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PRODUCER WITH A TRAIL-BLAZER MENTALITY
 Interview with Producer Ken Mok
You don’t have to be a White Male to be do a successful television show!

 

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

 
 
Ken Mok

Could you share a little about your personal background?
I am a first generation Chinese American and my parents were born in China.

How do you stay “centered” and driven professionally?
I always had a very strong focus on my career on my own since I was thirteen years old, as a result, I’ve been very self-motivated.

Who are your personal and business role models?
I didn’t have a lot of business or entertainment role models. I didn’t have any role models, per say. All I knew, however, was that from an early age that I wanted to work in television. I was always a big fan of television when I was a kid. I loved watching tv programs. I always wanted to be behind the camera making those shows. As a result, I had set out at a very early age to geared myself towards those goals.

How did a B.S./B.A. in business administration with a minor in journalism at Boston University prepared for your present career as a producer?
In the Chinese/Asian family, there is a great pressure on kids to go into a very professional arena such as business, getting your MBA, becoming a lawyer, becoming a doctor, etc. A lot of Asian kids have that pressure and I was not immune to that. The pressure from my parents and my peers was the following: I will get get a B.S./B.A. in business administration, I’ll get my MBA and become whatever.

After I got my B.S./B.A. and my first job at Norton Taylor as an assistant buyer to get some work experience before I got my MBA, I found out that I was was miserable and hated that profession. That experience confirmed what I already know - that I always wanted to be in media. At that time, I really took a big risk and took a chance. I said to myself "look if I’m not going to do it now, I’m never going to do it." Hence, I made the switch to television

At what age did you switch?
There were two switches. The first one was when I decided to get into the news business. So I quit my job at Lord Taylor and ended up working for CNN in Atlanta where I became a news producer. After doing this for two years, although I liked it, I wanted to move from field and concentrate on entertainment. I was getting a little burned out on news and I just didn’t see myself, way down the line, being a news producer. I had always wanted to do entertainment programming. So I left that job at CNN and I got a job as a wardrobe driver on the Cosby Show

ENTERTAINMENT CAREER
What was your experience on the Cosby Show?

After being on the show for about a year, my entertainment mentor became Bill Cosby and he really helped get my entertainment career started.

Eventually, I ended writing a sitcom about an Asian American family and he was very happy with the project. We (Bill Cosby and myself) tried selling the program. Although the project wasn’t sold, I had such a good relationship with him that I asked him to help me to get into the “Associates Program” at NBC – which is a junior executive program. At that time, The Cosby Show was the #1 show on television and his recommendation helped me get into the network. So I got into NBC as a television executive and started overseeing their television shows.

What is your opinion on why a powerful Hollywood celebrity such as Bill Cosby couldn’t sell a program about an Asian American family?
At that time, it was the late 1980’s. Television is very slow to take changes and integrate minorities into its programming – even now it is still lacking a lot in terms of diversifying its cast and producers. Just imagine back in the late 80’s doing a sitcom about an Asian American family, that was very difficult to get through – even with Bill Cosby behind it. As a result, that didn’t happen.

What motivated you to become ABC’s Director of Comedy Series Development?
When I was at NBC, I was in the position as a “Card Executive” (which meant that I oversaw shows that were “on the air” – I was the network executive in charge of those shows.

However, I wanted to develop television shows and ABC had a job opening for an executive to develop comedy series, so I got that job.

What are your reflections of your tenure at ABC?
During my tenure as ABC's Director of Comedy Series Development, I was able to develop and bring Margaret Cho’s “All American Girl” to the airwaves.

 

 

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