Q&A with Paget Kagy of ‘Kat Loves LA’ and EXCLUSIVE new episode early release

By Dawn Lee Tu

Exclusive for 8Asians readers, check out Episode 6 of Kat Loves LA here before it gets released on 1/28!

Star, writer, and producer of Kat Loves LA, on not denying your Asian American identity, making that big leap into acting, and her love of rom-coms…

Paget Kagy (pronounced KAY-gee) is no stranger to talking about representations of Asian Americans in Hollywood. Kagy describes her parents as strong Asian American figures in her life who “always spoke about Asian American representation in the media and they were very well-educated in that way.” Her father, a successful lawyer, published Transpacific Magazine, one of the first Asian American magazines in the U.S., in the late 1980s which had a lasting impact on Kagy. He often spoke about “how there were never any Asian American role models in the media who weren’t stereotyped.” As a result, when Kagy took that leap into acting, she knew that she would create content and write roles with Asian American leads.

When Kagy began to write her web series Kat Loves LA (KLLA), currently available on YouTube, she was set on challenging Hollywood’s notions of being able to cast Asian Americans as leads in a mainstream and universally appealing and entertaining way.

I chatted with Kagy about the impact her parents had on her decision to go into acting, a very traumatic audition for The Lion King, and whether or not Kat finds love by the end of Season 1.

How did you grow up? What were some formative experiences?
I was born in LA and I grew up here to two Korean parents and they moved here when they were really young so they’re extremely acculturated. My dad went to law school at UC Berkeley and my mom’s very well-educated. I’ve always strongly identified as Korean but when I was growing up, I was one of maybe three other Asian Americans in my class which was predominantly Caucasian. So I remember having a confusing relationship with being Asian because I didn’t see anyone who looked like me who was setting the standard of beauty or popularity in the school I went to or in the media.

I do remember how kids can be cruel … kids would say, “go back to China” or they would pull back the corners of their eyes. I just thought that was the way the world unfairly saw Asians. I would always fight back but it was tough feeling like you’re an outsider just because of the way you look. I used to remember feeling like I wasn’t pretty or attractive. I didn’t set any kinds of standards of beauty or anything and it just made fitting in a little bit harder. I wasn’t a loner; I had friends but it was just kind of like a struggle that I internalized to a certain extent.

I guess it didn’t help that I was also kind of weird as a kid.

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Fun, irreverent Alice Lee on playing a badass in Philip K. Dick’s ‘Electric Dreams’ Series

By Dawn Lee Tu

PHILIP K. DICK’S ELECTRIC DREAMS – SEASON 1 – EPISODE 106 – “Safe and Sound” (photo: Elizabeth Sisson © 2017 Sony Pictures Television)

Alice Lee has been in the game for a decade and there’s a good chance you’ve seen her before.

Her impressive body of work includes Broadway (award-winning Spring Awakeningand Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark) and off-Broadway (Heathers the Musical), indy film (Jack, Jules, Esther and Me), television (Switched at Birth, Son of Zorn, The Mindy Project, Two Broke Girls), to reality-music talent show Rising Star. She finds time to cover songs and release original music on her YouTube channel. Lee is also the fresh-faced Asian customer service agent in the Discover Card commercialthat always sparks a fresh round of “Spot the Asian,” my favorite game to play while watching TV.

She can be seen in Safe and Sound, premiering January 12th on Amazon Prime Video. Safe and Soundis an part of Philip K. Dick’s anthology Electric Dreams, a sci-fi anthology series of ten epic, ambitious and moving standalone episodes, each set in a different and unique world – some which lie in the far reaches of the universe and time and others which are much, much closer to home. While the stories may be worlds apart, central to each is the poignant and warm exploration of the importance and significance of humanity.

Each episode is inspired by one of Philip K. Dick’s renowned short stories and has been adapted by leading British and American writers including Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Outlander),Michael Dinner (Justified), Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), Matthew Graham (Doctor Who), David Farr (The Night Manager), Dee Rees (Mudbound) and Travis Beacham (Pacific Rim) among others.

Lee and I talked over the phone about her latest breakout role, balancing her love for singing and acting, and how she cultivates her creative energies.

