Tag Archives: TV


Randall Park Pitches ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ to Everyone, Including Kim Jong-un

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

If you haven’t watched ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat yet, Randall Park is here to tell you why it’s a show you would enjoy. Whether you’re a 25-year-old punk rock anarchist from Salt Lake City, a 57-year-old captain of a booze cruise in New Orleans or an old, cranky witch, there are plenty of reasons for anyone to love the sitcom.

That is, unless you’re Kim Jong-un, for obvious reasons.

Check out Park’s video from Entertainment Weekly below:



Michelle Wie to Make Guest Appearance on ‘Hawaii Five-0′

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Michelle Wie isn’t a stranger to the spotlight, especially after enjoying a very successful resurgent 2014 LPGA season. To keep herself busy during the offseason, the 25-year-old will be joining fellow Korean American actors Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim in an upcoming episode of Hawaii Five-0, Golf.com reports.

Wie posted the above picture of herself posing on the Hawaii Five-0 set on her Instagram account (@themichellewie), saying, “Officially an actress now #hawaii50 #wheresmySAGcard @danieldaekim.”

Like Wie, Kim is a Honolulu native and a close friend of hers. He was on hand to watch Wie win her first major championship at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open back in June.

Hawaii Five-0 airs Friday evenings at 9 p.m. EST on CBS.

kpop high 1

Nick Cannon to Co-Produce New K-pop Musical Series ‘The Drop’


Nick Cannon will be co-producing a new half-hour musical comedy titled The Drop, formerly known as K-pop High, reported the Indiewire.

According to the casting callThe Drop is “a mashup of Glee and the Korean Pop aesthetic.” Set in an international boarding school with a performance arts program, the series follows three teenage girls who meet as strangers and befriend each other after discovering their shared “sensibility for the K-pop vibe.”

In a nutshell, it’s pretty much an American remake of Dream High. 

Cannon, who is also the series’ co-creator, will be co-executive producing the DHX Media project alongside Tommy Lynch and Steven DeNure. No casting announcements have been made yet, but filming has been scheduled for early December to mid-March 2015. The current episode order for the series is 20 episodes, which will be filmed in Toronto. The show will most likely air on the Nickelodeon network as Cannon is the chairman of TeenNick.

Here are the descriptions of the show’s four main characters:

SUN HI, Female, 14 – 16 yrs
Killer singer! Sun Hi is funky and free-spirited. She’s a dreamer and has huge life aspirations. She wants to be a pop star, she wants to fall in love, and she wants to star in movies… she wants, and wants, and wants! As a performer, Sun Hi is creative and open-minded. She’s always wiling to try new things in her songs, choreography and staging. We love her because her energy is high and because she is willing to take risks to follow her dream. We laugh with her because her ambition is often misguided and gets her into trouble.

JODI, Female, 14 – 16 yrs
Jodi was brought up in New York. She is loud and proud. Jodi is the fashionista of the group. She will keep her crew on the cutting edge of hip. Jodi can sing and dance, but her training is minimal. It’s all street informed. Hip hop dance moves and rap music are areas she’s comfortable in.

CORKI, Female, 14 – 16 yrs
Corki is the wealthy only child to a Korean business tycoon. Corki is familiar with boarding schools as she has spent her life in them. Corki is a little aloof. Her comedy comes from her super rich upbringing. We love her because she really is innocent about how the rest of the world lives. Corki is under constant pressure from her father to do well in school. Her father sees K-pop as frivolous, unlike ballet and the violin, in which his daughter has trained and excelled. Her classical ballet training will become an emotional counterpoint in her stories as she fuses ballet with Jodi’s Hip Hop style. Corki sings well and rocks the violin, once she loosens up.

CALEB, Male, 14 – 16 yrs
A dancer and singer, Caleb is obsessed with K-pop culture. He knows every band, every song, every star. He believes it to be the next big cultural thing and wants to be part of it. Caleb often has a difficult time concentrating. He was sent to boarding school because he was falling behind in his town school. In reality, Caleb’s trouble paying attention comes from his high intellect. Caleb is a genius. He’s a brilliant songwriter/producer. Caleb thinks faster than others, but he can get so far ahead of himself that he often forgets where he is going.

This is not the first time Cannon has supported a K-pop project. In 2012, Cannon’s production company NCredible collaborated with JYP Entertainment to produce a TV movie featuring the Wonder Girls, which premiered on the TeenNick channel.


