A-pop! Color blind casting: to dye or not dye, that is the question

A monthly column about all things Asian in popular culture

By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly

A media convergence for local Asian American

In local and television news, Seattle web entrepreneur Ben Huh will be getting his own reality television show on the Bravo network. Huh, who is Korean American, is the CEO of I Can Has Cheezburger?, an Internet company behind several popular Internet humor sites, including the wildly popular LOLcat memes that pair comical images of cats with idiosyncratic captions. Tentatively entitled “Huh?” the reality show will follow Huh and his staff at the Cheezburger offices.

Given the eccentric humor behind the numerous Cheezburger-affiliated websites, I can only assume this reality show is a vehicle for bringing the same kind of inanity to mainstream television. No word yet on when the series will start airing.

From America to China: the latest in the film industry

The trailer for “Total Recall,” featuring Korean American actor John Cho, is making the rounds at the theater. The science-fiction action film, a remake of the 1990 original, takes place in a dystopian future, where the former North American, European, and Asian nations fight for political power. Cho will play the role of McClane, a role originally played by white actor Ray Baker.

While it’s always fantastic to see an Asian American actor in an action flick that doesn’t necessarily revolve around Asian character tropes, what bothers me is that Cho bleached his hair blonde for this movie. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen the original or this remake, but the hair dye job comes off as a concession for Cho taking on a role originally portrayed by a white actor. Can’t the role of McClane just be color-blind and forego the platinum blonde treatment altogether?

Meanwhile, in a bid to tap the booming Chinese box office, the Walt Disney Company’s Marvel Studios and Beijing-based DMG Entertainment announced their partnership to co-produce the movie “Iron Man 3” in China.

The science-fiction “Iron Man” franchise follows the adventures of an industrialist, who engineers a powered exoskeleton to become a technologically advanced superhero.

The partnership with DMG, which has close ties to the state-run China Film Group, will allow Disney and Marvel to work around Beijing’s tight film-import quota, which typically only allows 20 foreign films to be screened in China annually. China will also see perks from this partnership, such as localizing parts of the film to appeal to local Chinese audiences, as well as casting locals in various roles in the movie.

However, official casting announcements have not yet been made.

Japanese entertainers pursue new opportunities in the U.S.

Popular Japanese R&B and pop singer Crystal Kay recently announced her collaboration with Asian American hip-hop group Far East Movement for her upcoming American debut album. Kay will also be featured on a track from the group’s sophomore album, “Dirty Bass,” due out next month.

Kay, who is of African American and Korean descent, was born in Japan and is a pioneer for multiracial artists in Japan. In a press release for her upcoming collaboration with Far East Movement, Kay said, “When I first heard [Far East Movement] wanted to feature me on one of their tracks, I was so happy … To have my name on an international act’s CD feels unreal … I would like to take this opportunity to start reaching out to an international audience.”

It sounds like her American album, along with her collaboration with Far East Movement, will really allow Kay to embrace her multiracial roots. Best of luck to you, Kay.

Japanese actress Ryoko Yonekura is also making waves on the American stage. In July, she will star in a Broadway production of the musical “Chicago” as the show’s protagonist, Roxie Hart. Yonekura previously played the same role in the Japanese productions of “Chicago” in 2008 and 2010.

She will be the first Japanese woman to star on Broadway since naturalized American actress Miyoshi Umeki’s run in “Flower Drum Song” in 1958. She will also be the first Japanese person ever to play the lead as an American character in a long-running musical on Broadway.

Take note, producers of “Total Recall.” This is how color-blind casting is done. A big congrats to Yonekura for breaking new ground with her latest success! (end)

Vivian Nguyen can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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