April 2015 | Asian American Life


♪ [Theme Music] ♪>>>DEMILLO: Hi, I’m
Ernabel Demillo, welcome to Asian American Life. In
this edition I sat down with the young star of the
hit T.V. show “Fresh Off the Boat” to talk about
his life changing role and why the show is a success.
Plus we have this. Paul Lin enjoys a modern opera
on Hollywood T.V. and film. Minnie Roh gets into
action with superheroes. And Kyung Yoon learns how to
turn an entrepreneurial dream into reality. We begin our show
with “Fresh Off the Boat” the history making sitcom
on A.B.C. television. Variety
magazine reports that diversity sells and Hollywood
is finally responding with hit shows like this one.
Let’s take a look.>>>DEMILLO: And so begins
the adventure for Eddie and his family. And for
the boy playing Eddie in A.B.C.’s new sitcom “Fresh
Off the Boat”. Meet eleven year old Hudson Yang who
on a whim declared to his family he wanted to be an
actor.>>>HUDSON YANG: I thought
I was going to do one thing, see how it was and
then go back home and be normal again. I didn’t
think that it would lead to this but now that I’m
doing something like really big or something
amazing or cool, I don’t know how to explain it,
it’s just really fun.>>>DEMILLO: “Fresh Off the
Boat” is the first sitcom featuring an Asian
American cast in twenty years. Back in 1994
comedian Margaret Cho stared in All-American Girl
which was panned by Asian Americans and critics
alike including ironically Hudson’s dad. Jeff Yang a
cultural critic and columnist for The Wall
Street Journal was a young reporter for The Village
Voice who was assigned to review “All American Girl”.>>>JEFF YANG: The fact
that they wanted me to review this felt
uncomfortable to me. If you’re Asian Americans
it’s so hard to get coverage of any sort, and
Asian American journalists have a special
responsibility and it feels like sometimes to
shed that lens.>>>DEMILLO: Later Cho
blamed Yangs critique as one reason why her show
was cancelled.>>>JEFF YANG: Margaret
furiously told me that that review is going to
end up being a key element in the cancellation of the
show, that if they wanted to pull the rug out they
would in part use the blame that the community
was not supporting the show.>>>DEMILLO: Yang says he
regrets writing the review especially because it took
twenty years for the networks to give the green
light to a show with an all Asian American cast.
This time the reviews and the community have been
kinder, even Eddie Huang who openly criticized the
writers and producers for sanitizing his story has
come around, praising the pilot. The celebrity chef
and bestselling author showed up at the standing
room only premiere screening in New York. It
was so popular organizers had to turn away hundreds
of people at the door.>>>JEFF YANG: I think
we’re really at the cusp of a unique moment in
Asian American media history and maybe it did
take twenty years of absence for this to
happen, twenty years in which we grew as a
community.>>>DEMILLO: If “Fresh Off
the Boat” proves successful it could
benefit other shows featuring Asian Americans.
