In continuing the discussion of diversity and inclusion in the media and necessary systemic changes in the industry, the SAG-AFTRA President’s Task Force on Education, Outreach & Engagement presented Race & Storytelling: Asian American Voices on July 21. The livestream, the second in a series, featured prominent Asian American performers and industry professionals: SAG-AFTRA Vice President, Los Angeles Clyde Kusatsu (Dr. Ken); actors Christina Chang (The Good Doctor), Parvesh Cheena (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Hudson Yang (Fresh Off the Boat); broadcaster Juju Chang (ABC News’ Nightline); and casting director Leslie Woo (The Farewell). They Call Us Bruce podcast co-host Jeff Yang moderated.
With opening remarks by SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris and National Executive Director David White, the livestream began with a conversation about how different aspects of Asian American history play a role in the way performers tell stories on behalf of the community.
“We are part of the American scene [even though], many times, Asian Americans are seen as ‘the other,’” said Kusatsu. “But the rainbow isn’t monochromatic; there are a lot of pigments within it.”
Panelists discussed ways to influence change at the decision-making level, and create more opportunities for Asian American executives and talent behind the scenes. Hudson and Christina Chang discussed at length the impact popular shows like Fresh Off the Boat and The Good Doctor have had in making Asian American characters and stories relatable to non-Asian and Asian American viewers.
“I never expected to be part of … the first show about an Asian American family in 20 years, and I really didn’t know what kind of power I held,” said Hudson. “But it’s not like the show couldn’t make sense to other races; it was a show about an immigrant family. I think that anybody who has an immigrant in their family or has emigrated could relate to [the Huang family], the show and the jokes told.”
The panel concluded with final thoughts about how, overall, showcasing diversity is becoming more necessary in American films and television shows today.
“I’ve seen a lot of productions on the cusp of being inclusive and diverse,” said casting director Woo. “It’s up to us to bring in all the great actors that would be right for a role, and in the end, have [a production]be a balanced representation of society.”
The panel also featured the premiere of a SAG-AFTRA PSA featuring performers, broadcast journalists and social media influencers calling on all Americans to stand against stigma, xenophobia and harassment related to COVID-19 that Asian Americans continue to experience. Some of the performers who appeared were Kusatsu and actors Lucy Liu, Ken Chong, Iqbal Teaba along with several others. Click here to watch the video.
As conversations about race continue, the PTEOE will continue to host panels featuring diverse voices. Check your email or the SAG-AFTRA website for future livestream event announcements, and watch previous livestreams at youtube.com/sagaftra.
Scroll below to watch the video. Click here to watch the previous Race & Storytelling Panel focusing on African American media images.