Entire households of Asian Americans used to run to the television when an Asian face was on. And even though we saw that Kelly Hu commercial a hundred times and could replicate her “Aaah” to the exact intonation, we never got tired of her eating a Jack in the Box eggroll on TV.
Today there are more Asian Pacific faces on television. This year is heralded as the “Season of Diversity.” But while this gives the notion that Hollywood is reflecting a blended society, it’s important to recognize that the faces you see on your TV set are yes, actually Asian.
1. His show has so many deaths and rebirths it might as well be about zombies. Or a daytime soap opera. It seems as if he’s grown up on his CW series because he started out playing a teenager, the younger brother of the lead character. But he was actually 21 when first cast in the role. He has bulked up considerably. I’m sure showrunner Julie Plec duly noted that and returned him from the dead, self-exile, and the netherworld, et al. He shares his name with his grandfather, a legendary actor. His grandmother was Filipina actress Nellie Adams who also wrote a memoir about the marriage. He’s also related to another Filipino, Enrique Iglesias—second cousins.
He plays Jeremy Gilbert on The Vampire Diaries. He is Steven R. McQueen, and yes, he’s Asian.
2. Even blogs with an Asian Pacific American focus don’t list him as being Desi. They mention Kal Penn and Mindy Kaling, but fail to mention this actor who appeared on several seasons of Game of Thrones. It’s a shame because we’re pretty certain that he is the first Desi to play a lead role on an American television series. And he’s the outright lead. What’s more remarkable is that he portrays a real life character who’s not remotely Asian. That person, security expert Walter O’Brien, is one of the executive producers of this new CBS show. Everyone’s been concentrating on executive producer Justin Lin as well as supporting actress Jadyn Wong. Granted, he’s been less than forthcoming about his ethnicity such that there’s little data but when he was pressed about his identity, he did say that he’s “got distant touches of Indian in” him.
He’s on one of the few new hits of the season, Scorpion. He is Elyes Gabel and as far as we can say, yes, he’s Asian.
3. Academy Award nominee. Probably one of the most underrated and underused actors in Hollywood. Most came to know him as the supportive husband to Meryl Streep in River Wild. He appeared 11 years earlier in her film, Silkwood. A theater actor, he was a highly regarded indie film actor, working with John Sayles extensively. He received an Independent Spirit award for City of Hope. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and his paternal grandfather was Native Hawai’ian. He recently starred on the Syfy series, Alphas.
He is David Straithairn, and yes, he’s Asian Pacific.
4. This one you probably already know so we’re combining two together. Both became celebrities at a very young age, starring on memorable TV shows of their generation. Both use three names. Saved by the Bell brought the actor of Dutch and Indonesian ancestry to prominence. He now stars on a TNT series.
Franklin and Bash’s Mark-Paul Gosselaar stars in Franklin and Bash, and yes, he’s Asian.
The former One Tree Hill star recently was seen in the award winning film, Fruitvale Station and will star in one of the most hotly anticipated Marvel series on Netflix. He is part Japanese.
Chad Michael Murray will star in Agent Carter, and yes, he’s Asian.
5. This one I did not know. What child of the 80s didn’t grow up with this singer and the band that takes his name? He’s also considered to be one of the world’s greatest guitarists. If you’re not aware of his music—quite a jump toward impossibility—then you’re certainly aware of his Hollywood marriage to another 80s American sweetheart, Valerie Bertinelli. He was born in the Netherlands to a Dutch father and an Indonesian-Dutch mother.
That’s right. Eddie Van Halen is Asian, and yes, he rules.
6. Okay, the whole film was homoerotic. But the Astinos and Stelios pairing in 300 generated a lot of shipping and slash fiction—I don’t think it can even be considered slashing because I believe everyone assumed they were lovers. Michael Fassbender? No, he’s not Asian. If you remember Astinos was the son of Artemis who got his head got cut off (yes, that doesn’t tell you much either). The actor who played him was 33 when the film came out in 2006. Vincent Regan who played his father is only 8 years older.
Dominion star Tom Wisdom is part Japanese and still looks youthful at 41. Probably because he’s Asian!
7. I didn’t realize this former Miss California USA was Filipina when I interviewed her. She followed in the shoes of Filipina Diane Schock, Miss California 1991 (who many believe should have won the Miss USA crown). After the announcement of another contestant as the 2008 winner, it was determined that there was an error in the accounting process. Though she was robbed of the crowning moment on stage, this beauty queen went on to place in the top 15 in the national pageant. And in 2009 she had the unfortunate duty to pass on the crown to the anti-gay marriage Carrie Prejean who was ultimately forced to resign.
She is Raquel Beezley, and yes, she’s Asian.
8. Do you remember The Lover? It was a 1992 film starring Jane March as a French teenager who has a torrid affair with a wealthy Chinese man, played by Tony Leung Ka Fai. Between the two, March’s character was the one controlling the relationship. It was a very odd dynamic. I am surprised as any to learn that, though she did not play a biracial person in the film, March’s mother was Vietnamese and Chinese.
Jane March is Asian, and this blows my mind.
9. These two are combined because you just want to go, “C’mon! Someone is graffiti-ing the internet with false information.” He was Batman. No, not George Clooney or Michael Keaton or Christian Bale. That almost gives it away. He’s more known for his diva behavior than his actual work and tremendous talent. She is also a highly regarded, Tony award winning actress. Most recently seen on The New Normal. There’s more documented information about the actor than the actress. Several sites report that both persons have roots in Siberia.
Family tree documents state that Val Kilmer is 1/64 Mongolian, and Mongolia is in Asia.
Ellen Barkin’s ancestors were immigrants from Siberia, but there’s not much substantiated information.
10. She’s part Burmese, and she’s been kicking vampire ass in several movies. Her big break came in 2001 when was cast as the female lead in Pearl Harbor. Before her big budget films, her performances were widely praised. But she’s felt the sting of critics ever since. Her Stoneheart Asylum will be released October 24
She’s Kate Beckinsale, and she’s still a kick-ass Asian.
This list excludes many well known Asians and mixed race Asians because you already know they’re Asian Pacific: Dean Cain, Kristin Kreuk, Rob Schnieder, Hines Ward, Will Demps, Keanu Reeves, Nathan Adrian, Darren Criss, Jennifer and Meg Tilly, Shannon Elizabeth, Ne-Yo, Tommy and Rae Dawn Chong, Michelle Branch, Sharon Leal, Sonja Sohn, Amerie, Freddie Mercury, Norah Jones, KT Tunstall, Naomi Campbell, Tyson Beckford, Kimora Lee Simmons, Tiger Woods, Natalie Coughlin, Victoria Principal, and Fred Armisen.