A.B.C. just gave Ken Jeong the green light to produce
and star in the comedy Dr. Ken. In fact a recent
study out of U.C.L.A. has shown that audiences are
hungry for shows with diverse cast shows like
Empire, Scandal, Jane the Virgin just to name a few
have done really well in the ratings. Many agree
there is a lot riding on “Fresh Off the Boat” and
on the cast shoulders. Asian Americans don’t want
another twenty year drought. The show and in
another comic twist is set in the 1990’s when All
American Girl premiered. It’s loosely based on
Eddie Huang’s childhood in a predominately white
neighborhood in Orlando Florida. Randall Park
plays Eddie’s a amiable dad and Constance Wu stars
as his mom. The
show which has several Asian Americans
also working behind the scenes as writers and producers
has it’s a laugh out loud sitcom moments but it also
dares to push the envelope. For example they have already
in the first episode tackled the word chink. Yang
who grew up in Staten Island can relate to many of the story
line.>>>JEFF YANG: I do definitely
empathize especially with some things you see in the
pilot, right. Perhaps most critically I remember bringing
to school food that my fellow students thought was
bizarre or disgusting and having to eat by myself because of
that. Until I finally told my parents I want white
people lunch.>>>DEMILLO: But for Hudson
who grew up in Brooklyn it’s a different world and
a different narrative. Were you ever treated
differently when you were in school or now in school
because you’re Asian?>>>HUDSON YANG: Not at
all, I mean there are some points where they didn’t,
they weren’t mean to me because I was Asian but
they’re like nicer to me because I was Asian.>>>JEFF YANG: I felt for a while
like Asian America was ripe for this, like we were
getting to a point where there was just way too much
water behind the dam for something to not finally breaks
through. Now we’re ready. We’re ready to see what happens
next and not just for “Fresh Off the Boat” but I think
for hopefully the fuselage of Asian American shows and
movies and stars to come after.>>>DEMILLO: “Fresh Off the
Boat” continues to grow in popularity with that all
important demographic, the eighteen to forty nine
year old viewers. Imagine an opera based on the
Silence of the Lambs serial killer, Hannibal
Lecter, well Paul Lin meets with the composer of
One World Symphony who turns pop culture into
performing arts.>>>LIN: The Church of the
Holy Apostles in Manhattan is home to One World
Symphony, yes it’s an orchestra with a conductor
and soloists but if you think this is classical
music and that’s not your thing prepare to be blown
away. The One World experience in a word is
democratic. Everyone sits on the same floor in
close, there’s no stage, no stuffy attitude.
There’s also the energy South Korean born Sung Jim
Hong brings both to musicians and the audience, energy
and a tangible connection.>>>HONG: Too many conductors
I think this is how they begin. I’m going to start and then they
look at the music instead of, and then breathe and make that
connection, breathe with, with your fellow musicians.>>>LIN: We caught up Sung
Jim and wife, soprano Adrienne Metzinger at
their Brooklyn apartment to find out why One World
has changed the way people think about classical
music.>>>METZINGER: We get
people involved. It’s, there’s no intermission,
you just keep going and going and we get
everybody, it’s more immersive experience.>>>LIN: So why not a
little tap dancing during your orchestral
performance, that happened at a concert themed around
the T.V. show The Bachelor. Complete with
women vying for the attention of a contestant
through tap and song. Only this night everyone gets a
rose.>>>METZINGER: We really
try to frame everything, frame symphony and opera
in a way that it can resonate with today’s
audience, today’s public.>>>LIN: One World got its
start in 2001, Sung Jim and Adrienne had already
been planning a concert before 9/11, after the attacks
they felt compelled to do something for a city
devastated by terrorism.>>>HONG: It helped us
build some sort of, I would say identity, but a
sense of purpose because we thought we were
contributing towards our local community.>>>LIN: One World
contributed the proceeds of that first concert to
the Firefighters Widows and Children’s Fund and
has donated proceeds ever since to organizations
around the world that do good work. One World’s
other mission can be seen as a kind of musical
outreach that includes encouraging people to
really be a part of the show. One World helps
people tap into music that is lived for centuries.
The feisty women, the romance and drama of
opera, dark stories and battles for power just
like hit T.V. shows today. That realization got Sung
Jim inspired to write his first opera based on
Breaking Bad.>>>METZINGER: And within
an hour of us making it live on our website, Time
magazine had posted it to their website. By the end
of that day, it just, it just went crazy.>>>LIN: When the premier
of Breaking Bad Ozymandias, the opera was sold out Sung
Jim and Adrienne knew they were on to something.
People actually lining up on the street waiting to
hear the new opera. After that success the trademark
term Operasode was born. Which brings us to the new opera
Sung Jim’s composing based on the T.V. show Hannibal.>>>HONG: Hannibal will be
my second opera after Breaking Bad Ozymandias.