ABC to Adapt Korean Drama ‘My Love From Another Star’


Another Korean show is getting the Hollywood treatment.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, ABC is planning to remake the fantasy Korean drama series My Love From Another Star. The network has already made a script commitment with penalty, which means that the writer will be paid a fee if the pilot is not produced.

Airing from December to February in Korea, the original series starred Kim Soo-hyun and Jun Ji-hyun, who won the grand prize at this year’s Baeksang Arts Awards. The drama was incredibly popular all over Asia, especially in China, where the show accumulated more than 2.5 billion streams during its three-month run.

ABC describes their remake as an “epic supernatural love story about a world-famous pop star, Lark, and her anti-social neighbor, James, who happens to be from another planet.” When James receives a premonition of Lark’s murder, he reluctantly intervenes in the haughty starlet’s life and inevitably falls in love with her — just as he finally gets the chance to return to his home planet, according to THR.

The creator of the original series, Park Ji-Eun, is reportedly on board to executive produce alongside Moon Bomi of HB Entertainment, the production company behind the Korean format. HB Entertainment and EnterMedia Contents will also be producing the ABC adaptation in association with Sony Pictures Television. In addition, the writing duo Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain (The 100, The Vampire Diaries, Dollhouse) will pen the scripts and exec produce.

My Love From Another Star is the latest Korean show to be adapted for this year’s development season. CBS is currently adapting the Korean medical drama Good Doctor while NBC is working on the remake of the variety show Grandpas Over Flowers.

My Love is available in its entirety on DramaFever. Below is a clip of the original Korean pilot:


20 Years Later, Margaret Cho Looks Back on ‘All-American Girl’

All Grown Up

Margaret Cho reflects on All-American Girl, 20 years after its primetime debut on ABC.


In the history of network television, ’90s sitcom All-American Girl faded in and out faster than a thumbprint on a Hypercolor T-shirt.

But for people who looked like me, it was monumental.

On the evening of September 14, 1994, Asian Americans from coast to coast sat in front of their TV sets and held their breath as the opening credits appeared and a spunky Margaret Cho walked down a staircase in a ripped denim jacket and feathered bangs, while talking like a Valley Girl on a Zack Morris-style cordless phone. Collectively, we murmured to ourselves, “Please don’t let this show suck.”

All-American Girl was the first network sitcom to feature a predominantly Asian American cast—a milestone that brought tempered hope for a group that had for decades been reduced to kung fu fighters, dragon ladies and kooky bucktoothed neighbors in mainstream media portrayals. Cho played Margaret Kim, a college student living at home with her culture-clashed Korean American family that included her bookstore-owning mom and dad (Jodi Long and Clyde Kusatsu), older brother (B.D. Wong) and zany grandmother (Amy Hill).

ABC billed the show as based on the comedy of Cho, a then-25-year-old rising star on the stand-up circuit, loved (and sometimes hated) for her loud, raucous and unapologetically crude routines. (“I wanted it to be called ‘The Margaret Cho Show’ because I am such a f-ckin’ egomaniac,” she said onstage before the pilot aired.)

But The Margaret Cho Show it wasn’t, and that may have doomed the series from day one. Instead of inspiring laughter, All-American Girl mostly brought looks of confusion. Critics panned the show for its bad jokes, stereotyped characters and banal storylines that endorsed, rather than shattered, ethnic myths. The show’s ultimate cancellation after 19 episodes sent Cho into a spiral of depression and drug addiction, as detailed in her 2002 autobiography, I’m The One That I Want.

Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Twenty years later, Cho, 45, has gained perspective on the experience, and with the progress in the media and society over the past two decades, holds high hopes for Fresh Off The Boat—a new ABC sitcom based on Eddie Huang’s bestselling memoir about growing up as a hip-hop loving kid in suburban Orlando. It’s the first network TV show since All-American Girl to be centered on an Asian American family.

Cho talks with KoreAm about All-American Girl and what it meant for Asian Americans, who almost never saw faces like theirs on TV. Perhaps writer Philip W. Chung summed it up best when he wrote in a 1994 Los Angeles Times column: “The most incredible thing about the series is that it even exists.”

