8Questions with Barney Cheng, Director of “Baby Steps”

Back in September 2018, I did a review of a movie Baby Steps on 8Asians. The movie was written, directed and starred Barney Cheng. I was still so intrigued with the movie, that I got in contact with Barney and asked him to do this 8Questions segment for 8Asians.

Before we get to the questions, a little bit about Barney from his wikipedia page

Barney Cheng is a Taiwanese-American actor, director, writer and producer. Cheng was born in Taipei, Taiwan. His family emigrated to the United States when he was 12 years old and he grew up in Brea, California. He speaks Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese Hokkien fluently.

and from his own official site:

Barney Cheng landed on the Hollywood map as an actor in 2002 with his acclaimed performance in Woody Allen’s Hollywood Ending.  The New York Times described Barney’s comedic timing as “surgically precise.” The Orange County Register raved that Barney “steals every scene he’s in.” Barney accompanied Woody Allen to promote the film and to open the 55th Cannes Film Festival. 

On to the questions:

1. How did you get the idea for the movie Baby Steps?

I came across a story about a gay couple from Israel. They wanted to have a baby, but since it was illegal for gay couples to hire surrogates in Israel, they flew to the U.S. to work with an American egg donor. They flew to India to transfer the embryos to an Indian surrogate. Nine months later, they traveled across the globe to pick up their baby. I was intrigued by the couple’s emotional and physical journey, and I could see that as a movie. Then I thought, “What if it were my life? What if I had a partner, and we decided to have kids?” Baby Steps was conceived.

2. You wrote, directed and starred in Baby Steps, how similar are you to the main character Danny?

Very different. The movie is fictional. I’m single and don’t have kids. However, the film is inspired by the relationship between my mother and me. She definitely evolved throughout the years. The more than 20 years of her evolution — coming to terms with my coming out to full acceptance — was captured in the 90-minute film!

3. What advice would you give a gay Asian American who wants to be a parent?

To be visible, open and out. It’s important to be proud of who you are and be a role model for your child. Being in the closet conveys a message of shame, and that would be detrimental to the child’s development.

4. I read that you showed Baby Steps in mainland China. What was that like?

The State Department under the Obama Administration hosted U.S. embassy screenings of the film in six cities in China. At the screenings, the staff at the American consulates handed out study guides to highlight American culture and LGBT marriage equality. After the screenings, I was surprised to learn that many Chinese audiences didn’t think that the story was plausible. It seemed like a fairy tale to many Chinese audiences. Many of them just couldn’t imagine coming out to their parents and getting the kind of acceptance that Danny received. They also couldn’t imagine living openly as gay people and having children as gay parents.

5. Who are your role models and influences on your work?

I don’t have specific role models for my work, but as a storyteller, I always aim to be authentic, real and truthful.

6. Compared with Danny, how supportive have your parents been in your career, life, and movies?

I remember when we were filming Baby Steps in Taipei, my mother would make me breakfast each morning to make sure that I was well-prepared for the long, hectic day ahead. We would have early 5 o’clock calls, and my mom would get up at 3:00 a.m. to make me breakfast. She didn’t have to say anything, but I felt that she cared. Taiwanese parents rarely say explicitly “I love you” or “I care about you.” They show through actions.

The movie was released theatrically in Taiwan. When we were promoting for the release, it was very important to me to be an openly out filmmaker and actor. One of the important themes of Baby Steps is being open and authentic, and our promotion campaign had to be consistent with that vision. My mom joined me on a TV talk show to promote the film. My mother openly shared her struggles of coming to terms with having a gay son. She invited all of her friends to see the film in theater. And my mother enrolled friends and relatives to join her at marriage equality rallies in Taiwan. Through Baby Steps, she “came out.”

7. Do you have any new projects in the works you can tell us about?

I’m developing a TV series called “Curated Lies,” and it centers around an Asian-American family in a wine country. I’ve recently finished filming a transgender love and acceptance video for the Asian-American LGBTQ community. It’s called A Love LetterPlease check it out: https://youtu.be/irjUBWxgSPY

8. Where can someone watch “Baby Steps” now?

All digital platforms. We recommend Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/yawje8ry

8 Questions for Ken Fong of “The Ken Fong Project”

photo (1)I was fortunate enough to meet Ken Fong of the Ken Fong Project this year during the V3con digital media conference in Los Angeles on June 20-21, 2014. Ken was part of the panel titled “Secrets Online: Topics that are Taboo in Real Life”, where the panelists tackled the issue of writing about things one would not normally talk about in general conversation. Ken passed along an interesting piece of advice, to beware, that if you’re willing to talk about a taboo topic online, you may become the go to person and spokesperson for that issue.