And it’s inspired by probably the most notorious
serial killer, Hannibal Lecter.>>>LIN: So how does one
set music to a story about the infamous fictional serial
killer Hannibal Lecter? Sung Jim begins with a line of dialogue
from one of the episodes.>>>HONG: Hannibal
asks Will what do you hear. And Will response responds
with carbon, orchestrations of carbon.>>>LIN: Carbon is a building
block for life so Sung Jim takes that as a departure
point for composing the opera, choosing letters from the word
carbon that also happened to be musical notes.>>>HONG: I chose the note
C, A and B from carbon. And if you mix those
notes, juxtapose them you get the sonorities and
even, even the aroma of those sounds, incredibly
intriguing and sensual.>>>HONG: People say
classical music is dying and people are, the musicians
don’t care about the audience, this is the reason why I’m
taking off the ritual. OK, so let’s practice it again.
Just will yourself to really enjoy. If you have, I mean
seriously. Okay, here we go.>>>LIN: People especially
in New York City have so many options vying for
their time and attention which is why Sung Jim and
Adrienne want their audience to have the best
time at One World’s concerts.>>>LIN: For much of the
week the space inside where One World perform
serves as New York’s largest soup kitchen and
One World often donates concert proceeds to help
feed this community, providing hot meals for
some of New York’s hungriest. I’m Paul Lin
for Asian American Life.>>>ROH: I’m Minnie Roh, in
a world of superheroes traditionally white and
male like Captain America, Superman and Batman you’d
be surprised to learn that the authors who breathed
life into these characters are anything but. These icons are as familiar to us as buttered toast.
Action figures capable of death defying feats like
shimmying up building walls or soaring through
the sky. But what is not as widely known is that
some of the authors penning these beloved
characters have names like Hama, Chu and Pak. They
are Asian American and they are helping to change
the landscape of the industry from the inside
out.>>>PAK: The more diverse
your writing staff gets, the more you know
interesting stuff you can do.>>>ROH: Greg Pak is a
freelance writer for publishing powerhouses
like D.C. and Marvel comics and has written The
Incredible Hulk, Batman and most recently Superman
to name a few.>>>PAK: I’m writing Superman,
Superman’s an immigrant you know he comes from Planet
Krypton, he doesn’t belong, he’s always struggling and
he’s navigating multiple cultures and figuring
out what his role is.>>>ROH: As a writer Pak
has the ability to incorporate diverse characters
into his comics like Wong in the Dr. Strange series and
Amadeus Cho, The Incredible Hulk’s
number one fan a super genius who happens to be a
Korean American.>>>PAK: When I pitched the
idea of doing this Korean American kid I never had
that moment where people said does he have to be
Korean or you know. That will happen in the film
industry, never, ever has that ever happened in
comics.>>>ROH: Amy Chu is a
rising star in the comic book industry. A former
Asian American activist turned businesswoman turned comic
book writer, she says she never dreamed this world
was for her. But then it all changed after taking an online
writing course.>>>CHU: I produced what
became my first published comic, you know. So I did
the story and people liked it and that’s kind of a
revelation for someone like me who’s kind of done business
or management all my life.>>>ROH: After discovering
a hidden passion she went on to self publish titles
like “Saving Abby” and “Girls’ Night Out”,
stories that would appeal to everyone but
particularly a female audience. Soon she found herself
freelancing for established labels like Vertigo and
D.C. comics and writing about the adventures of the
most recognizable female character, Wonder Woman.>>>CHU: I do want to show
there’s diversity. When I write stories I am acutely
aware of ethnicity and gender bias and things like
that so that definitely enters into the story.>>>ROH: In the past color
simply referred to the hues that filled in the
pages of a comic book. Then a few decades ago
thanks to an ethnically diverse pool of writers
and editors a new breed of superheroes was born that
no longer fit the mold. For example take Cindy
Moon or Silk, she’s an Asian American who
developed super powers after being bitten by a