Where were you in your life just before All-American Girl?
I was doing stand-up comedy, and I was traveling a lot and working a lot. I was still really young, but I wanted to become an adult, and comedy was what I thought would be the fastest path to adulthood, and it really was. I never thought about the overreaching kinds of things like race and identity. I just wanted to get out of the kind of environment that I was living in. I didn’t want to do what my family expected of me. I wasn’t going to school at the time, so that was already, like, amazingly weird and brave for an Asian American.

How did the show come about?
TV networks were giving development deals to stand-up comedians. There was a lot of that happening, a ton more than now.

Did you have much creative control?
No. No. I didn’t know how to get that, and it was never offered to me.

What did you think when you first read the script?
I thought it was really too much of a kids’ show, and it wasn’t really what I did as a stand-up comedian. They had understood me as a performer wrongly. But I wanted the show to be on the air, so I wanted to be whatever they wanted me to be. For me, this could be job security in an industry where you never know if you’re going to work again. So I just wanted to do anything to make sure the show would happen. I didn’t feel like I had the choice to argue for what I needed.

As the star of the first Asian American family sitcom on network TV, the pressure must have been immense.
I was alone in the situation. Nobody had any advice for me. I couldn’t ask anybody because nobody knew what I was going through. I was the only person who had ever done this. I had nobody who could tell me what the right move was. I was too young to understand what to do or how to deal with it, and everyone just wanted to get a show on the air. And people didn’t realize that having the first Asian American family on TV comes with a lot of cultural baggage that needs to be addressed.

And to top it off, you were criticized for your weight. (In I’m The One That I Want, Cho wrote that she was forced to lose weight rapidly—30 pounds in two weeks—which led to serious kidney failure.)
That was a major thing that came up with the initial camera tests. But it had never come up throughout the development process, and it wasn’t until we were very close to shooting that I heard that complaint. It’s a really terrifying thing to be told, “Well, you don’t qualify for this job that you’ve been a part of all this time because you’re too fat.” I have a feeling, though, that it really wasn’t about my weight. Why wouldn’t they have said something much earlier? I think they just didn’t know how to photograph Asian faces. Asian American faces, at that point, were so foreign, and they didn’t know what to do with people who were different.

When the show aired, what was the reaction from the Asian American community?
The reaction was very mixed. A lot of the younger people were excited about it because it was the first time they saw Asian Americans on TV. That’s a really big deal. Other people were angry that it wasn’t what I normally did as a comedian. And I think other people were, like, waiting to be offended by the show, but were more offended by the fact that I was chosen to do that role. My comedy is much more edgy than anything I would do on mainstream television, and my move toward mainstream television was somehow considered an offensive thing.

People were also concerned about whether you were “too Asian” or “not Asian enough.”
The weirdness of being the first Asian American—I guess, for lack of a better word—star, is that people are constantly judging you. They’re asking, ‘Where do you fit on this idea of who we are?’ With ethnic identity, there’s a right way to be and a wrong way to be, and that’s a really weird thing. The panic comes from not seeing Asians Americans on television, so the few images we do have of them become overly scrutinized.

If you’re coming into visibility, you’re the first person to write the story, and it’s very hard to do that first. What is your identity if you’ve never seen yourself before? How do you carve it out of nothing? That’s a really challenging thing as a performer.

What the All-American Girl did was point out that we are invisible. You don’t understand invisibility until you realize that you’re not invisible anymore. It absolutely was more important than just television or just entertainment. We’re talking about this idea of visibility versus power in society. It’s a huge, huge thing.

In the past 20 years, how have media portrayals of Asian Americans changed?
There still is a lot of invisibility. But it’s better. Certainly, it’s better. There are many more Asian American characters, and the entire industry has expanded exponentially. There are so many television channels and so much more media, including online, and everything that we didn’t even have before. Now people can sort of enjoy [shows with Asian Americans] for the comedy itself, and the humor comes from this organic place. It’s a good thing.

What are your thoughts on the next Asian American family sitcom, Fresh Off The Boat?
I love what they’re doing with Fresh Off The Boat. It’s really funny, the cast is really talented, and the writing is really strong. I really love Eddie Huang’s point of view and perspective. His humor is close to what I would want to do if I were to create a show. It’s like, how do you figure out who you are when you don’t see yourself out there? Here’s a kid who does just that. He finds himself. I think that’s really powerful.

