A Lea Salonga Interview
LEA SALONGA: Things are getting better... I believe that eventually, more minority actors will be given more opportunities to perform.
LEA SALONGA: At the end of the day, this is a business, and producers feel that their responsibility is to hire those who will help them reach that goal. So, they'll hire actors who they feel that the majority of people will want to see, and Asian actors don't always fit that bill. I'd like to think that with films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, and the upcoming Memoirs of a Geisha, it'll change. I know it'll be slow, but it'll happen.
US ASIANS: Recognizing that you’ve been stopped from auditions because of my background, who was responsible and what were the factors that allowed you the opportunity to perform as Les Miz’s “Eponine?”
LEA SALONGA: The producers of the show asked me to be part of the show, and I saw it as an opportunity to prove that this type of casting did work. I don't know that the producers saw it the same way that I did.
ROLE MODELS (PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE)
LEA SALONGA: I don't know that I consider myself one... nor can I dub myself one. If I am seen as a role model, it's flattering, but it also is a position of responsibility. I have to watch how I behave in public, and be mindful of the roles I choose to do.
US ASIANS: As the only artist of Asian descent that has achieved success within the American theater (having been involved with three trailblazing productions (i.e. Flower Drum Song, Les Mis and Miss Saigon), what is your opinion on why this is a fact? Could it be that there is a lack of talent, lack of training, lack of opportunities, lack of support and/or lack of roles?
LEA SALONGA: I really have no idea. I guess in my case, it was pure luck. It's not a lack of training, or anything. A lot of the time, it's a lack of opportunity.
LEA SALONGA: It's VERY important to find out who these people are and learn what their own struggles have been in this business.
EVENTS/ORGANIZATIONS THAT PROMOTE DIVERSITY
LEA SALONGA: I just have to be careful with the organizations I align myself with. There are groups that, on the outside, appear to be helping the community but in reality have alterior motives and intentions.
US ASIANS: What were the circumstances and reasons that prompted your participation in recording the single "How Wonderful We Are" with Peabo Bryson for Disney's special feature People: A Musical Celebration of Diversity (music & lyrics by Lebo M)
LEA SALONGA: I was nicely asked... I also saw the list of artists who were also involved in the project, and got to know what the project was about.
US ASIANS: From East West Players, Golden Ring Awards, Concert of Excellence, CAPE, FAAIM, AAA Celebrations and other organizations that advocate the integration of Asian/Asian Pacific American talents in the entertainment industry – which ones do you feel have been the most effective and beneficial?
LEA SALONGA: I'm not familiar with the groups mentioned, so I can't really answer. East West is a great company putting forth Asian talent, be it in acting or scriptwriting.
OF ASIAN/ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN TALENT
LEA SALONGA: All of them. I'm always thrilled to see any Pinoy doing something in this business that puts us in a positive light.
US ASIANS: What are your thoughts on the success of fast-rising and prominent Asian/Asian Pacific American executives such as Darlene Chan (producer of the Playboy Jazz Festival, Verizon Music Festival, Sammy Davis Show, Mercedes-Benz Music Festival), Ken Mok (producer of UPN’s successful television program “Top Model” – along with having been ABC’s Director of Comedy Development and Vice-President of MTV Television Productions and Andee Kuroda/Jay Karas (producing Osbourne Family Christmas Special/MTV, Exposed/Bravo, Young Hollywood Awards/AMC, 51st Annual Emmy Awards/FOX, Dixie Chicks’ 2004 Top of the World Tour and Paul McCartney’s 2004 World Tour – http://www.kanpai.com).
SALONGA: I'm always proud whenever an Asian rises
to prominence in a positive way. It only brings attention to us in a way
that changes negative perceptions that might still be prevailing.