Ming-Na Plays the First Lesbian Asian-American TV Series Regular on SyFy’s SGU

Ming-Na rocks. Seriously. Rocks.

And I love her even though she’s seriously messing with my fall season TV mojo. The thing is, I’m really trying to limit the number of new shows I get into this season. Originally, I only had Glee and Three Rivers on my list, but now I have to add Stargate Universe (SGU), too.

SGU is a military science fiction television series– part of the Stargate franchise– which debuted last night on Syfy (let’s not talk about the stupid re-branding of this cable station… whatevs!). The show follows the adventures of a present-day, multinational exploration team on board the ancient spaceship Destiny that is stranded in a distant corner of the universe and unable to return to Earth. Ming-Na is part of the regular cast as Camille Wray — the first regular Asian-American lesbian character on a TV series.

According to Wikipedia:

[Camille’s character] is an International Oversight Advisory (IOA) accountant who becomes the highest-ranking IOA member left stranded on the ship. She has “a false sense of importance and superiority to the other military and civilian population along with a stubborn way of asserting it”… She is the first openly gay character in the Stargate franchise. Her long-time partner back on Earth, Sharon, will first appear in “Life” in a possibly recurring role.

Incidentally, the role of Sharon is played by 24‘s Reiko Aylesworth, who is part-Asian (she’s of Dutch, Welsh, and Japanese ancestry). According to SheWired.com, fans of girl-girl action “can expect a fleshed-out relationship replete with some on-screen intimacy.” (If that doesn’t get people to watch this show, I’m really not sure what else would!)

This character is history-making, not only because of the character’s openness and ethnicity, but also because it comes at a time when there is a dearth of (regular) lesbian characters on television– the only other one is played by Jessica Capshaw on Grey’s Anatomy. Among the varied roles Ming-Na has played– animated heroine Mulan, a doctor on ER, and Chun-Li in Street Fighter to name a few– this is her first lesbian character, which also gave her the chance to do her first on-screen kiss with another female. (Yes, it has already been taped, says Ming-Na.)

Even though the show is brand new, leaks about the storyline have already hit the Internet. A few months ago, it was reported that Camille’s character is ostensibly depicted having sex with a man, causing an uproar in the LGBT community. When SheWired asked, “Why do you think people responded so vigorously to that plot point in which outwardly, it seemed as though the writers copped out on the whole lesbian aspect of you character?”

Ming-Na responded:

There was a lot of misunderstanding, because when you get a breakdown, it’s never what the end product is—at all. It was an eye opener because I did see the passion from the lesbian community.

I wish my own community, the Asian-American community, would be as passionate about stuff. I really respect that. I think the producers were definitely aware of it and then they tried to correct some of the wrong impression that was made based on the breakdown. And to me, it was just truly an incredible episode. I’m kind of nervous about just watching the outcome –not what the reaction is – because I think once you watch it you’ll realize that it’s about what we take for granted and if that is stripped away from us, how do people deal with what they’ve lost?

And that’s sort of the crux of our show. All these people stranded on Destiny have lost everything except the shirt on their back and all they’re left with is really facing themselves. There are a lot of great morality plays to be dealt with. It’s about life. It’s about all of us. We’re so distracted by the computer, by Twitter…by television, shopping, and all this bombardment of commercialism, but if you take it all away? Who are you really? [full story]

So who is Ming-Na really? Well, according to her Twitter profile (@MsMingNa), she (briefly) describes herself as an “Actress, Geek, Cook, Knitter, Gardener, Decorator and now twitterholic.”

I’d add “role model” and “kickass rockstar” to that list. Hooray to Ming-Na for depicting an Asian-American lesbian character– giving visibility to an often invisible community (she didn’t find out the character was lesbian until after she was already cast). I’m looking forward to watching her character develop on SGU.

If you missed the premiere episode, catch it for free on iTunes or at SyFy Rewind.

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