Ken Fong is a moderate Baptist pastor and subject of the documentary “The Ken Fong Project”. The documentary covers his journey as he reconciles his beliefs with the way gays and lesbians are being treated by his community. He has compared the way gays and lesbians are treated with the way Jesus was treated by the hyper-religious Jews in biblical times.

Additional information about the documentary is relayed in the video below:

The initial round of funding for the documentary was completed through Indiegogo, but the documentary team will be looking for additional funding in the near future to help with costs of completing the film.

Ken was gracious enough to agree to an 8Questions interview on 8Asians, and the result is after the jump.

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8Questions with Rock Taiko Drummer Yusuke

I grew up LOVING taiko drums. I remember trips with my family to festivals in LA’s Little Tokyo in the summers to watch taiko groups performing. My dad had taiko albums playing on our stereos at home all the time, and when he wasn’t playing them, I would borrow them so that I could listen to them on my own. So when my friends the band Random Ninjas started up as a rock band integrating taiko drums as a core part of their sound, I was ECSTATIC. Like our Bad 8Asian Mike, I love rock as much as I love taikos, and to have both in one sound is just a music lover’s dream come true. Add on top of that strong female vocals, and this is my favorite band in the universe, hands down.

They’ve got a free show at the Los Angeles Hard Rock Cafe at Hollywood and Highland right next to the Academy Award’s Dolby Theater this Friday June 7th @ 9pm. As expected for an American rock band with taiko drums, Random Ninjas has regularly performed at San Francisco’s Asian Heritage Street Celebration, LA’s Asian American Expo, Little Tokyo’s Nisei Week, LA’s Chinatown Summer Nights, and the Zenshuji Soto Mission’s Annual Obon Festival. The video above is of their performance at the LA’s Chinatown Summer Nights. Their awesome first full length album RANDOM HERO just got remixed and remastered. Here’s 8Questions with one of Random Ninja‘s taiko rock drummers (first ever?), The Yusuke:
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8Questions With Koji Steven Sakai

Meet my fellow Trojan and 8Asians writer Koji Steven Sakai. Since his latest film CHINK is in post production and will be coming out soon, I thought it was a great opportunity to interview him. Sakai is a super passionate writer who really will stop at nothing to tell the Asian American story through film. Many loyal 8Asians readers have probably noted that Sakai is a very prolific 8Asians writer, with many of his posts going platinum with hits and comments. With his newest movie CHINK, he’s pouring some arsenic down the throat of the model minority stereotype and seeing what gets upchucked as a result. So what is Koji’s favorite Asian comfort food? Read on after the jump to find out.
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8Questions With Jay Chen, California Congressional District 39

Jay Chen is a small business owner who grew up in my hometown of Hacienda Heights, graduating from my rival high school across town and going on to study at Harvard. He won a seat on the local Hacienda la Puente School District Board, a public school district that he is a proud product of. Aside from being on the cast of the Vincent Who? documentary of Asian American Empowerment, Chen is most known for his appearance on John Stewart’s Daily Show in the special segment “Socialism Studies” highlighting the controversy in Chen’s district over the Chinese funded Confucius Classroom. I went to a number of district board meetings and witnessed first-hand as Chen and the other school board members, majority Asian Pacific Islander Americans, who had to fight off vitriolic racist attacks in the form of verbal abuse, attacks on their moral character and reputation, and groundless accusations of mismanagement of funds.

Now with the newly drawn 39th Congressional District that encompasses heavily Asian American communities such as Chino Hills, Diamond Bar, Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights, Walnut, and Fullerton, Chen’s name is on the primaries ticket for June 5th running for a seat in the House of Representatives. I’m a big supporter of Chen, mainly because I have witnessed first hand that he truly does have the interest of the American people at heart, but since not everyone can personally see Chen in action, I thought 8Questions with him might help, after the jump.
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APA Spotlight: Larry Lee, Executive Director, New York Asian Women’s Center (NYAWC)

APA Spotlight is a weekly interview of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) community leaders. It is a spotlight on individuals who have dedicated their careers to issues surrounding the APIA community with the goal of bringing much deserved recognition to their work and cause(s).

Larry has been the Executive Director of the New York Asian Women’s Center since 2007. NYAWC is the largest Asian American domestic violence and human trafficking agency in the country. NYAWC provides a 24/7 hotline, counseling, case management, advocacy and shelter to survivors and their children.

Previously, as Chief Program Officer of The Educational Alliance, Larry was responsible for 85 programs. Located in 25 sites in Downtown Manhattan the programs annually serve 40,000 people in innovative and integrated ways.

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APA Spotlight: Diem Ly, Editor in Chief, International Examiner

APA Spotlight is a weekly interview of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) community leaders. It is a spotlight on individuals who have dedicated their careers to issues surrounding the APIA community with the goal of bringing much deserved recognition to their work and cause(s).