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8Questions: Daniel Henney of ‘Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders’ (Part 2)

By Dawn Lee Tu

Please see part 1 of my interview with Daniel Henney, of CBS’s Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, in which Henney discusses his connection with the character he plays, and shares his thoughts on opportunities for Asian American actors.

Now that you’ve had a chance to do both, do you prefer TV or film projects better?  Why?

Photo: Kharen Hill / ABC Studios
Photo: Kharen Hill / ABC Studios

I like both, to be honest with you. When I have time, I like film but the problem is that (film) generally takes you away from your family and home for two to three months at a time. It’s hard. One of things I’ve liked about working on (CMBB) is that you get to shoot in Los Angeles. I get to sleep in my own bed every night, spend time with my friends, take my dog for a walk, and sometimes she gets to come to the set with me, which is great. When I’m on a movie, I’m sort of off the grid for a while which is tough sometimes. God forbid something happens to your family and it’s hard to get home. Sometimes it’s hard to communicate because it’s different time zones. Movies are fun and sometimes there is a romantic element to film, but TV is not a bad gig.

I’ve noticed you’ve been involved in small fashion projects such as your sunglasses line and your tote bag. Are those passion projects of yours? Will you be doing more of those kinds of projects?

I definitely hope so. It’s been something we’ve been playing around with, mostly in Asia. We’re trying to get some traction in China as well as Korea but it’s a delicate market over there. But once it picks up, once you get something that’s great, it generally does quite well. Living in Korea for years and years, I’ve had a lot of ideas come to my mind, (such as) help improve the Asian male fashion sense with denim or footwear. So as my career progresses hopefully I’ll be able to create a bigger platform, have more reach, and do more things.

Many of your fans are eagerly waiting for you to appear in more leading roles.  Are you still interested in landing a leading role or are you more looking for interesting and challenging roles?

It’s more fun to do interesting, challenging. I don’t get a lot of those because I’m seen as more as a leading guy, especially in Asia. So even here in the States it’s been more of that lately, it’s been more of a leading guy kind of thing. I do gravitate towards trying things. I just had a role come in to me, I don’t know if I’m going to do it. It’s playing some sort of robot in a post-apocalyptic world. How cool would that be? I’m trying stuff like that out. So hopefully I get to do some of that stuff in the future, like I’m not complaining where I’m at, I’m very happy where I’m at right now.
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8Questions: Daniel Henney of ‘Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders’ (Part 1)

daniel henney
photo: ©Robert Voets/ABC STUDIOS

By Dawn Lee Tu

Daniel Henney says he works hard and doesn’t complain, and I absolutely believe him. Take, for example, his projects since the start of the year (I cannot begin to guess how many miles Daniel Henney’s racked up on his frequent flier accounts!).  Since the start of the year, he was spotted in New York City during Fashion Week to see the Coach 2016 Collection, and he’s all over Korea with his spread for Cosmopolitan Korea and Harper’s Bazaar Korea and ads for Hamilton watches (Henney is the 2016 ambassador), plus new ads for Wide Angle (a golf line).  He’s also a spokesperson for the educational language company Malpool. It has been a busy first two months of 2016 for Henney!

Henney’s longtime fans know that he’s been in the modeling and acting game for a while. Most known for his roles in Korean dramas, Henney broke into television in 2005 as Dr. Henry Kim in My Lovely Sam Soon. In 2009, Americans were first introduced him in his role as Agent Zero, starring alongside Hugh Jackman, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In total, Henney’s acting and modeling career has spanned over a decade and includes nine full-length films, eight television shows, over 25 sponsorships/commercials/advertisements, and countless modeling projects. Soon, Henney will be adding another American television show to his portfolio, in his new role as Matt Simmons in Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders (CMBB), set to premiere on March 16th on CBS.

Henney took a moment out of his busy day to talk to me about CMBB and other fun things.

Congrats on your work on CMBB! How is CMBB different than CM? What can newcomers and fans of CM look forward to?