Eddie and I have been in really close contact since the show started, and I feel like, oh my God, my experience actually is really valuable here. I’ll tell him things I wish I had known. What people are buying, in his brand and his image, is identity. His fans want to see themselves in him. This show can be an extension of that, so I think I’m helping him understand his importance, even though I didn’t understand mine at the time.

Cul-Intro-AS14-americangirl Cul-Intro-AS14-FOB
(ABOVE) The cast of All-American Girl; (BELOW) the cast of Fresh Off the Boat, based on Eddie Huang’s book, to premiere in 2015 on ABC.

What’s new in your life?
I’m working on standup. I’m doing a new record and a new tour that I’m about to go on the road with. I’m back to doing what I really love.

How do you ultimately feel when you look back on All-American Girl?
In the end, I was really grateful to have done it. It really helped me understand a lot more about show business. When re-watching the episodes, I totally forgot some of the stuff that had happened because we were immersed in it. I was just trying to survive within the work of it. I just wanted to keep it going. I wanted to stay alive.

The cast was very close. I’m still friends with all of the actors. B.D Wong and Jodi Long, I see more often.

I’m really grateful for the effect that it had on people who grew up watching it. For a lot people, it was the first time that they saw Asian Americans on television, and that’s really cool. I feel like it did accomplish a lot. It didn’t do exactly what I thought it was going to do, but in a lot of ways, I think it did more. It was a good way to grow up.

This article was published in the August/September 2014 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the August/Sept. issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).


NBC to Remake SKorean Series ‘Grandpas Over Flowers’


NBC isn’t a stranger to unscripted celebrity-infused reality shows, but for the first time, the peacock network is adapting a South Korean show, Grandpas Over Flowers, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the duo behind Smash and Sound of Music Live!, will helm the series, which will be called Better Late Than Never.

Grandpas Over Flowers, now in its second season in Korea under CJ E&M, follows four veteran South Korean actors known as national “grandfathers” as they backpack across Southeast Asia. The U.S. version will make this the first Korean variety show to be adapted by a national broadcast network in North America.

Since debuting in 2013, the series has been hugely popular–there’s something endearing about watching the antics of these older gentlemen as they sometimes crankily make their way around. The original series has spawned spin-offs, Sisters Over Flowers and Friends Over Flowers, both produced by CJ E&M.

NBC hasn’t announced which celebrities will participate or released any details on what the “adventure” will be. The Hollywood Reporter said that if Better Late Than Never gets a suitable cast to join on, it will immediately go straight to series.

You can watch the international trailer for Grandpas Over Flowers below.

Kimchi copy

VIDEO: The Kimchi Slap Is The Best Revenge


Dexter Morgan has seen his share of blood splatter. But would he be able to handle kimchi splatter?

MBC’s Everybody Kimchi! explores the phenomenon of assault with a fermented weapon to the juiciest extent. The South Korean TV show is set in the kimchi industry, and like the dish itself, we can only imagine the drama is just as spicy.

In a recent episode, Won Ki-jun’s character plays a big-shot jerk lawyer who betrays the woman’s daughter. In perhaps one of the best redemption/revenge scenes ever, he gets what’s coming to him. The mother takes an entire cabbage head of kimchi and gives the guy a thorough whack. Move over, Oldboy.

The slap occurs at about the 1:30 mark.

Anyone else feel worse for his white shirt than for him getting kimchi juice all up in his ear and office? And by the way, what’s up with the printer in the back shooting out a sheet of paper just as the slap occurs?

Kimchi Slap 2

We understand that face: cleaning up spilled kimchi is like dealing with a radiation leak. Also, the shirt. The poor shirt.

For those who can’t get enough, here’s the kimchi slap over and over for one minute.

Image via Kotaku


May Cover Story: Sandra Oh Opens Up About Her Decision to Leave ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Oh, the Places She’ll Go
Sandra Oh makes the bold decision to depart Grey’s Anatomy. The actress opens up about her two decades long career,
 half of which was spent on the highly popular ABC medical drama, and the other bold chances she’s ready to take.

Photographs by LEVER RUKHIN

Do you know, by the time you’re reading this, that Sandra Oh’s run on the hit ABC drama Grey’s Anatomy has come to an end? That with the season 10 finale, which aired on May 15, you will no longer be able to watch fresh episodes that feature an ambitious, hard-driving surgeon named Cristina Yang glowing from the small screen? That there will be one less stereotype-defying character that a magazine like this one can cite as the type of representation we wish American television presented on a more regular basis?