Diem Ly is the Vietnamese American Editor in Chief of the International Examiner (IE), the only non-profit pan-Asian American publication in the country. She both serves as a pseudo-executive director of a non-profit as well as the editorial lead of the paper. She has been asked to speak at numerous events, workshops, and panels sharing her experiences in community media, ethnic youth leadership, and in expressing the IE’s active vision to collaborate and partner with people, organizations, and businesses in meaningful ways to uplift the Asian Pacific American community.

Before serving as Editor in Chief for the last three years, Diem worked as the Assistant Editor for the IE; a freelance writer and researcher; the Morning News Writer for Northwest Cable News; and an Assignment Desk Assistant at King 5 News. She earned a Bachelors of Science from the University of Washington, minoring in neuroscience, before re-discovering her appreciation for writing.

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APA Spotlight: Mari Watanabe, Executive Director, Oregon Nikkei Endowment

APA Spotlight is a weekly interview of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) community leaders. It is a spotlight on individuals who have dedicated their careers to issues surrounding the APIA community with the goal of bringing much deserved recognition to their work and cause(s).

Mari Watanabe is the Executive Director of the Oregon Nikkei Endowment (ONE), a non-profit that preserves the history and culture of the Japanese Americans in Oregon. Prior to joining ONE, Ms. Watanabe worked for 25 years in the apparel field with major brand labels where her work took her primarily to Asia, Europe and Central America. Since transitioning to work in the non-profit field and ONE in July 2008, she has she has expanded the educational focus to a more diverse audience which includes educating Japanese students about the World War II internment experience.

Appointed by Oregon State Governor Kitzhaber in May 2011, Mari serves on the Oregon Commission for Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (OCAPIA). She was selected in 2011 as one of 13 delegates from across the United States to visit Japan as part of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation sponsored by the Japan Foreign Ministry and the U.S. – Japan Council.

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APA Spotlight: Daphne Kwok, Executive Director of Asian & Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California

APA Spotlight is a weekly interview of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) community leaders. It is a spotlight on individuals who have dedicated their careers to issues surrounding the APIA community with the goal of bringing much deserved recognition to their work and cause(s).

Empowerment of all Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) has long been one of Daphne Kwok’s core values.  In July 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Ms. Kwok, Chair of his Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Ms. Kwok is the Executive Director of Asians & Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California (APIDC). A non-profit based in Oakland, it seeks to give a voice and a face to AAPIs with disabilities, to break down the stigma in the AAPI community about disabilities and to provide technical assistance to organizations wanting to effectively work with AAPIs with disabilities.

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APA Spotlight: Doua Thor, Executive Director, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center

APA Spotlight is a weekly interview of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) community leaders. It is a spotlight on individuals who have dedicated their careers to issues surrounding the APIA community with the goal of bringing much deserved recognition to their work and cause(s).

Doua Thor is the Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). She and her family were among the many thousands of Hmong refugees who were resettled in the United States after supporting and fighting alongside the U.S. during the Vietnam War. The Thor family was resettled in Detroit, Michigan in 1979 where Doua spent much of her youth volunteering and working with Southeast Asian American communities. Over the years, Doua has gained a wealth of experience working with national and grassroots Southeast Asian American and refugee serving organizations.

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APA Spotlight: Kendee Yamaguchi, Executive Director, Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs

APA Spotlight is a weekly interview of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) community leaders. It is a spotlight on individuals who have dedicated their careers to issues surrounding the APIA community with the goal of bringing much deserved recognition to their work and cause(s).

Kendee Yamaguchi is the Executive Director of the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. She was a director in the Office of Management and Administration at the White House. Prior to her appointment to the Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, she worked in the Office of Public Liaison on the signing of the executive order establishing the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She has experience working as a television executive for one of the world’s largest networks and as a staff member in the Legislature. More recently, she worked as an attorney in private practice.

She has served on several boards and is the recipient of awards from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, Japanese American Citizens League, Organization of Chinese Americans, Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership, and the Access to Justice Institute.

Yamaguchi earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and public communications with a minor in international affairs from American University. She is also a recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship (PPIA) and earned a juris doctorate from the Seattle University School of Law.

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APA Spotlight: Marilyn Tokuda, Co-Chair, Asian Pacific American Media Coalition

APA Spotlight is a weekly interview of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) community leaders. It is a spotlight on individuals who have dedicated their careers to issues surrounding the APIA community with the goal of bringing much deserved recognition to their work and cause(s).

Marilyn Tokuda has been working for East West Players (EWP) since 2002 and is the organizations first Arts Education Director. She was one of the founding members of COLD TOFU, the first Asian American comedy group and served as its Artistic Director for six years. Marilyn also works with Oku & Associates in diversity training with Fortune 500 companies as well as representing East West Players on the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) which meets with television networks on an ongoing basis to evaluate the visibility and portrayals of Asian Pacific Americans in the media. Recently, she and Guy Aoki became co-chairs of APAMC.

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