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Interview with the People Involved with the Commercial
Insights on Diary Queen's Insight on Commitment to Excellence and Diversity
"Look for the best possible talent and strive for diversity whenever appropriate."


US ASIANS: Could you share your experience on working with the creative team (i.e. other actors, director, writers, DQ management team, etc.) on the commercial - especially since all of Dairy Queen's management had stated how funny you were?

RYUN YU: Really enjoyed it - it was an especially fulfilling experience.

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: I had an extremely positive experience working with the creative team. Everyone was so complimentary and supportive. Since this spot completely focused on the comedic driven performance of the actors. I think they were even more appreciative than a commercial where the actors have a less active role. Baker, the director was a real pro. He just had this great, easy going vibe that helped make us feel comfortable and bring out our best performance.

Ryun Yu (the husband) really had the hardest part and he did an outstanding job. He was also one of my husband's groomsman at our wedding so it was nice to share this experience with a friend. I have to mention Bob Morrisey who played the doctor. He was great to work with and coincidentally we have the same agent (Lawrence Har at Aqua). We simply had the best time largely in part to wonderful treatment we got from the DQ team. As Ryun and I left after the first day of filming one of the DQ executives stopped us to thank us for a job well done and mentioned that this commercial was for their best, #1 selling product and it would be the first in the series to air. At every turn there was such a sense of pride from the entire team and I was really glad to be a part of that.

US ASIANS: Did the breakdown called for an Asian American or just described a certain type of person that could be of any nationality or do you feel that the selection was based on blind-casting (click HERE to David Henry Hwang's definition)?"

RYUN YU: I'm not sure - all I know it at the callback - it was Shireen and I, and four other white couples.

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: I'm not sure what the breakdown called for exactly but this commercial always seemed like it was more about the relationship between the characters and humor of the situation rather than ethnicity. So I would say this was a case of blind-casting.

Undoing Supporting Dir: Chris Chan Lee
Obsessed Lead Dir: Huy Chheng
Sweet and Sour Lead Dir: Huy Chheng
The Perfect Party Lead Dir: James Huang
The Bathroom Lead Dir: Nick Bird
Outtakes Lead Dir: Jamie Clakr
Sweet Valley High Co-Star Dir: Douglas Barr
Nick Freno Featured Dir: Alex Houston
Vital Signs Featured Dir: Sam Cohen
(for additional info, click HERE)

Just On a Side Note:

What was interesting was at the first audition, I only saw Asian American actors. Then at the callback - all the other couples were Caucasian.

Since I didn't see any other Asian American actors - I actually thought there had been a mistake and that I wasn't supposed to be there.

I was waiting for a while wondering if I should say something, then the casting assistant mentioned that she was just waiting for my partner to arrive. So I asked who I had been paired with and she said Ryun Yu. Wow, how perfect I know him!

US ASIANS: Realizing that the creative/management people were having problems getting the right actors to provide the magic/vibe/connection with each other, how did you become aware (and eventually) getting the part?

RYUN YU: Dude, I just auditioned.

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: Yeah, casting can be a very selective process but as an actor it's my job to be professional and deliver the best performance I can at every audition. Sometimes the pieces fall into place the magic happens. And in this case boy did it happen. Ryun was so funny at the callback. He just had everyone rolling. And I knew immediately that we would be seriously considered for this part.

US ASIANS: How would you describe the differences (if any) of working on the Daisy Queen commercial, as oppose to the others that you have worked on?

RYUN YU: They really seemed to have a sense of humor, and an appreciation for a good sense of humor. They really seemed to want to make something that rocked.

US ASIANS: How would you describe the differences (if any) of working on the Daisy Queen commercial, as oppose to the other productions (i.e. The Bathroom, Love 10 to, Red Thread & James Huang's The Perfect Party) that you have worked on?

SHIREEN NOMURA MUI: Every project is different but working on commercials is especially challenging because you only have 30 seconds to capture the story.

US ASIANS: It is great that Dairy Queen subscribe to "blind-casting" (read David Henry Hwang's definition by clicking HERE) in casting for this commercial and others. What factors led to you and Dairy Queen's firm beliefs in this type of casting that rarely exists within network television and occasionally within American commercials?

MICHAEL KELLER: Great question. It all comes down to the fact that we are just trying to find the best possible talent we can find/afford. We're really looking for the type of actors who are capable of bringing the type of comedy and sensibility that are in our spots to life. We could care less what they look like, we're just looking for actors that look like our customers and for people who can really act and do a great job.


Ryun Yu was a geek. He first garnered national press attention by diagramming the world's second longest sentence (from a book by William Faulkner) - his early interests were astrophysics and computers, until he realized that he was never going to get the chicks that way.