Last summer, Sandra made the announcement that this would be her final year on what has proven to be a groundbreaking series, with its diverse casting and storylines. And as season 10 wound toward its conclusion, the producers of Grey’s Anatomy amped up the suspense as to just how Dr. Cristina Yang would no longer be running around Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. One episode that aired in late March put her future front and center, as it tinkered with the space-time continuum and posited different potential flash-for- wards for Dr. Yang’s life.

It also allowed Sandra to give at least one more bravura performance, as her character was tested with one of life’s quandaries: what comes first, career or love? What do you choose to be your life’s priorities? The title of that episode: “Do You Know?”

Do you know, if you were in a similar situation, what you would choose? Would you stay in a job that provided stability, accolades and tremendous perks (like hanging out with one of your favorite bands—in this case, Wilco—because the lead singer’s wife is a big fan of the show), or would you leave because you wanted to continue to challenge yourself and grow as an artist and person? Would you be willing to give up the $350,000 per episode that Sandra reportedly was earning (along with two other original co-stars, Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey)? With over 20 episodes a season, that’s turning away at least $7 million a year.

Our lives are defined by the choices we make. The problem is, of course, that we don’t know, that only hindsight is 20/20, and we have no idea how our decisions today will play out over the course of our lives.

“It’s taken me 20 years to realize that I was so lucky to get a huge demand of work at the very beginning of my career, and how that set the template for everything,” says a reflective Sandra, 42, armed with hindsight clarity of a now two-decades long acting career.

Sandra’s journey here—to this place where her departure from a show makes headlines and causes TV bloggers to speculate endlessly about how her beloved character will be written out of the show—is the product of a series of pivotal choices she made, long predating this latest high-profile judgment call.

A proud Canadian, by way of Ottawa, Sandra knew early on that she wanted to be an actor, the first spark being ballet lessons and a love of performing before an audience. Then, at age 8, she saw a touring show of Annie, and the torch was lit.

“I really remember it quite viscerally, being in like the nosebleed seats, and I’m seeing those kids perform on stage, saying, ‘Oh my god, what the f-ck is that?’” Sandra recalls, as we share a pizza at a Los Angeles cafe in late February. At a few points during our conversation, which spans a discussion about everything from favorite bands (Wilco is apparently the soundtrack of her early life in L.A.) to the importance of meditation, she squeals delightedly about the fact that there’s potato on her pizza.

“And then I started acting when I was about 10,” she continues. “And during that kind of transition-y time, I really wanted to be a dancer, but I wasn’t good enough to be a dancer.

“And you know, that time is when you audition for the professional schools, and, no, I wasn’t good [enough]. And so I started acting.”

From that point on, she would perform in school plays and join an improv team at her high school. Then, instead of matriculating into one of two colleges where she gained admission, the University of Toronto and Carleton University, she opted instead to attend the National Theatre School of Canada. Her first big project after graduating was the title role in The Diary of Evelyn Lau, a TV docudrama based on the writings of a 14-year-old runaway who gets involved with drugs and prostitution. Her performance would earn Sandra a slew of awards and acclaim in not only Canada but also France. It would also set off an impressive string of roles for the young actress, including the lead protagonist in Double Happiness, directed by Mina Shum—her performance as a non-filial Chinese Canadian would garner Sandra a Genie, the Canadian equivalent of an Oscar.

“Canada is much different than the United States,” notes Sandra, “because I never felt doors closed to me in Canada, as [in] who is the teller of the story. And I have felt it [in the U.S.]”

Sandra moved to Los Angeles in 1996, and despite some of those closed doors, managed in about six months time to land a role in Arli$$, an HBO series starring Robert Wuhl—not to mention a work permit (remember, she’s Canadian).

She played Rita Wu, the quirky assistant to sports agent Arliss Michaels, played by Wuhl, for seven seasons. There was also Sideways, the unexpected hit film that impacted America’s wine- drinking habits, co-written and directed by Sandra’s ex-husband, Alexander Payne. And, then, of course, came along a new medical drama called Grey’s Anatomy.

