asian Pacific American artists? Should we expect Asian Pacific American artists - such as an actor, director, writer, producer, etc. - to take all the necessary steps to attain the highest level and not expecting that they "should" be hired because they are Asian?

ELAINE KAO: Absolutely. If you are any kind of serious artist regardless of race or ethnicity, you should be fully committed to developing your skills to the highest caliber.

US ASIANS: “Cult of Personality” (Glorification of a “cute, smart kind of bimbo”) – recognizing that these type of actors are not very concerned about raising the level of the craft of acting – do you feel that many Asian/Asian Pacific American actors have settled to being just a stereotyped Asian “smart/bimbo” because they have the physical qualifications that allows them to work in this capacity and/or they have given up on being serious actors?

ELAINE KAO: No I disagree. Many of the Asian American actors I know that are working today are committed to the craft and becoming better and better. The actors I started out with 10 years ago and that are still in the business are all working today in film, TV, commercials, theatre, etc. Sure, there are those who rely solely on their looks. But I don’t think we have much respect for their work.

US ASIANS: Do you feel that serious Asian Pacific American actors (as oppose to those who are doing in as a hobby and/or as “eye candy” extras) should learn their “acting chops” in theater because one would get six weeks of rehearsal and everyone's creating in front of each other, everyone's creating with each other - you have to work with other people, and other people keep you honest constantly where you have to work on your tools, your voice and your body and you have to work on ways of getting whatever you found with other people out there that is also invaluable when working in films?

ELAINE KAO: Anyone who is serious about acting needs to know what it’s like to work in live theatre. The experience of performing onstage is the best training an actor can get. You don’t get another “take”, another chance if you mess up. It’s the “actors” medium. You are in control of your performance. Also, in theater you get to go through a journey every night which really helps in film where everything is filmed out of sequence.

US ASIANS: Do you consider yourself as a role model for the artists of Asian? If so, what do you feel are the obligations of a "role model and to what extent do you embrace this position?"

ELAINE KAO: No, I feel as if I’m still finding my way, my voice, maturing, growing, learning, making mistakes.


Would you use to describe “Red Doors?
JACQUELINE KIM: colorful, sweet, simple (not simplistic)
ELAINE KAO: Must-see film!
MIA RIVERTON: Heartfelt, funny, universal

Would you use to describe yourself as an artist?
JACQUELINE KIM: Outside, uncompromising, homemade.
ELAINE KAO: Searching for truth
MIA RIVERTON: adventurous, disciplined, picky

Would you use to describe yourself as a person?
JACQUELINE KIM: Thoughtful, instinctual, artistic.
ELAINE KAO: Enjoying the journey.
MIA RIVERTON: passionate, curious, creative

Would you use to describe your future as an artist?
JACQUELINE KIM: in the present
ELAINE KAO: Anything is Possible
MIA RIVERTON: Actor, writer, producer

Thank you for taking the time and attention to answer in-depth questions that intimately looks at the passions/training/background behind visionary artists of Asian descent.

To Return to the Beginning of the Interview, Click HERE
An Overview of the Topics Discussed Are Listed Below for Your Review
Artist Training Authenticitys Awards & Reviews Career Background Carrie Inaba on Comedy Cast & Crew Class vs. Race Comedy
Community Support Creative Background Creative Process Criticism Def. of Asian Pacific Americans Def. of Authenticity Distribution Ethnic Theater
Final Three Words Getting the Film Made Film Insights Goals & Vision Harvardwood Introductions Marketing Lea Salonga
Past/Future Projects "Red Doors" on TV Role Models Support Theater vs. Film Acting Win a Date with Mia Yellow Ceiling Working APA Actors

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