radioactive spider. Kamala Khan A.K.A. Miss Marvel a
Pakistani Muslim American from New Jersey. Turok
is a Native American dinosaur hunter. There’s Storm the
leader of the X-Men who started life as a daughter
of a Kenyan princess.>>>PAK: People have created
diverse characters in comics for decades and I think it’s easier
in comics because there are fewer people breathing
down your neck.>>>ROH: Pak and Chu to say
a lot of the credit of shattering the glass
ceiling to the formally white male dominated world
of comic book writing goes to Larry Hama, a Japanese
American author with a cult like following for
his work on G.I. Joe.>>>PAK: In the comics world
Larry Hama is one of those people who you know from the
beginning was getting in there and you know in places
where somebody like him had not traditionally been
and making it all work.>>>CHU: When he introduces
female characters or Asian characters these are real
characters that everyone loves. And it’s not like OK I’m going
to wave a flag in your face, I’m going to put an Asian
American character in there and there you go. He
does it so seamlessly people don’t even know they’ve been
co-opted into a progressive kind of agenda, it’s wonderful.>>>ROH: Chu says
personally she tries to stay away from creating
characters just for the sake of diversity but she
admits she does feel a sense of responsibility to
be a watchdog for her industry, from behind the
scenes.>>>CHU: Now it’s kind of
imbedded, in that like oh my god I just read the
worst comic or I’m like I’m looking at the
Chinatown this guy drew and it’s like paper
lanterns in the streets. I’m like this is a
community dude, you know and I’m not going to be
out there like pounding my fist, but I want every
reader to know that that’s not, even if it’s a fantasy,
it’s a racist fantasy you know and let’s, let’s change that
by me being in the industry, other people being
in the industry.>>>ROH: At the end of the
day these writers say they just want to create a world,
yes even a fantasy one that is a mirror image of the
world in which we all live.>>>PAK: And the world in
which we live is more and more and more diverse
every day and you know putting the lived
experience in the books is what we should be doing.
That’s what makes them live and breathe and makes
people care, so hope I can keep doing that.>>>ROH: Several years ago
the first Asian American comic con was held in New
York City. Hundreds attended the day long
event which explored the role of Asians and Asian
Americans in graphic fiction, I’m Minnie Roh
for Asian American Life.>>>YOON: I’m Kyung Yoon,
in today’s On The Move we meet an entrepreneur who’s
putting a new face to science and skin care.>>>DAVID CHUNG: When I
came to the United States at age twelve and it was
the January 7th, 1971.>>>YOON: It’s been a long
road for David Chung since arriving from Korea as a
sixth grader who couldn’t speak a word of English to
becoming a successful executive in the highly
competitive business of beauty and skin care.>>>DAVID CHUNG: I think
the beauty business is always going to be there,
no matter whether it’s a recession or whether the
market is good or bad, or even with the different
technologies around, but that the beauty will
always be there.>>>YOON: That’s why David
and his wife Erica embarked on building their own luxury
skin care line called 3 Lab as well as a bustling
manufacturing and research and development facility in
New Jersey that produces more than eighty well known
beauty brands and is a hundred million dollars skin
care business.>>>DAVID CHUNG: I majored
in engineering in school. But business was in my blood.
It was my in my D.N.A.>>>YOON: David’s mother
Judy Chung had been the first in the family to make the
long journey halfway around the world to Queens, New York.
When she left Korea in 1964 it was a poor country, still
reeling from the devastation of the Korean War. When she
landed at J.F.K. Airport Judy Chung had a hundred
dollars to her name and dreams of a better life for herself
and her children.>>>JUDY CHUNG: I worked in
company, trading company nine to five. And after,
5:30 to 11:00 I worked New York Life insurance, so I
had two jobs.>>>YOON: The hard working
mother finally saved enough money to bring over
the children she had left behind in Korea. A couple
years after the family was reunited she opened a
small shop in Manhattan’s West 32nd Street in 1973.
