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A Chat with Roger and Sung

After a Saturday night Finishing The Game screening at the IFC Center, I took 17:37 minutes to sit down with stars Sung Kang and Roger Fan to talk about acting, Asian Americana, and our favorite hair products.

David Zhou/The Blaaag: My first question for you guys is, what is your favorite film?

Roger Fan: I think my favorite film that influenced me the most was Trainspotting. The first time I saw it, I went out and shaved my head. It was interesting just because it was a film about rebellion, questioning society, 401k, that kind of stuff. Finally I just sat down and said, "Oh my God." So I went an bought the book by Irvine Welsh. That's my favorite film.

Sung Kang: My favorite film was The Goonies. Really inspired a sense of adventure and exploration, you know? I think it reminded me of my childhood, but we never really found the same treasure. We always went out and explored... it really encourages imagination for kids.

DZ: I think in a way these movies illustrate you guys, where one film is a quest of a guy finding one's life and the other is comedy and adventure. Did you guys have any source of inspiration for your acting? Any actors from your childhood that has inspired what you do?

RF: The funny thing about it is when you first conceive of acting, you think it's all about you. It's like, you're going to be actor. Then you realize you're going to Hollywood, and it's a full team sport. And if it's not a team sport, chances are you'll get annihilated. My inspiration is being a part of a team more than anything else at this point.

SK: Everybody tends to say so-and-so person inspired us to be actors, but...

DZ: Yeah, I guess it's a question that a lot of actors get - like whom did you want to be when you started acting?

SK: As a kid my role models on television were the typical American role models... the typical western, John Wayne, James Dean, the action adventure, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, that's just how it went... whereas when you get a little older, you realize that there's really no one with your face up there. Unless it's from a kung fu movie, and I can't really identify with Jet Li or Jackie Chan. They were never my heroes. So as an actor, to go, "I really aspired to be like him," I don't think that really hits it. I think that there are a few people of our age, of our generation, working inspires me to give it a shot, but can you name any heroic Asian American males out there? It's really tough.

DZ: In your careers as actors, what was the most interesting audition that you've been to?

RF: I think it's a wake-up call when Asia comes to cast in L.A... I came about five, six years ago - you would walk in to do a typical Hollywood audition, and it's like no matter what you do, you're just not in the minds of the people in the room. Every now and then, Asia comes in to cast something in L.A., even for something as basic as a car commercial. And the second you walk in, everyone in the room has a unanimous agreement that you are a leading guy, you are the person who should be the face of this product. That for me was an eye-opener. In Hollywood, you're always going to be that Asian person; in Asia, there's just nothing holding you back.

SK: Yeah, I agree.

DZ: This is a question my co-editor and I have been dying to ask. We're big fans of Heroes-

SK: Yeah, Heroes.

DZ: Right, with Masi Oka. And he's become, along with you guys, the next step in Asian American actors. So we were talking about the fact that Masi Oka, while being a part of this new step, he's also in a way pretty typecast.

RF: It's great that there are Asian Americans in mainstream television that actually have a prominence. The issue is, there always are - the same three or four guys that are rotated through. The question is, can we expand upon the existing archetypes that are happening right now? Masi Oka - I went to college with him, great guy - happens to be a really amazing actor that fits a very specific archetype. At the end of the day, Masi Oka is a perfect English-speaking American (born in Japan), but he's forced to speak with an accent. The great thing is, he plays a cool and heroic guy. But he's still a foreigner. Daniel Dae Kim - perfect English-speaking guy on Lost - has to speak Korean. Masi should be out there, doing what he's doing. I think Sung's and my job is just to create more archetypes out there. We just have to understand what the lay of the land is. Hollywood is never going to create a role where Sung and I get to be leading guys. We have to do it on our own.

DZ: Through independent filmmaking.

RF: Yeah.

DZ: So we're seeing that you guys have to resort to independent filmmaking to spread your message, to create more archetypes. Do you think that this is different with mainstream television - that it might have more freedom with creating certain characters that aren't being seen in Hollywood right now? If so, what kind of leeway might this be?

