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?
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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By Leeland Lee
The New York Times recently published a collection of photographs by Laura Morton depicting the “entrepreneurs, geniuses, idealists” who have flooded Silicon Valley in search of vast riches.
In image after image, we see millennial techies in situ, both at work and at play. But only some of these techies are drinking beer and smoking stogies and, well, enjoying life. Those would be the white techies. The Asian techies, most of them, just look utterly miserable.
Entitled “The Silicon Valley Hustle,” the photo montage is an interesting study of contrasts. The white techies, mostly young men, are dressed in plaid or light-colored shirts. They strike animated poses, they point, they laugh, they are the cynosure of attention.
Meanwhile, there’s a photo of their Asian counterparts, an undifferentiated mass competing in a recent hackathon. These techies stare intensely at their laptops and wear boring T-shirts. They’re surrounded by human detritus and penned in like farm animals. These little techies won’t be allowed to go home tonight.
Moving back to white person world, we see a young techie coding from the airy rooftop of his Sunset apartment. We see techies chasing after venture capital tail at an industry mixer. And of course, what would this photo collection be without an image of white techies posing in—what else?—the backyard of a fraternity.
Want to see something really depressing? Scroll down a little farther and you’ll see an Asian techie asleep at her computer. Her mouth is agape, she is burnt out from hours of non-stop coding. Do white techies sleep as well? Why yes they do, as evidenced by a photo of a young man resting comfortably on fake grass.
Apparently when white techies sleep, they even do so in a way that’s vaguely photogenic.
Looking through these photos, you might wonder: Certainly, Asian techies must have some fun—sometimes? After all, remember, Asians are also human! And if you look hard enough, finally you see her: A lone Asian woman at a dinner party. She is staring up at her white techie co-worker, who just made a hilariously bombastic remark.
And so there you have it, an insider’s view of how Silicon Valley really operates. As I scrolled through these photos, I couldn’t help but think about our Asian parents, and how they groomed us into becoming academic superstars. Have we forgotten that rote memorization and perfect SAT scores can only get you so far? Have we failed to grasp the value of exposing ourselves and our youngsters to varied and unpredictable social situations to foster valuable communication skills down the road?
As these photos remind us, even in Silicon Valley some of the most crucial moments in life occur serendipitously at its ragged edges, far from the classroom, cubicle or computer.
Photo credit: Original photos by Laura Morton; compiled as a montage by 8Asians from screenshots for this piece
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leeland Lee has written previously for 8Asians.com about two Asian Americans set up on a blind date
Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 19: “Ken’s an Expert Witness”
Original airdate March 18, 2016.
Symptoms: When Ken is asked to testify in court as an expert witness, a grueling cross-examination leaves his confidence shaken and threatens his effectiveness as a diagnostician. At home, Ken and Allison refuse to buy Molly a very expensive gown for the spring formal, so Dave volunteers to sew one just like it. When he struggles with the task, Allison is touched by the gesture, so she works all night to make one for Dave to give Molly. And Juan Julio, Welltopia’s valet, invites Julie and Damona to see him perform a lip-sync concert in which he dresses as Prince singing a Beach Boys song. Julie senses sparks between her and Juan Julio.
Diagnosis: I’ve been wanting to write about this all season, but haven’t found a good place to put it, so I’ll do it now. Krista Marie Yu, who plays Molly, is a thoughtful actress who generally responds really well to the flow of dialogue (keep an eye on her when other characters are conversing and you’ll see what I mean), but where she really stands out is in the way she moves. Most of the time, it’s a very chipmunk-like motion from one posture to the next. She’ll be still one moment, and in the next, she’s in a different position almost too quickly for you to have noticed the transition. It’s a good choice for the character, who’s clearly inherited her father’s quickness of wit and sharpness of tongue. But when Molly asks her parents to buy her the gown, she wriggles into a spot on the couch between them in a way that asserts herself as the center of the conversation as well as the center of the frame. It’s a fluid, graceful, endearing movement that hightlights what’s been her greatest skill all season: a complete awareness of the space her body occupies and an understanding of how its movement is as critical to communicating her character as her delivery of lines.
