Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world, and it has long been a magnet to people from all over the world and different backgrounds. Asian Americans have overcome numerous obstacles and found a way to break into the entertainment industry with prominence and success. Read on for a sampling of L.A.-based Asian Americans who have defied traditional stereotypes and made valuable contributions to the entertainment industry and Asian American identity.
Film & TV: Randall Park
Randall Park was born and raised in Los Angeles. An actor, comedian, writer and director, Park attended UCLA, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing and a master’s degree in Asian American studies. Park plays the role of Louis Huang in ABC’s groundbreaking television series "Fresh off the Boat," the first show centered on an Asian American family in nearly 20 years. Park was previously best-known for his role as Kim Jong-Un in one of the most politically controversial films in history, "The Interview."
Film & TV: Brenda Song
Along with appearing in guest spots in numerous television shows, Brenda Song’s most significant work comes from the female lead role as London Tipton in the television series "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody." Song, who currently resides in the suburbs of L.A., played an air-headed girl who struggles in school, which can be seen as the opposite of the stereotypical Asian American. She continues to gain recognition, including a key role in the Academy Award-nominated film "The Social Network." In April 2015, Song was announced as a regular cast member of “Take It From Us,” an NBC comedy pilot slated for the 2015-16 season.
Film & TV: George Takei
During a career that spans 60 years, George Takei has appeared in countless movies, television shows and stage productions. The Los Angeles native began his career in Hollywood in the late 1950s, when Asians were rarely cast in American films and television shows. Takei found fame in 1965 when he was cast as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu in the original "Star Trek" television series. Takei would portray the iconic character in six Star Trek movies. In October 2005, Takei came out in Frontiers magazine and later married his longtime partner, Brad Altman, at the Japanese American National Museum in September 2008. Takei has since become a strong voice and leading advocate for the LGBT community. He’s revived his fame on social media, most notably through his Facebook page, which has garnered more than 8.5 million fans as of May 2015.
Music: Far East Movement
International hip-hop superstars Kev Nish, Prohgress, J-Splif and DJ Virman grew up in Downtown L.A. Crediting L.A.’s Koreatown as the birthplace of their music, Far East Movement is the first Asian American group to earn a Number One hit on the Billboard Hot 100 list. The group’s name was inspired by their vision to create an artistic movement and connection between Los Angeles and the Far East.
New Media: Timothy Chantarangsu
Better known as Traphik and Timothy DeLaGhetto, Timothy Chantarangsu is a rapper, comedian and videographer who is perhaps the most successful Asian American to use new media to find national fame. As of May 2015, the Timothy DeLaGhetto YouTube channel has more than 2.7 million subscribers and over 600 million views. His YouTube channel is well known for addressing Asian American issues and has become a main focus of his skits. He was recently cast on MTV2’s improv comedy series, "Wild ‘N Out" when his talent was picked up by host Nick Cannon.
New Media: Wong Fu Productions
Wong Fu Productions started as a YouTube channel run by Asian American filmmakers Wesley Chan, Ted Fu and Philip Wang, who were friends at UC San Diego. As of May 2015, their channel boasts more than 2 million subscribers. Now based in Los Angeles, the group casts mostly Asian Americans in their short movies and skits, but do not solely feature stories about Asian American identity. This is an effort to prove that Asian Americans are marketable in the entertainment realm. What started as a filmmaking hobby in college is now a YouTube channel strongly promoting the culture and community of Asian Americans. Along with Far East Movement, Wong Fu Productions co-founded International Secret Agents, a platform for celebrating Asian youth culture and its global influence.
The first feature-length film from Wong Fu Productions, "Everything Before Us," made its world premiere on April 23, 2015 at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. The sci-fi romantic drama tells the story of two couples who live in a world where the Department of Emotional Integrity (DEI) monitors and documents all relationship activities and choices like a credit score. Everything Before Us is being released exclusively via Vimeo On Demand on June 3, 2015.