SK: I think that there's actually less leeway on television. It's quicker, shorter medium. It's thirty minutes to an hour. Break that down - a sitcom would be eighteen minutes, an hour episodic would be forty to forty five minutes. The reason is that they have to fill these spots. The reason why the show exists is because of the ad space that they have to sell. If Tide or Honda pays millions of dollars for that space, they want a successful show that millions of people across America are watching. So at the end of the day it's still a lot like film. Film, though, has more pipelines available to take more risk. You're not trying to redefine an archetype on television - you don't have the time. That's why those characters are safe. You don't have eighteen minutes to explain to middle America who these character are. They want easy, relatable, and identifiable. "I like you and I'll watch you next week." There's no explaining three dimensional backstories of who you are.

DZ: Wow. Certainly adds something new to what I thought was the difference between film and television. So, this is the last really substantial question I have for you guys. Through AAA, we talk a lot about what it means to be an Asian American in our society. For you guys, I guess you have the added burden or role of saying something about what it means to be an Asian American in media and acting. Do you have any thoughts or messages you try to get across about this?

SK: As an Asian American actor? It's such a tough question to answer because at a lot of Q&A sessions, someone always asks, "Do you think that Asian Americans in the media are responsible for positive representation in our community?" I think it's a heavy burden to place on someone. I'd like to say that if someone is in front of the camera, I wish this person would take on some kind of responsibility, but I don't expect him to. It's on an individual basis. For myself, I have high standards for the kind of person I want to be: the kind of friend I want to be, the kind of future husband I want to be, the kind of father I want to be. It goes into the kind of actor I want to be. At the end of the day, I'm responsible for Sung and what he wants to be remembered as. I don't think I can put on the burden of Asian America.

RF: At the end of the day, there is not a general national Asian American pride. I think it has to do a lot with the fact that Asian Americans have adopted assimilation as their way of becoming part of the fabric of American society. This means adopting a set of rules to be successful that were already set in American society that were not set by their own people. They have to play by rules of the system. In a way, you're going to somewhat abandon your self-identity of what it means to be an Asian American. Asian American identity is still not formed yet. If we're not careful, we may be assimilating it away completely. Ten to fifteen years from now what is Asian American won't be Asian American, but is really mainstream preferences.

DZ: Like the product of another identity.

RF: Yeah. Ultimately, it requires more effort to be proud of who you are, create opportunities for your community, and come together on a national level so that we have a voice. Right now our voices are almost silent. That's not good for politics, entertainment, business, or life in America. It's really up to our generation to wake up, take ownership, and help define what it means to be an Asian American.

DZ: Alright. The last two questions are pretty loose. What is your spirit animal?

RF & SK: What is that?

DZ: In [stereotypical] Native American culture, there's an animal that symbolizes who you are. Mine is a puppy.

SK: Mine's an anaconda.

DZ: But anaconda don't have hair.

RF: It's alright, man. Mine, too, would be an anaconda.

DZ: Alright. And lastly, because I'm sure the girls want to know this, what hair products do you guys use?

SK: Hair products? I'm a big fan of, uhhh, cashew oil.

DZ: Don't worry - eventually some company will call you and ask you to be the spokesman for their cashew oil.

SK: I used to be a gel guy, but then I think that whole wet thing didn't work.

DZ: Yeah, I tried to be also.

RF: What do you use?

DZ: I just use shampoo.

RF: You don't put anything in your hair.

DZ: It's pretty wild sometimes. I realized before that gel doesn't really work. Just doesn't stay.

SK: It's too hard.

RF: Try the cashew oil. You'll see.

SK: You'll see the difference overnight.

RF: It'll look chaotic, but it's manageable. Manegeable chaos.

I think I'm about to try the cashew oil.


  1. Karen said...

    Nice job, David!  

  2. Marilla said...

    i'm proud to call you my partner  

  3. Nhu-Y said...

    i will buy you some cashew oil, david.  


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