I saw Kohl’s Oscar themed commercials during this year’s Oscars. One of the commercials had an Asian American Mom & daughter:
“On Sunday night, we got to see the other three ads that accompany that one, featuring other acceptance speeches in less sparkly contexts. … Lastly, a girl in a fort made of bedsheets invites her mother in to play “the duchess” for tea, triggering Penelope Cruz’s Best Supporting Actress speech for Vicky Cristina Barcelona in 2009.”
To be honest, when I saw the ad (as well as the other Kohl ads), I really didn’t get what was going on in the commercial – especially with the woman speaking Spanish… I’m not sure how this really promotes Kohl’s … The YouTube description of the commercial says, “A tea party fit for a duchess in your honor? Time to thank the great kids in your life.”
Besides the CAAMFest 2016 panel discussion with the co-creater Alan Yang and cast member Kelvin Yu of Netflix’s ‘Master of None,’ I got to attend the panel discussion with CW’s ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ actors Filipino American Vincent Rodriguez III and Vella Lovell on Sunday, March 13th.
To be honest, I did not know much about ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – I had heard about the show when mentioned about how 2015 was the year of Asian American television, with ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ and ‘Dr. Ken.’ All I knew was the show starred a white woman, so I was wondering why the show was being lumped in with other Asian American shows. But I started to pay a little bit more attention after reading ‘‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Star Rachel Bloom on Why TV Needs More Asian Bros’:
“I really think diversity is simultaneous with telling new stories because, I don’t know, “White People Hanging Out in a Coffee Shop” has been done. Diversity is just more artistically interesting to me because you’re in new territory and the whole purpose of making art, in my head, is to explore topics that haven’t been explored.
I have never seen a show that took place in Southern California and portrayed people the way it is in Southern California. The prom king in my high school was Chinese and the prom queen was Japanese. We just didn’t think about it. It was like, “Oh, yeah, George and Mika? They’re the prom king and queen.” It wasn’t until I realized that every other show is set in some nebulous town on the East Coast or Midwest where everyone is white and Protestant… How boring is that? And that’s not truth. That’s not my truth.”
“Rebecca Bunch is a single woman who still longs for her longtime soul mate Josh, who dumped her after their summer fling during summer camp in 2005. In 2015, after being inspired by a TV commercial for a butter spread, she restarts her pursuit of Josh after she spots him in New York City. When he tells her that he is moving to West Covina, California (“Just two hours from the beach, four hours in traffic”), Rebecca decides to move there too, hoping that it will give her a fresh start and bring her closer to Josh. She ditches her job in New York and moves there. “
So the big deal of course is that the character Rebecca has the hots for her ex-boyfriend, who happens to be an Asian American male / Filipino American (what a concept!). So I did get around to watching the first episode, but hadn’t actually finished watching it …. But I was still excited to attend the panel discussion.
Masashi Niwano, CAAMFest Festival & Exhibitions Director and emcee / interviewer (and former 8Asians blogger) Dino-Ray Ramos made some welcoming remarks, then a viewing of “Thanksgiving” episode then a discussion with Vincent & Vella facilitated by Dino, and ending with a Q&A session with the audience.
I’m glad I was able to watch the ‘Thanksgiving’ episode – because I was kind of blown away by it. In that episode, Rachel gets herself invited to Josh’s family’s Thanksgiving dinner (Josh is still dating dumb-but-HOT Latina Valencia) and we get to see a LARGE Filipino family get-together for Thanksgiving. And to be honest, I really, really related to the character of Greg who was taking care of his sick father – kind of a bit too real for me …
After the episode viewing of ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,’ the panel discussion began with both Vincent & Vella describing what brought them to ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.’ Vincent has been acting since high school and has his up’s and down’s, from traveling shows to television over the past decade+. (Given how relatively young he looked, I was pretty surprised.) When he got the script for the casting, he was blown away that the character of Josh was pretty much like him. Vella, who is more of a recent college graduate of Julliard School and has a bachelor’s degree from New York University.