There are a lot of things that are different but we wanted to keep the same formula and model that CM established because they’ve done so incredibly well. We would be foolish not to follow what they’ve done.   Continue reading “8Questions: Daniel Henney of ‘Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders’ (Part 1)”

8Questions: Interview with ‘Allegiance’ actor Michael K. Lee

Michael K. Lee performs in Allegiance with Lea Salonga
Michael K. Lee performs in Allegiance with Lea Salonga

As a reader of 8Asians, you’re probably aware of the Broadway musical Allegiance, currently running at the Longacre Theatre in New York City. Featuring the talent of George Takei, Lea Salonga and Telly Leung, Allegiance opened on November 8th to positive critical acclaim. A show about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the musical is already making waves with original songs such as “Gaman,” “What Makes A Man” and Salonga’s uplifting and inspirational performance of “Higher.”

One part of Allegiance that captures an authentically American spirit of rebelliousness is the song “Paradise,” an energetic ensemble performance led by Michael K. Lee as the resolute draft resister Frankie Suzuki. A boisterous big band buster seething with saucy snark and swing, “Paradise” expresses the cynical sentiments of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee as they protested the government’s efforts to enlist them while their families remained incarcerated.

Thanks to The Fairy Princess, we had the chance to chat with Michael about his role in Allegiance:

I know the show has changed considerably since San Diego, with a few changes since previews began on October 6th. Can you share with us some of the changes?

The show has evolved a great deal since San Diego– You know, the show has evolved a great deal since first preview! Haha… all done with the express purpose of streamlining the story. On Broadway alone, we’ve added a new opening number, “Wishes on the Wind,” a new community/baseball scene, a new victory swing, and a new finale, “Still a Chance.” Seriously. And I’m not letting the cat out of the bag here, because I think anyone who was able to see our first shows and have been lucky enough to see it after opening have been privy to these changes. And they’re all so great.

Since the San Diego production, I think all of the characters have really been given dimension. Kei (Salonga) is stronger, Sammy (Telly Leung) more resolute with his convictions. My character Frankie has also been given more form, focus, and determination. Also, in San Diego– I didn’t sing my proposal to Kei!

Your character, Frankie Suzuki, was a rather rebellious character compared with Sammy. Knowing what you know about the incarceration, which side do you think you would have taken (Sammy, Frankie, maybe even Mike Masaoka)?

You want me to fight as an American? Then treat me as an American.

It’s a tough question. I was a social psychology major at Stanford, and one of the things I learned is that social circumstance dictates social behavior. If I were a young man in 1940s, wrongly imprisoned for my ethnicity, I think I would have done everything in my power to prove people wrong. I know when I was in high school, I did everything possible to fit in and be just like everyone else. My family was the only Asian family where I grew up in upstate New York. When the stakes are that high, I think the exuberance/naïveté of youth would have propelled me to fight and join the 442nd Regiment. But after graduating from college, studying Asian American history, knowing about the civil rights era now– in a post-Vietnam War era– I think I would have done what Frankie did: You want me to fight as an American? Then treat me as an American.

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8Questions: Justin Chon on his New Movie ’21 and Over’

8A-2013-03-04-21_1ShtRelativity Media’s new comedy 21 and Over hit the theaters over the weekend. The newest project by the writers of The Hangover Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, 21 and Over is an outrageous journey as Jeff Chang (played by Justin Chon) celebrates his 21st birthday with his best friends (played by Skylar Astin, and Miles Teller the night before his medical school interview.

Here are 8Questions with Justin Chon about his new film and more from a phone interview done last week before the film came out:

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8Questions With Eugenia Yuan, Actress

I can imagine it must be tough to have a wuxia martial arts legend for your mom, but for Eugenia Yuan, being the daughter of the legendary Cheng Pei Pei doesn’t faze her at all. Not only has she pursued her own path as a rhythmic gymnast on the U.S. Olympic Team among other pursuits, she’s even had opportunities to work alongside her mother on various projects like Shanghai Hotel and Flying Dragon, Leaping Tiger. She also has a preference for indie films, though she played a role in Memoirs of a Geisha that even inspired jewelry design. Recently she played the role Karena Lee in the movie Asian American serial killer movie CHINK. More on her thoughts on the industry, the APIA community, and family in 8Questions.
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8Questions with Jason Tobin, Actor