He knew he had no real interest in science as a career, but for a variety of reasons he chose M.I.T. for college. This resulted in a number of things: the first theater degree ever awarded by M.I.T; the possibility that 'if he got big they would give him a statue; and the killer advantage of being one of the few actors with a grounding in multi-variable calculus and a working knowledge of holography.

After college he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and after graduation, went to Los Angeles.

In the next few years he did some theatre ('Hamlet' in Singapore; 'Sisters Matsumoto' with The East-West Players, at Seattle Rep and in San Jose;' Kate Crackernuts' in LA; and various pieces with the Taper New Works Festival, the Geffen production of 'Take Me Out' and the very recent Fountain Theatre 'What I Heard About Iraq'), meditated a lot, and worked on both his Sean Connery and Keanu Reeves impersonations.

Since turning to film and TV, he quickly won guest spots on such shows as ' Curb Your Enthusiam', 'Cold Case', 'Arli$$', 'The Shield' '24', 'ER'and "Huff". His recent NBC pilot for James Burrows and Larry Wilmore 'Beverly Hills SUV' was not picked up, but, on the bright side, Ryun has finally stopped crying. . Films include independents for Cherry Sky Films and Richard Day.

We were just delighted with Ryan's performance. He was just so incredibly funny during the casting session, although I wasn't present for that, but I got to see his performance in he casting reel and was equally taken with him. When you see an actor doing an incredibly good job delivering the lines and the sensibility of the spot, you don't want to go with anyone else.

We've had this before. Last year, one of our best spots was "Killer Bee" that featured two Indian decent actors from the country of India and it was a bit unexpected but in reality, given that we were casting two scientists, and that we were looking for some intelligent debate and dialogue, as well as a certain type of comedy, when we put the lines and the context into these two actor's lives, it was a perfect fit. We quickly realized that their contributions to the script went well beyond what we even wrote and it seemed like they were the best talent for the spot, so we went with them.

JONATHAN RODGERS: Simple, we hire the best talent.

US ASIANS: Acknowledging Grey's position on "blind-casting," how much of a battle was it to only have Asian American actors featured in this commercial (to Dairy Queen's corporate headquarters and other executives outside of yourselves), acknowledging past incidents where studio heads not wanting to have an "All-American Hero" in the film "Independence Day" played by a superstar like Will Smith and/or prominent actresses such as Lea Salonga (click HERE to read about her inability to get "American" parts) happening all the time?

MICHAEL KELLER: It wasn't a battle at all to feature Asian American actors in our spot. Grey Worldwide presented them as the best talent of the talent that had auditioned and we reviewed that. We reviewed the second and third place finishers and it was pretty clear that the talent that Grey had selected was the best talent for the spot. Also, recognizing that we are trying to be increasingly diverse in the images that we portray to the North American public through our TV advertising, it fit that criteria as well, just like our other spot with a talented African American man and a African American boy turned out to be our father and son team for another spot we did and they were just better that all of the other talent we looked at. And, given that we were really looking for diversity, that really helped us fill out that criteria as well.

RICK CUSATO: It wasn't a problem at all because they were the best actors for the part.

JONATHAN RODGERS: This was not an issue with the Dairy Queen client. All of the casting has been very well received.

US ASIANS: If "blind-casting" (as stated by many within the industry - though disputed by many, click HERE for more info), why do you feel that there are not more commercials include Asian/Asian Pacific American actors since it would be based on talent?

RYUN YU: Right now, a lot of parts that are blind-cast are still written with white or black actors in mind. As Asian-Americans, I feel that our charisma, sexual personae, charm, etc. are different. We use ourselves differently. So when we come up against parts written for white people, sometimes our plugs don't fit. We can't make it come alive in the way we could if it was tweaked for our particular qualities.

US ASIANS: Acknowledging that Dairy Queen is in the process of expanding/extending/changing the general public's perception and/or "branding" to include Asian/Asian Pacific American consumers through the commercial you participated in (along with the "Killer Bee" commercial featuring two Indian Americans) - how do you think that this would affect the Asian/Asian Pacific American communities and/or change the general public's perception(s) of the Asian/Asian Pacific American communities?

RYUN YU: Each step like this gives us a bit more presence/flexibility in the American psyche. And that is a good thing.

US ASIANS: What is your company's position on representing diversity?

MICHAEL KELLER: I don't think we have an official position other than we would like to do the best job we can as a North American icon reflecting the nature of our customer base. If that is diverse, which it is, then we want to be.

As an employer, we do the same thing by striving to find a way with every opportunity and a completely level playing field to find great talent - if that talent happens to be of a minority background, great because we are striving to improve diversity any way we can.

RICK CUSATO: To represent our consumers in a fair and relevant way.

