Father & Daughter Film Report
Under the Blood Red Sun Visas & Virtue
1.) Since winning an Oscar in 1998, you have the unique perspective of Hollywood as few do. With the rise of such media movements as #OscarsSoWhite and others, has your own outlook on this theme changed personally for you since winning the Academy Award for your film Visas & Virtue?
As an actor and filmmaker of color, the issues of racism in the media become apparent pretty quickly. You immediately become aware, by the roles you are--or or not considered for, of how the industry views you (or people of your race). I started my career in the mid-80s, with a clear understanding that the movie industry was, in my view, pretty racist, and that opportunities for Asian American actors were very limited, and that there was much work to be done. I was coming into it (at the time), in the middle of a fight that had begun years earlier, at least as far back as the 60s, when the Asian American theatre company, East West Players (EWP) was formed (EWP was created in 1965 by a group of Asian American actors who needed a place to perform roles with depth or meaning, since Hollywood was only offering stereotypes and limited opportunities).
2.) As your father is/was a U.S. Circuit Judge, was there any one area of civil law that he might have influenced you in the matters of social justice?
3.) You also played a real life historical figure, journalist & civil rights activist Sei Fujii in George Shaw's & Jeffrey Gee Chin's Lil Tokyo Reporter - were there any attributes of this character that may have rubbed off on your own personality as you prepared for the role?
4.) How would you describe your awareness of the 'white control' of Hollywood when you were making Visas & Virtue in 1998? Were there any specific examples at this time that you now have a more defined awareness of?
5.) You won an Emmy nomination for a film based on (playwright & executive producer) Tim Toyama's own father's experience in a U.S. Japanese internment camp during WWII (Independence Day) - while certainly a low point in American civil liberty history, are there any parallels from this period that still linger in the attitudes you find in Hollywood today?
Certainly, following 9/11, and the attitudes our government has shown towards Muslim and Middle Eastern people, is unfortunately very familiar to those of us who remember the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. But, in terms of Hollywood, I'm sure any dark-skinned actor will confirm: many stereotypes flourish in movies and on TV. "Terrorism" has resulted in many actors being boxed into types, and resulted in misrepresentations of cultures and people in Hollywood. Like issues that faced Japanese Americans following WWII, we must all work hard to maintain awareness, battle stereotypes, and create more opportunities -- equal opportunities, for all artists.