If you’ve got some time, I’d encourage you to watch the panel and audience Q&A.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 16: “Tight Two”
Original airdate March 15, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Louis injures his leg while attempting to entertain Jessica, putting him in a cast and wheelchair. This leaves it up to Jessica to oversee the new “Cattleman’s Ranch To Go” service at the restaurant while Louis stays home with the boys. Jessica finds herself at war with the staff, and the pressure Louis puts on himself to be the fun dad results in another long visit to the ER.
Good: There’s all kinds of good interaction between Jessica and Louis, and between the three brothers. Most of the jokes fall flat, but spending time with the characters like this is really enjoyable. An ongoing conversation between the brothers about who would eat whom if they all found themselves stuck on a deserted island is silly and charming. Jessica’s management of the restaurant staff is cute, and for once the staff’s stupidity is actually kind of pleasant, if only because of the annoyance it brings Jessica.
Bad: I’m willing to accept most of the ridiculous things Louis does to himself and to his family, but this is over the line. He’s not an idiot, and he knows where to draw the line when it comes to the boys. Letting them remove his cast is considerably beyond the line, and it’s not that funny.
FOB moment: Grandma watches a Chinese movie she once auditioned for.
Soundtrack flashback: I got nothing. There are snippets of country-western songs in the background of the restaurant scenes, but they’re impossible for me to identify.
Final grade, this episode: I love Jessica’s conversations with Louis, and it’s nice how both plots are connected, and not just incidentally. I hate most of the rest of this story. C-minus.
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 »
I first heard of Netflix’s television series “Master of None” last November when listening to Terry Gross’s Fresh Air program’s fantastic interview with Indian American Aziz Ansari and Taiwanese American co-creator and co-writer Alan Yang.
When Season 1 was released, I quickly binged watch the series and really loved it, especially the one most relevant to the Asian American experience – Episode 2, “Parents.” Master of None has recently been renewed for Season 2 (coming in 2017)
This year at the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) Festival 2016 (“CAAMFest”), when I saw that there was going to an interview with co-creater Alan Yang and cast member Kelvin Yu (who happen to both be Taiwanese Americans) on Saturday, March 12th, I definitely wanted to attend and I wasn’t disappointed.
Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 18: “Dicky Wexler’s Last Show”
Original airdate March 11, 2016.
Symptoms: Ken’s “favorite patient,” an old-school standup comic named Dicky Wexler, approaches Ken for medical clearance so he can perform at the Friar’s Club. Despite a chart that indicates Dicky should be in the hospital, and against Julie’s advice, Ken signs the clearance. When Dicky is hospitalized soon after, Ken is forced to choose between loyalty to his friend and responsibility as physician.
In the subplots, Allison is upset over the discovery of a former patient who’s seeing someone else for treatment, and Clark is upset when he learns that the Welltopia staff has lied to him about liking the vegan food he’s recommended.
Diagnosis: In an episode like this, the subplots exist only to give the actors something to do, a decision I understand but wish the show’s producers wouldn’t find necessary. The supporting actors should understand that a strong episode makes the show better, which is better for them whether they’re in it or not. Despite the obviously extraneous subplots, the episode manages to pace itself well, and the emotional payoff is effective and earned, something that can’t be said of recent episodes. It saddens me to think about what could have been done with the minutes wasted on the Allison and Welltopia stories, because here was a plot we haven’t seen elsewhere, one that makes powerful use of Ken’s unique qualities as doctor and amateur entertainer. This is a good episode not merely because of its emotional heft, but because it’s a story that can be told only about this character.
Prognosis: I won’t pretend to understand how networks decide on series renewals, but with only three episodes left this season, I’m hoping ABC notices the recent upward trend in this show’s quality. There’s a lot of potential with this cast and these characters, and I think they’re earning themselves another year.
Rx: Truly great television series color outside the lines, and although this is a good episode, I wish it had been brave enough to swing for the fences in some line-crossing way. Without the usual constraints of the sitcom formula, what could have been done with these characters in this situation? So much more. Julie and Allison had more to offer, and some kind of exploration by Ken about how sucky (and lonely) his job is sometimes could have made the episode’s tag more than emotionally moving. It could have ripped our hearts out.
