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Conversation with Lynn Chen

Discover this Upcoming Actress of Many Talents
In this in-depth interview with this hard-working NYC-based actress

Page 7 of 8

DIVERSITY

US ASIANS: In the past, which one of your roles portrayed the worst Asian Pacific American stereotype? In addition, which role allowed you the opportunity to bring to life the most realistic portrayal of an Asian Pacific American?

LYNN CHEN: The “Saturday Night Live” skit was probably the worst, not my role exactly, but through the other actors who were in the skit. It was supposed to be the Vietnam War, and they had some of the SNL cast members pretend they were Vietnamese women, and they used some pretty horrendously racist accents. I wondered why they even felt the need to hire Asian actors to play extras for that scene, they should have just gotten some Caucasian extras and given them slanted eye makeup or something if they were trying to prove a point about stereotypes. I was horrified when I first saw the skit, complete with all accents, during final dress, but at that point it was a little too late to back out.

My role in “Fortune” was probably the most realistic, in that it dealt with the feelings a young woman has coming to terms with being the only American-born Asian working in a higher-status job amongst Asian, immigrant co-workers.

This book is recommended reading for those who are seriously interested in discovering the many factors, elements and future of the Asian American Cinema.

Countervisions" examines the aesthetics, material circumstances, and politics of a broad spectrum of films released in the last thirty years.

This anthology focuses on the growing presence of Asian Americans as makers of independent films and cross-over successes through film criticism and interviews with film makers that have shaped their own cinematic images.

To purchase the book, click HERE.

US ASIANS: Do you think that it is appropriate and/or effective for APA actors to complain about such stereotyped/racially offensive roles?

LYNN CHEN: Sure. Though I’m not sure the creators of such roles would agree, they probably don’t know that they’re doing anything wrong – nobody likes being accused of being a racist. But it’s important to let people know when they’re being offensive.

US ASIANS: What do you think is the present state of diversity is in the television/theater/film communities?

LYNN CHEN: It’s getting better, but it’s not too good.

US ASIANS: What do you think needs to be addressed first?

LYNN CHEN: For Asian Americans specifically, there should be more than one “token Asian.” And, if there is more than just one, their storylines should not be focused on them being Asian.

US ASIANS: What do you think about the APA showcases at PSNBC?

LYNN CHEN: I’ve never taken part in them so I don’t know much about it firsthand. If someone books a job as a result of a showcase, then I’m happy it exists.

US ASIANS: How do you think that Asian American soap actors before you (i.e. Kelly Hu, Lindsey Price, Christine Toy Johnson, Lia Chang, etc.) have helped you in your participation in “All My Children?”

LYNN CHEN: I never saw any of them in soap opera action, but I’m glad they are there…it takes a lot of pressure off of being “a first.” I wouldn’t want the people watching to think that my character was representative of all Asian Americans on daytime dramas just because I was the only one that existed.

US ASIANS: What Asian/Asian Pacific American and/or Chinese/Chinese American organizations have honored you for your achievements?

LYNN CHEN: None. (sadly)

US ASIANS: Why do you think that “a lot of actors in general, no matter what their ethnic background is, are typecast?”

LYNN CHEN: I think that a lot of the time, unfortunately, actors are cast by what their “type” is – by age, by body, by looks. A lot of huge stars are constantly playing the same roles movie after movie. Maybe it’s because audiences are used to seeing a certain formula, so that formula is usually recreated to satisfy them.

US ASIANS: What was your most “gratifying” role?

LYNN CHEN: The parts I play in NiteStar are really satisfying, because we impact the audience and teach them important things that they need to know.

Daring Romances in
Major American Films
(AM/WF Relationships)

There has been relatively few daring attempts in dealing with interracial romantic relationships with Asian/Asian Pacific American males in films throughout history. Listed below are some prominent and rare examples.

In the early 1900's, isolated films such as Cecil B. DeMille's The Cheat brought to the screen the feelings of forbidden love between a White woman and an Asian man.

