Friday, July 21, 2006

Asian Acting

The ad agency I work for just completed filming of two commercials in Vancouver. Today, they showed us the rough edits of them and I found one of them appalling.

For one thing, they casted these actors from Korea, where acting ability is not necessarily a requirement. I'm not dissing Korean actors. It's a well-known fact that Koreans don't have to be good actors in order to become famous.

Sure, there's some of that here in the States, but it's on a different level. You just don't risk $80 million on an actor who isn't guaranteed to be bankable. No movie from Korea has ever grossed that much worldwide, including Chingu, Old Boy and that new one, Typhoon. Shiri didn't even come close.

A production person at my agency said out loud to the group watching the commercials that Americans won't like one of the commercials. I agreed. I thought it was way overacted. Just over-the-top bad overacting that inspires me to puke all over the actor's headshot.

What's interesting is, I was in the minority. In fact, they called me a twinkie. I couldn't believe it! Especially since I've called other people who were more whiter than me that. But compared to the FOBs in my office, I'm both a twinkie and a banana.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I am finding a sense of frustration, though, for the Asian American actors here in America. The creative directors working at Asian American ad agencies are FOBs, and they're used to Asian acting. So, if you are trying to be like Ed Norton or Sean Penn, you're just not emoting enough for the Asians. And if you overact like an Asian in Asia, you're probably not going to get anywhere in Hollywood.

I remember watching an interview with James Coburn, an oldtime actor who hung out with Bruce Lee and learned JKD from him. He said Bruce just didn't know how to act, which to the millions of Asians around the world, this would be blasphemy. How dare you say that about our icon? But it's probably true. Bruce was Bruce, and fans loved it. James Coburn, on the other hand, was a very good actor. But you probably don't remember much about him, do you?

On the way back from the production room, I was informed I wouldn't be cast for one of the agency's print jobs. The problem? I don't look old enough. But I can accept that. What I won't accept is them telling me I can't act or don't look expressive enough. Because that's just bullshit.

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