As a teen in the early 90s growing up in LA and OC Asian American communities, everyone knew about the murder of Stuart Tay by other high achieving teens. Rumors flew about the computer theft planned, about drama over a girl, about how he was beaten to death and buried. And this is pre-internet and cell phone, so word traveled fast. When I heard about the movie Better Luck Tomorrow and what it was about, I immediately thought of that Sunny Hills murder, of the shooting at my own high school, of parachute kids, and all the Asian gang violence that used to run rampant in those seemingly nice suburban neighborhoods back then. It didn’t surprise me to find out later that it was loosely based on that incident. The character that actually stood out the most to me was Virgil Hu played by Jason Tobin particularly because Virgil was trying so hard to be something that was clearly out of his league. To me, he seemed like a mascot of that time in high school, where kids were playing adult roles to break out of the mundane routine of endless sunshine, prosperity, and high expectations. That made Tobin perfect for the role of Eddy Tsai in the film CHINK, the first film ever made about an Asian American serial killer, where Tsai idolizes infamous serial killers in a manifestation of racial self-hate and counter-emasculation. Learn more about Tobin and his starring role in CHINK in just 8Questions.
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The Working APA Actor: James Huang

The Working APA Actor is a bi-monthly interview of Asian Pacific Islander American actors in the entertainment world, whether it be theater, film, television, the internet, or commercials. It is an inside look at these actors exploring their passion in their craft and how they balance their personal lives with their work. But more importantly, this column is dedicated to knowing these busy actors a little better as individuals.

It’s been quite some time since the last Working APA Actor interview but we’re off with a bang as we have a very special person here with us today. This fine gentleman is James Huang and for those of you into crime shows, you may have seen him guest starring in Rizzoli & Isles and Law & Order: LA this year. In addition, you may have also seen him in this hilarious short called REPRESENT, to which he wrote and starred in alongside Tim Chiou, Aaron Takahashi, James’ lovely wife Elizabeth Sandy, and Jerry Ying. You can check out James’ demo reel above.

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The Working APA Actor: Jimmy Wong

The Working APA Actor is a bi-monthly interview of Asian Pacific Islander American actors in the entertainment world, whether it be theater, film, television, the internet, or commercials. It is an inside look at these actors exploring their passion in their craft and how they balance their personal lives with their work. But more importantly, this column is dedicated to knowing these busy actors a little better as individuals.

Jimmy Wong needs no better introduction than this: he is one of the few artists who instead of posting a video expressing their outrage over Alexandra Wallace’s rant on Asians in the library, went the more creative route (perhaps THE most creative route) with his truly original and hilarious song known simply as the “Ching Chong song.” As such, YouTubers could also check out his amazing covers (my favorite being Britney Spear’s “Till the World Ends”) as well as his other original content . You all know him as an amazingly talented and extremely funny musician but did you know that he’s an actor as well? You didn’t, did you?

Well, move over Rover, and let Jimmy take over!

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The Working APA Actor: Sabina England

The Working APA Actor is a bi-monthly interview of Asian Pacific Islander American actors in the entertainment world, whether it be theater, film, television, the internet, or commercials. It is an inside look at these actors exploring their passion in their craft and how they balance their personal lives with their work. But more importantly, this column is dedicated to knowing these busy actors a little better as individuals.

I want to shake things up a bit here (if it wasn’t clear from the video you just witnessed at the top). The past The Working APA Actor interviews have featured actors who have made their presence known through film, television, or commercials. But in this day and age, the Internet is becoming a force to be reckoned with and actors are taking advantage of this new medium to make themselves known. Sabina England’s video, “Allah Save the Punk!” is a prime example of an individual who uses this medium to get herself seen and known.

Sabina England is a deaf, liberal secular punk Muslim playwright of East Indian origin who has grown up both in England and in the United States. Have you heard of anybody like that before? I haven’t and it’s freaking awesome. In the two years I have known her, Sabina has been a huge inspiration because she is passionate, fierce, driven, and most of all, she doesn’t apologize for ANYTHING. Learn more about her after the jump.

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The Working APA Actor: Kristina Wong

The Working APA Actor is a bi-monthly interview of Asian Pacific Islander American actors in the entertainment world, whether it be theater, film, television, or commercials. It is an inside look at these actors exploring their passion in their craft and how they balance their personal lives with their work. But more importantly, this column is dedicated to knowing these busy actors a little better as individuals.

For this week’s edition of The Working APA Actor, I am pleased to introduce you all to a wonderful friend of mine who many of you may know very well. She is none other than Kristina Wong.

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