A-pop! Trailblazers and debt — Adieu to Shigeta and mortgages; casting call for Star Wars

By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly

The sun’s been shining bright in Seattle this last month! But despite the sizzling heat, things have not been as high in Hollywood. Read on to find out about last month’s unfortunate lows and a few highs.

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James Shigeta

Adieu to James Shigeta

I start off this column with somber news about actor James Shigeta’s recent passing. Shigeta, who was 85 at the time of his death, was a pioneering Asian American actor who had lead roles in films such as “The Crimson Kimono,” “Flower Drum Song,” and “Bridge to the Sun.” Shigeta was one of the first prominent Asian American actors to enter the Hollywood scene.

Readers may remember Shigeta for his starring role in the 1961 feature adaptation of the hit Broadway musical “Flower Drum Song,” which showcased an all-Asian cast. Though its influence in American media has been controversial, “Flower Drum Song” is often credited as being one of the first films to portray Asian Americans beyond model minority stereotypes. Shigeta helped introduce this movie to mainstream audiences.

He also did extensive work in television, and appeared in episodes of “Hawaii Five-0,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “The Love Boat,” and “Magnum, P.I.,” among many other shows. Shigeta also had a brief but important role in the iconic action movie “Die Hard,” where he played the ill-fated corporate executive Joseph Takagi.

Though Shigeta hoped to take on more leading roles throughout his career, he recognized his race as a limitation to success in Hollywood. This is why honoring his legacy is so important — Shigeta was a true trailblazer of our time, and he showed Asian audiences that it’s possible to see a familiar face reflected in the media. Here’s to hoping that his work will continue to influence and lead the way for Asian actors in the future.

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Timmy DeLaGhetto

YouTube star pays for parents’ home with video money

Popular YouTube rapper and comedian, Timmy DeLaGhetto (known by his online handle), made headlines for posting a web video in which he presented his parents with a check of $210,000 to pay off their mortgage.

Tim, whose YouTube channel has amassed more than 2.4 million subscribers, dropped out of college five years ago to pursue a career as an entertainer. Naturally, his Asian parents balked at the decision. Tim vowed that he would one day be successful and earn enough money to pay off their house. He finally made good on that promise, and filmed his parents’ reaction.

In the video, Tim’s parents start crying and proclaim their gratitude to their son. It’s a very sweet moment until his parents, in what I assume is a part-jest but part-real request, ask Tim for a few additional gifts: A Mercedes. Or grandchildren. If it’s not one thing, it’s always another with Asian parents!

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Christina Chong

Regardless, Tim easily wins the award for World’s Best Asian Child. We should all be jealous.

Latest casting news for Asian Americans

Whoever implied that summer was a time of idleness certainly wasn’t referring to the bevy of casting announcements for Asians this summer! There’s a ton of casting news to catch up on.

The hotly anticipated “Star Wars: Episode VII,” the next installment in the legendary “Star Wars” movie franchise, broke news that actress Christina Chong will join the movie’s cast. Chong, who is British and of Chinese descent, may be best known for her guest role on the television show “24.” “Star Wars: Episode VII” will land in theaters in December 2015.

Meanwhile, another major film announced its casting. “Big Hero 6” is an animated adventure film from Disney, and it’s based on an adaptation of the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name. The cast includes actors Ryan Potter and Jamie Chung. Potter, who is half Japanese, currently plays a superhero on the teen action show “Supah Ninjas,” while Chung has starred in several mainstream films, such as “The Hangover Part II” and “Sucker Punch.” This movie marks the first animated Marvel adaptation from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Actor Daniel Henney will also have a small role in the movie. “Big Hero 6” opens in theaters on Nov. 7.

Fans of the epic martial arts film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” may be delighted to know that a sequel is in the works.

The film stars acting and martial arts veterans Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen, and will also include the recent addition of dancer and actor Harry Shum Jr. Shum Jr. is best known for his supporting role in the hit musical-comedy television series “Glee.” The sequel, currently titled “Crouching Tiger 2: The Green Destiny,” will be set 20 years after the events of the first film and focus on four heroes who must defend a legendary sword from potential adversaries. Though the plot remains minimal and vague at best, I think we can all agree that the sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” won’t be anything less than legendary. (end)

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

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