In the 1950's, Hiroshima Mon Amour and Crimson Kimono (in which, James Shigeta won the gorgeous White female - Victoria Shaw - from his White male co-star) featured an Asian Male and a White Female in starring romantic roles in major films!

In South Pacific, the song "You Have to be Carefully Taught" highlighted in the film one of the main reason why people fear interracial romantic situations.

In Bridge to the Sun, James Shigeta was married to the pretty Carroll Baker in a daring story during WWII!

In the 1990's, Disney's Johny Tsunami was one of the last example of romantic featured roles featuring an Asian/Asian American male and a White female.

Is the Asian/Asian Pacific American male and a non-Asian (White, Black & Hispanic) female romantic relationships taboo in American films?

US ASIANS: What changes, if any, do you think will be as the direct result of the success of MTV Films/Paramount Pictures’ “Better Luck Tomorrow?”

LYNN CHEN: Hopefully there will be some mainstream films with more than one token Asian actor, and production companies will make more movies with Asian-American casts.

US ASIANS: What Asian/Asian Pacific American actors would be the most deserving of being seen in mainstream films – besides yourself, of course?!?!?! (note: I understand that you have a great interest in staying in the “soaps”)

 
 

LYNN CHEN: Actually, I really don’t have a great interest in staying in the soaps – I just wouldn’t mind it. I would prefer to have a film career over a TV or theater one, but I’m not exactly in a position where I can choose right now. As for other Asian/APA actors, I’d like to see Gong Li doing some big Hollywood movies, I think she’s a great actress.

US ASIANS: What is your opinion of “Charlotte Sometimes,” if you have seen the movie?

LYNN CHEN: I haven’t seen it yet. (Editor's Note: Read Charlotte Sometimes Director Eric Byler interview to obtain additional insights into this film and Asian American Cinema.)

US ASIANS: Will films like “Better Luck Tomorrow” and others like “Charlotte Sometimes” change the general public/entertainment community’s “ridiculous stereotypes about what an APA man or woman has to be like?”

LYNN CHEN: I hope so. I think there are going to have to be a lot more of these types of films to truly start a change.

US ASIANS: Do you think that there is a market for films such as “Better Luck Tomorrow?” (since it grossed approximately $4M)

LYNN CHEN: Yes, though I’m not exactly sure what that market is. I mean, I haven’t done the research or anything.

US ASIANS: Do you think that the APA communities can support films such as “BLT” – since films such as The Debut, America Adobo, 100%, Yellow, 100%, All American Girl (Margaret Cho tv series), Black Sash (WB series featuring Russell Wong), American Desi, ABC, etc. have not been attended in adequate numbers? (Editor's Note: Read some additional information on independent films from the Asian Pacific American communities at our Film Poll Section.)

LYNN CHEN: I think the success of “BLT” had a lot to do with the enormous amount of publicity and word-of-mouth that the film had. I don’t think many of the other films/TV shows mentioned above had quite as much promotion.

US ASIANS: What is your perspective(s) on the status of Asian/Asian Pacific Americans in the entertainment communities?

LYNN CHEN: There are very few good roles available, and the few APA’s who are name actors usually get cast. I guess there needs to be more parts.

US ASIANS: What are your perspective(s) on the quality of acting and filmmaking in the Asian/Asian Pacific American communities?

LYNN CHEN: There’s a lot of talent out there, it just needs to be seen.

 

 
 
Click HERE to continue
   
 
Read about Lynn's views on other subjects by clicking on the subjects listed below
 
  Part 1: Background Information (Family and Personal)
  Part 2: Training as an Actress and a Singer, YPOK2 and Linklater
  Part 3: Eric Lin's "Fortune," Priorities, Entertainment Role Models, Contact Info, Print and Commercial Work
  Part 4: Film and Television Work, Her Dance Career and Theater Life
  Part 5: Past Theater Roles, Industrial Films, Actor Role Models and Father's "Kunqu Society"
  Part 6: Fav Films & Directors, Life on "All My Children" and Ivan Shaw
  Part 7: Her views on diversity and the status of "Asian American Cinema"
  Part 8: Fav Asian Pacific American directors and films - along with her overall aspirations

 

 

 

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