Merle Dandridge on “Blasian” Identity and Oprah Winfrey Network’s new summer original series “Greenleaf”

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-06-21 19:57Z by Steven

Merle Dandridge on “Blasian” Identity and Oprah Winfrey Network’s new summer original series “Greenleaf”

CAAM: Center of Asian American Media

Mitzi Uehara Carter

Merle Dandridge started her career on Broadway with leading roles in Spamalot, Aida, Rent, Tarzan, and Jesus Christ Superstar. Not only does she have singing chops, she shines on screen. Dandridge has been cast in recurring roles on television shows including The Night Shift, CSI: Miami and Stalker.

Dandridge has also broken into a field that is gaining more serious attention from actors — video games. Female actors can often find well developed, complex characters in narrative-led gaming roles. This year, she won BAFTA’ best performer for her role in the popular post-apocalyptic Playstation game, “Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.”

I spoke with Dandridge about her starring role in the upcoming original drama series, Greenleaf, on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), which debuts June 21, 2016. This is her first lead role on a television series. Dandridge talked to me via phone from Los Angeles about this new summer drama that is chock-full of award-winning actors and writers. We also squealed about being Black and Asian and she hinted at a possible “Kimchi and Collards” project…

Ok, Merle. I’m Black and Asian and I have to tell you I did a little happy dance when I learned your mother is Asian and your dad is Black American right? And you were born in Okinawa where my mom is from. Seriously now. I’m so psyched you’re Black Asian. Can you tell me a little about growing up with this very particular mixed background?

Your kidding me? I don’t know others of that mix. How interesting! My mother is half Japanese and Korean. And I have older siblings who are mostly Korean, 1/4 Japanese, because of my mom’s first marriage to a Korean man. I was born in Okinawa but most of my time in Asia was in Seoul. My mother belongs to two cultures that didn’t really accept her 100 percent. So she had this understanding of rejection based on her own experiences. She would look at me and say, “You are of different ethnicities and you might not always be accepted so go into the world knowing that and know that you are more than that. You are beautiful.” And in many ways she instilled a sense of who I was and gave me ways to encounter fears of not being fully accepted. And in Nebraska as one of the only ones [mixed Asians], I think it was a good exercise in becoming a good person because I think I had to be above the confusion, the potential rejections…

Read the entire interview here.

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Steve Byrne: Irish-Korean American Writes About His Life for TV

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2014-08-18 16:50Z by Steven

Steve Byrne: Irish-Korean American Writes About His Life for TV

CAAM (Center for Asian American Media)

Dino-Ray Ramos

For three seasons on network TV, an Irish-Korean American comedian has been writing and starring in his own show, to little fanfare. Now, Steve Byrne of TBS’ Sullivan & Son shares how he nabbed a sitcom deal, what it’s like being mixed race in Hollywood, and writing his reality.

Byrne got his start in the comedy club scene in the Big Apple. If there is one date that Byrne remembers, it’s the date of his first stand-up gig. After finishing school in Ohio, he moved to New York City and crashed on his parents’ couch. While looking for a job, he stumbled upon the popular comedy club, Carolines. He would watch stand-up comedians on stage and thought it looked like fun. Four months later, on September 30, 1997, he tried it out and said he just knew right away that that’s what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

The season finale of Sullivan & Son airs Tuesday, August 19th on TBS with special guest star Margaret Cho. I had a chance to sit down with Byrne for an extensive chat about his show and about race in Hollywood.

Where did the idea of Sullivan & Son come from?
Vince (Vaughn) and I used to hike all the time. He said, “You should write some for yourself because your opportunities are limited given your background.” In Hollywood, I went for Asian roles but I wasn’t Asian enough and I’d go for white roles and wasn’t white enough.

I bought a bunch of books, I studied. About eight months later, I turned the script to Vince. He took a look at it and said it’s pretty good. We went to meet with some showrunners. I met with Rob Long and Peter Billingsley who work with Vince Vaughn. All of us have been pals for a long time. We finessed the script. Turned it from a diner into a bar, made it a thousand times funnier, and I think within a few months, we were making it…

Read the entire interview here.

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