To wrap up Asian heritage Month, we thought we'd do a countdown of some of Schema's favourite Asian characters on film and TV. As a Top 10, it's obviously not an exhaustive list of all out favs, so please contribute your favourite characters, or actors and actresses, in the comments below. So without further ado, in somewhat particular order, here are Schema's nominations for Top 10 Asian TV and film characters, current and historical:
10. Dr. Cristina Yang from Grey's Anatomy (Sandra Oh)
Sandra Oh won a Golden Globe, an SAG, and was nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for this role five years running. Plus Dr. Yang is super sassy. 'Nuff said.
9. Jian-Wa from Vanishing Son (Russell Wong)
The Wikipedia page for Vanishing Son hails it as "ground-breaking for the casting of an Asian male in an attractive leading-man role," suggesting that there were a plethora Asian males in leading roles at the time, but Russell was special because he was attractive. Right? Right? Thanks Wikipedia. Actually, Vanishing Son was groundbreaking because it cast an Asian male in a lead role, period.
8. Kumiko from Karate Kid II (Tamlyn Tomita)
This one is a contribution from Schema's head honcho, Alden Habacon, who had a giant crush on Tamlyn when the movie first came out. Understandable. Though I hope they gave her a line at some point during the rest of the movie.
7. O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill (Lucy Liu)
I'd say this scene pretty much speaks for itself.
6. Jin Kwon from Lost (Daniel Dae Kim)
Jin was the first Korean-language role for Pennsylvania-born Daniel. While in the series Jin's wife Sun (played by Yunjin Kim) taught him to speak English, in reality Daniel was not a fluent Korean speaker, so Yunjin had to help him with his accent off screen. Kudos to Daniel for learning Korean to make learning English look difficult!
5. Señor Chang from Community (Ken Jeong)
Thanks to three glorious seasons of Community (may it rest in peace), no one has to suffer through The Hangover Part II to get their Recommended Daily Dosage of the delight that is Ken Jeong. Did you know he is also a medical doctor??
4. Officer Harry Truman Ioki from 21 Jump Street (Dustin Nguyen)
This is a blast from the past, filmed right here in Vancouver. Dustin Nguyen played a Vietnamese refugee undercover as a Japanese cop undercover as an American teenager. That's exhausting just to think about!
3. Mike Chang from Glee (Harry Shum Jr.)
The writers of Glee failed Mike Chang hard in the first season, relegating him to token (silent) Asian guy status. Admittedly they've upped their game a bit since, tossing him some lines in the second season, and dedicating a whole episode to his character in the third season, but when you have the moves, style, voice, and general handseomness of Harry Shum Jr. to work with, there is really no excuse. Shame on you, Glee, for squandering this talent.
2. Dr. Mindy Lahiri from The Mindy Project (Mindy Kaling)
Ok, so this one doesn't exactly qualify because the pilot was just picked up a couple weeks ago and isn't set to air until the fall, but just look at that trailer! Adorable, no? Besides, Mindy would own this spot anyway for years of comedic service as Kelly Kapoor on The Office. Also for being a staff writer for The Office, but we're doing characters here, and I'm getting off topic...
1. Kai-lan from Ni Hao Kai-lan (voiced by Jade-Lianna Peters)
This nomination comes from Schema's Creative Director, Adrian Bailon, and I think it's the clear winner. Ni Hao Kai-lan is a cerebral animated drama that chronicles the struggles of a young Chinese American girl caught up in cultural, linguistic, and generational turmoil. Just kidding! It's a fun cartoon for kids! But despite its young target audience, Ni Hao Kai-lan is decidedly multicultural, multilingual, and multigenerational. On their website, Nickelodeon Jr. states that the mandate for the show is to "familiarize the viewing audience with elements of Chinese and Chinese American cultures to promote multicultural understanding in the next generation and goes beyond featuring 'culture' as only ethnic food and festivals. Instead, it celebrates growing up in an intergenerational family, having friends from diverse backgrounds, and 'habits of the heart' that are Chinese American." Now maybe it is dangerous for Nick Jr. to be dictating what 'culture' means, but I think any show that broadens our definitions and opens our eyes to diverse experiences is a step in the right direction.
That's all for this year folks. Happy Asian Heritage Month!