It was the first Korean store in a neighborhood
that today has been transformed into New York
City’s Korea Town. David worked at the store after
school during his junior high and high school
years. He recalls that stretch of 32nd Street as
being a far different and dangerous place from Korea
town today.>>>DAVID CHUNG: I remember
as a young kid we’d get robbed all the time, it
was a dangerous place to go you know, and if you
parked your car within two seconds they will open up
the trunk and take everything.>>>JUDY CHUNG: You have to
twice working hard then other people. Other people
working eight hours, we work fifteen hours,
nothing to lose.>>>YOON: That’s the hard
work paid off when David and his wife started their own skin
care brand called 3Lab in 2003.>>>ERICA CHUNG: We decided
to come up with our own brand, so 3Lab was born. And I am in
charge of the 3Lab brand.>>>DAVID CHUNG: In the
beginning when we started 3Lab we were looking for
a research and development company and contract
manufacturing company to work with us to develop
the skin care line, decided to create my own
company to do it and to do my own research and
development and manufacturing. And that somehow was born a
company called Englewood Labs.>>>ERICA CHUNG: David is a
perfectionist. Everything should be done in a way
that he wishes to. So we all have to deliver to his
satisfactory.>>>DAVID CHUNG: I am
personally bring all my resource, investment back
into research and development of skin care,
mainly skin care. And always continue to look
for interesting ingredients that’s around
the world and actually working together with the
different ingredients to make the skin care very
unique.>>>YOON: What started as a
dream for David and Erica Chung is now a skin care
company that employs hundreds of people in
Englewood, New Jersey, and with their own brand sold
worldwide. I’m Kyung Yoon for Asian American Life. I just thought it was so fascinating to meet David
Chung but also his mother, the fact that she’s 85
years old. She was, had the first store in
Koreatown West 32nd Street in Manhattan and just to
see where this boy as a teenager kind of learned
about how to pack things, how to run a retail business
but he also learned about the value of hard work and
then kind of took his mom and pop store and has really taken
it to a whole different level.>>>ROH: Kind of breaking
the mold. You know my story too, these writers
also broke the mold. You know Greg Pak he started
out as a film writer, as a screenwriter. Amy Chu this
fascinating woman she was a Asian American activist,
then she went to Harvard Business School, went into
biotech and then one day she said I think I’m just
going to go into comic book writing and she’s
this very successful comic book writer, created a lot
of good strong female characters. You know it’s
really refreshing to see that.>>>DEMILLO: You know
what’s so interesting about this, when you’re
talking about Asian Americans pursuing the
arts and entertainment, you’re really seeing
obviously a lot more in front of the camera but
there’s so much going on behind the scenes too.
When I was talking to Jeff Yang whose son is the star
of “Fresh Off the Boat”, he said in the writing
room there are Asian American writers, there’s
an Asian American director, a producer and
you’re really starting to see the change from within
and I think that’s really going to really, really
reflect later on when you see more shows with
diverse cast. And these shows, these shows are all
doing well including “Fresh Off the Boat”, I
hope you guys are watching.>>>LIN: It really makes me
think you know perhaps they might even do
something with this, this is a popular culture
phenomenon now to have Asian Americans on a T.V.
show that’s you know prime time and you know maybe
they could even do something like, could they
make an opera out of this. This is not too far out of
the way and breaking the mold is something that the
One World Symphony has been doing, making operas
and sort of pairing them with popular culture.>>>DEMILLO: That’s our
show for now be sure to tune in next month when we
profile inspiring leaders who paved the way for
Asian Americans. I’m Ernabel Demillo for Asian
American Life. ♪ [Theme Music] ♪

3 thoughts on “April 2015 | Asian American Life

  1. if there is a line,  asian would be at the end of the line waiting and the rest of other will be ahead of you asian…lol

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