Grey’s Anatomy, it changed all of our lives,” says Sandra, referring to herself and the ensemble cast. “And it was an extremely stressful time. And
in those times, it’s very difficult to see what’s happening in the present moment. It’s only 10 years later when I get to say, ‘Oh, I remember the first year was so magical in a way.’ … And then it was like a rush for the next three or four years, until, quite honestly, the writers’ strike, and then we had a break. And then there was another section for the next few years, and now I feel like the past two years have been a section of time where it was like the end of work and the decision to leave.

“It’s like leaving a relationship in a really healthy way,” she says. “It’s like, ‘OK, I’m not growing in this relationship anymore. I love you, I know you love me, and I have to move on.’ … That’s the closest thing I can relate it to, you know, because it’s all about relationships.”

If Sandra sounds like a person who has been doing some deep self- reflection over the years, she has. She talks passionately about meditation, and how just sitting on a mat with other like-minded people who invite peace and gratitude into their lives have been so beneficial to her, as an artist and a spiritual person.

“I think that with time and introspection, when you’re taking time out to sit on a mat, you’re able to kind of forge a strong relationship with gratitude and purpose. But let me tell you, when I was in my 20s, I couldn’t see any- thing. I think it has to do with youth, as well, and I was just extremely driven. And it’s not driven by anything other than the need to act, you know? But I think that’s what time and particularly the experience of Grey’s Anatomy—basically having the safety of having a job, and being in a job for 10 years— [have changed].”

And that time and introspection led her to a place where she could comfortably say she was ready to leave the stability of this job that had won her Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild statuettes, not to mention a legion of fans who embraced Cristina Yang’s fierce independence, sass and dry wit. A female character who didn’t feel the need to identify herself by the traditional tropes of wife and mother.

“All I can say when I made the decision, the feeling was,” Sandra says, then pauses a beat. “I’ve done my job. I have explored this character in every single direction, and now I need to grow. The reason I was able to come to that [decision] was because they wrote me such great stuff. And I feel like TV is where it’s at. Because, as an actor, you have the experience and the opportunity to fully flesh out a character.”

That kind of character development can’ t be accomplished in a two-hour movie, or even in a TV series that lasts a few seasons, she says. “My god, I got to have an experience that most actors never have.”


Growth as an artist and actor is obviously of monumental import to Sandra. Even with numerous movie credits and awards on her resume, she still takes acting classes. “One, I love it,” Sandra explains. “And two, I love it. I always want to grow.

“I feel like it’s not about producing, it’s not about getting better, it’s not about getting anything right. I’m at that place in my life where I’m not interested in that anymore. I’m interested more in the bigger mystery of it all, and how we can translate that to our work.”

She adds, “I’m a very process- oriented gal.”

Clearly, she is passionate about her craft, and that fuels a work ethic that her castmates admire.

“She’s very vigilant,” says Kevin McKidd, who has played her love interest Dr. Owen Hunt for the last few seasons. “Her scripts are completely covered in Post-It notes. It’s really inspiring to see a very established, confident actor very much engaged in the process.”

There are others, however, who choose to take advantage of Sandra’s fastidiousness.

“I make fun of how she keeps her scripts—so many Post-It notes! And I enjoy removing them!” says Chandra Wilson, another original cast member who plays Dr. Miranda Bailey, as well as prankster on the set.

“[Sandra] can’t stand it,” says Wilson, with a hearty laugh. “She always knows where to go, who did it.”

Wilson adds, “It’s all in good fun.” But she did refrain from teasing Sandra when shooting the “Do You Know?” episode; Wilson was its director.

“I was so incredibly honored to be entrusted with that responsibility,” Wilson says. So there was little time for her hijinks. “I didn’t make her break character. I was very good. I knew that it was really important to her, so I didn’t want to take that away. So we were good.”

When asked what she’ll miss about Sandra, Wilson replies, “We share our commitment not only to the product that we put out, but to the morale of production, to the morale of crew. We enjoy keeping that atmosphere up and lively and fun, and I think it’s because of our shared theater background.”

And she has no concerns regarding Sandra’s future. “Sandra, bless her heart, is an actress who has been fortunate enough to be on series television for almost 20 years, you know, because Arli$$ was on for seven seasons before Grey’s started. There’s all kinds of movie opportunities I know that are in her future. And television is always there,” says Wilson. “That’s kind of what you want at the end of the day, to be able to make choices as opposed to just having to take whatever you can just to work. That’s not the life she’s going to have to live, and that’s a nice position to be in.”

