All the Great APAs on Lost

lost

Two articles about Lost and all of our favorite Asian American actors on the show:

Melinda Hsu Taylor

In Part 1 of our Lost interviews, writer/producer Melinda Hsu Taylor talks about her favorite characters to write for and her affinity for the sci-fi genre.

Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse

Executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse talk about how Lost came to feature so many diverse Asian and Asian American actors.

Asian Americans on “The L Word”

As a huge fan of the lesbian melodrama “The L Word,” I’ve been keeping my eye out for Asian Americans since the show began. Despite a petition last fall to see more LGBT Asian Americans on the show, it seems that the best we can hope for are mixed race Asians, or Asians playing other races. In looking back at past seasons, there are actually quite a few instances of this. Unfortunately, in the case of mixed race characters, their Asian American identity is never mentioned. This is particularly disappointing given the sensitivity that the show has given to the issue of Bette’s biraciality, which has resulted in one of the best portrayals of mixed race identity we’ve seen. It’s also clear that Asian American women can only stand in as brief love interests, and then they disappear forever.

l word - catherine

Sandrine Holt as Helena’s love interest in season four. They have a weird relationship where Catherine seduces Helena into her high-stakes gambling career. Holt is half-Chinese, half-French.

l word - jamie

This season’s hapa star—Mei Melancon as Jamie Chen, Alice and Tasha’s third wheel crush. Jamie is Chinese, Japanese and French. With the character’s last name “Chen,” Melancon is officially the first character to be actually noted as being of Asian heritage. We’ll see if this ever comes up in the plot.

l word - carmen

l word - papi

Last but not least, it must be mentioned that Shane’s beautiful ex-fiancee Carmen was played by Sarah Shahi, who is Persian, and Janina Gavankar as the notorious Papi is Indian and Dutch. However, both roles are decidedly Latina.

MANAA’s Interview with “On the Lot’s” Shalini Kantayya, MANAA’s 2004 Scholarship Winner

“On the Lot,” Fox’s reality show about 50 directors (chosen from 12,000 submissions), aired its finale on August 21, 2007 with Will Bigham named the winner of the $1 million development deal with Dreamworks Pictures. The series faced many problems, including an ever-dwindling audience that sunk to less than two million viewers (the finale got the attention of 2.5 million), the firing of Chelsea Handler as original host, and the hiring of greenhorn live host Adrianna Costa. The main interest of “On the Lot” to MANAA supporters, though, was the participation of Shalini Kantayya, a 30 year old director originally from Connecticut who’s lived in Brooklyn for the past 10 years.

The Indian American won MANAA’s 2004 scholarship and demonstrated her commitment to the cause week after week, finishing in the Top 10. Guy Aoki, a MANAA Board Member and the group’s founding president, interviewed Ms. Kantayya by phone. The following interview previously ran in an abridged version of Aoki’s “Into the Next Stage” column in the Rafu Shimpo newspaper.

Guy Aoki: Well, first of all, we’re so proud of what you’ve done.

Shalini Kantayya: Oh thank you!

GA: I mean, what’s really terrific is that you used at least one Asian person in every one of your films (SK laughs). And you know, that’s so refreshing because I often hear Asian American writers say, “Well, I’m gonna have to wait ’till I make it [to help Asian Americans].” They get onto the writing staff of a TV show, and they’re still very self-conscious about being Asian American. I understand that: If there’s like only one Asian in the whole writing room and everyone else is white, then they don’t want to be an advocate right off the bat. They want to just kind of fit in and show that they’re like a team player.

SK: Very understandable.

GA: And then you wait and wait and wait and you wonder, “Well, are they going to remember when they make it, or are they just going to get so used to doing white stories and casting white people that they’re gonna forget about it by the time they, quote, ‘make it?'” So I was so happy that every one of your films featured an Asian person, and it didn’t take away from the piece, and it was part of the success! Was it [intentional?]

SK: Well, we had a pool of actors to work from so you’re pretty restricted. Do I have a commitment to diversify? Absolutely. But I think more than that… I never want to be held back or boxed in as an Asian American filmmaker. I hope that if I’m asked to make a film about Latino gangs, I’ll be able to do it, or white American suburban life that I’ll be able to do it. But I think as my voice grows as a filmmaker, we make films about things that we know about. And I happen to know, for instance, the script for “Doctor-In-Law” was great. That script could’ve been about any immigrant community. It could’ve been Czechoslovakian people, could’ve been any first generation family, but I think those kinds of immigrant stories are very close to my heart and Doctor-In Law, I think, was a script asking for me to direct it.

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