There’s no new episode of Post Show and Tell this week, but here’s an apology and explanation from host Joz Wang.
“A piano has 88 keys. Each one is different. But what if they were all the same? To find out, we took apart a piano and reengineered it so that it only plays one note: Middle C. Be together. #NotTheSame”
“The commercial features Ji playing two pianos, one of which has been tuned entirely to middle C. It’s sort of a high-concept jab at Apple and tied to Android’s slogan of “Be together, not the same.” But honestly, about the only thing that matters is Ji’s high-speed rendition of the third movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.””
Ji has been playing piano since he was five, and professionally for 15 years.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 15: “Keep ‘Em Separated”
Original airdate March 8, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Now that he’s spending less time at the restaurant, Louis keeps intruding on Jessica’s time with Honey. To get him out of their hair, Jessica encourages Louis to get back into an old hobby: shooting pool. Louis jumps in with his usual unbridled enthusiasm, pleasing Jessica until she learns that his new partner is a woman. At school, Nicole breaks up with her boyfriend, which means she’s more available for hanging out with Eddie, but Eddie hasn’t yet told Alison that he used to have a crush on her. Alison turns out to be cool with it, but Eddie’s reaction, when he discovers that Alison used to have a crush on Dave, is not as understanding or tolerant.
Good: There are some really fun visual gags in this episode, as when one scene ends with Jessica saying that Louis “just needs a little nudge,” and the next scene begins with a shot of Louis’s pool cue nudging him in the arm. A slo-mo montage illustrating Honey’s point that “everything is sexy” when Alannah Miles’s “Black Velvet” is playing on the jukebox is pretty hilarious too.
We get a brief bit of mean Eddie, but he’s quick to see the error of his ways, and he immediately patches things up with Dave in a sweet scene in front of the ice cream truck. There must be something in the air lately, because there’s nothing especially creative, interesting, or even earned about the payoff, but dang it: I was still moved (I responded similarly to a touchy-feely moment in last week’s Dr. Ken). It’s nice when good characters recognize the goodness in each other and put a voice on it. Like almost everything else in this episode, it works for me.
Bad: I like it best when an episode’s stories are Eddie-centric and Louis-Jessica-centric, as most episodes were in the first season. The downside is less screen time for Emery and Evan. And this is really picking nits, but the episode is named after a line in everyone’s favorite Offspring song, which Walter even quotes, but the song itself is nowhere to be heard.
FOB moment: There is one strange, funny moment in Jessica’s list of rules for Louis having female friends when she slips into a very FOB inflection (the part where she talks about the lazy eye).
Soundtrack flashback: “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles (1989), “La Grange” by ZZ Top (1973), “Baby Baby” by Amy Grant (1991). And for the third time in three Denim Turtle appearances, I cannot recognize the song that’s playing when the ladies are in the bar. Also: anyone know what that song is when Louis first shoots pool? It has lyrics that sound like “Luanne,” “dance until the sun comes up,” and “…can’t stand still.”
Final grade, this episode: Boy was this a fun episode. I laughed almost all the way through. B+.
As Star Wars VIII has begun production, an interesting part of that announcement is circled in red – an Asian American will be part of the main cast! Kelly Marie Tran joins Benicio del Toro and Laura Dern as a featured actor. While Tran is listed as a newcomer, she has extensive training in well known improv groups such as Second City and a number of other roles. You can find a more detailed look at her work here and at her IMDB page.
Her role is not mentioned in the release, but I hope we see actually see her and not just through motion capture like Lupita Nyong’o. As Angry Asian Man points out, there are a number of Asian Americans in minor roles in “The Force Awakens,” but a prominent role will be new. One wonders if the addition of a Hispanic and an Asian American to the cast will prompt another boycott Star Wars as “anti-White” movement.
Star Wars Episode VIII will be released December 15, 2017.
Photo by Joanna Degeneres, IMDB