Sandra does have a few commitments post-Grey’s. She has a role in the upcoming summer film Tammy, to be released in early July. It’s a vehicle for Melissa McCarthy of Bridesmaids fame and The Heat, and in it Sandra is married to Kathy Bates. “We are in what I think is becoming a classic coupling—the gay couple are the normal, stable people in the world,” describes Sandra.

And after a short break from finishing Grey’s, Sandra will return to the theater, at Chicago’s Victory Gardens, and star in a production of Death and the Maiden that opens June 13. Written by Ariel Dorfman, it’s a play about torture and betrayal.

“[Sandra] read the play and fell in love with it,” says Chay Yew, Victory Gardens’ artistic director, as well as the director for Death and the Maiden. “She was a little, I would say, challenged by it, because it’s a very dark play. She said, ‘I need to do this.’ ”

Beyond that, there are no specific plans that Sandra offers up. But she does describe some types of characters that she wants to play. And, her choices, they just might raise a few eyebrows.

“I don’t mind playing the Korean prostitute, not at all,” says Sandra. Immigrant Korean shop owners and dry cleaners are also on that list.

“The next step for me is not about portraying how we’ re the same; it’ s about portraying our differences, exactly who we are,” she says.

This notion of our racial differences was one subject matter in which she thinks Grey’s Anatomy could have delved into more. “I will say, Grey’s Anatomy has never dealt with race. And that was up to [creator Shonda Rhimes].”

One of the reasons that the show is so admired is that it depicts a multicultural environment where the color of your skin or ethnicity is not a factor—it is the idealized post-racial society. But in a reality where race is still an issue and that it does indeed cause friction and animus, there is territory that Sandra thinks can be explored for dramatic and comedic purposes.

“It bummed me out because I feel like, this could be a great story idea, or even like a joke. But [Grey’s Anatomy’s producers] would not go for it, because it was a show choice.”

Photo courtesy of ABC/Kelsey McNeal

Photo courtesy of ABC/Danny Feld

So Sandra is choosing to venture into some uncharted territory on her own. She describes an audition— “one of my worst auditions ever, but not because I was bad”—where she based her performance on a Korean grocery owner she came across in New York City. “She was mean, super New York-y. And I thought, I want to play that woman one day,” says Sandra. “And I had an opportunity to fold that [store owner] into another character I was auditioning for. So I did it all, like hair and makeup—because she was kind of over the top—and I did it all in accent. And I think [the casting people] were horrified.”

The idea of the immigrant being distinct intrigues her. “When I felt like I was trying to introduce that as a possibility for a character, a possibility as a comedic character, I think it freaked people out. Because, first, I think, it came across as racist. I’m like, no, we’re just not ready for it yet. We’re not ready to actually play our own, with our familial accents, you know?

“It is so hard having characters with accents. We don’t pay attention to the fact that we’re around people who have accents all the time. And somehow it is rarely translated onto screen.”

For decades, it seems Asian American actors have fought for the opportunity to play people who, like themselves, are ethnically Asian but speak perfect English. This is the part of the story where I note the irony of someone who just finished playing for a decade the ideal of what an Asian American actor can portray might be suggesting we take a step back.

“It’s not regressive at all,” says Sandra, “because, I think creatively that [New York store owner’s] story has never been told, not properly. That’s the shift we need to make; that the story is about ourselves. … I feel like now I’m interested in telling the story about, you know, an aunt and uncle who opened up a dry cleaners store. We still need to move stuff ahead.”

And if anyone is to be at the forefront of doing that, playing the immigrant store owner in an authentic, non-stereo- typical way, it’s probably Sandra.

Despite being a self-identifying Canadian Korean, what she has accomplished over the last 20 years has elevated her, in many ways, to be a role model for many Korean Americans, and Asian Americans, in her field.

The playwright Chay Yew, who is Chinese American, puts it this way: “[Sandra] has done years of trailblazing work, and that’ s wonderful. We need more [Asian Americans] to do it as well.

“What we [need to] do as diverse Americans is to cultivate the next generation leaders of color, as well as women, who will be able to open more doors. And Sandra has been nothing but a great symbol of what is possible.”


This article was published in the May 2014 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the May issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).