US ASIANS: Has Dairy Queen shared with Grey how they want to address their Asian/Asian Pacific American consumers (directly and/or part of their general promotion) and what are their target goals for the just-mentioned consumers?

JONATHAN RODGERS: Dairy Queen has never given us specifics on how they want to cast their commercials - only that the talent be a representation of a cross section of North American people. This advertising is for the General Market and therefore does not seek out (or avoid) any specific races, creeds or cultures.


US ASIANS: How would you describe the importance of accurately reflecting diversity in the Daisy Queen commercial as it related to media portrayals?

RYUN YU: It is a really really brave thing that they (Dairy Queen) went with an Asian couple for this commercial. It is unusual - my first thought was, they are never going to make an Asian couple the center of a national commercial. It may be a small step, but it's a real step.

US ASIANS: As Dairy Queen Brand repositions itself (after 64 years of history) to help grow in an industry with flat sales, was this a major factor in exploring the fast-growing multi-ethnic consumers within the U.S.?

MICHAEL KELLER: No, we didn't specifically set out to leverage a minority group to give us a competitive advantage to grow our sales. We were focused on the DQ brand, the Blizzard brand, how big a brand that is and how many people love that brand and ultimately to share with our customers in as fun and entertaining a way as possible new product news about our Dream Pie Blizzards. The motivation for choosing someone like Ryan was he was the best talent we saw so we could do the best job of driving sales and building the brand.

US ASIANS: Having noted that children (one of Dairy Queen's main consumers) often experience much more acceptance and an embracement of diversity - as noted in children programming on television, did this play a role/factor in including Asian/Asian Pacific American/multi-ethnic actors as part of the casting choices with your recent commercials?

MICHAEL KELLER: No, definitely not children….unless you define teens or young teen as children. I think teens and young teens are certainly growing up in a much more multi-ethnic more integrated cultural tapestry in the United States, than I'd say we did growing up 20 to 25 years ago.

To the extent that America in particular has become an increasingly diverse place and there has been an increasing blending of ethnicities of all kinds, and that our kids ( young teens or teens) are growing up in that culture today, I'd say "sure" that might have been in the back of our minds. It really would fall under the broad umbrella of creating spots that are relevant because just showing really attractive white people in our spots is not the way America looks.

We chose to show what looks like a real slice of life so we don't look for, nor do we hardly ever get models. We're looking for people that look like everyone else out there, and in the case of looking for and striving for some diversity in our spots, we're looking to represent some of the diversity in America and some of the diversity our target audience lives amongst us every day.


US ASIANS: How would you describe the importance of accurately reflecting diversity (in business and in maintaining/continuing/building relationships with various consumer groups) - as it related to media portrayals, identifying valuable consumers, staying from stereotypes, utilizing diversity to successfully promote a company's product, etc. - recognizing that many feel that there is a "Yellow Ceiling" (click HERE for more info)?

MICHAEL KELLER: I think that it is important but I don't know if it should necessarily be a policy or have specific rule set. I think you have to let your judgment and sensibilities ride you on this front. For DQ it is very important and we've clearly stated that we are striving on making improvements in this area and to reflect the diverse nature of the very culture that our brand is a part of. I would like to think that by reaching out to all cultures or minority groups in this country and to demonstrate that we are a brand for them is both very genuine because we already know that we are a brand for them and is also good business. So many members of all cultural groups in the U.S. be they Caucasian or Asian; or Latino or African American, are not only our customers, but are also our store owners. Given these people are already members of our family, to us it only seems smart and makes good business sense to make everybody feel welcome under the DQ tent.

US ASIANS: Could you share who were the members of your creative team (beyond yourself and director Baker Smith) that helped create/developed this "Killer Bee" Banana Cream Pie Blizzard commercial?

JONATHAN RODGERS: The team consisted of the following:

  • Creative Director/Copywriter: Ari Halper
  • Creative Director/Art Director: Steve Krauss
  • Art Director: Janet Ricards
  • Copywriter: Stu Mair
  • US ASIANS: Could you share from beginning to end the process of the above-listed "Killer Bee" commercial featuring two Indian Americans?

    RICK CUSATO: Simply, these 2 Indian actors came in for the audition and they were very funny. We loved them the instance we saw them.

    MICHAEL KELLER: The process was no different for "Killer Bee" than it was for "Dreams."

    We used the very same process - an open casting call, tons of auditions and the best talent rose to the top.

    Our agency, Grey Worldwide, made a recommendation and we then reviewed it along with the alternatives. It was very hard to challenge Grey's instinct on that one because they had found something comical in those two Indian American actors that was hard to refute.

    It didn't seem that risky to features these two individuals. In fact, it had a lot of upside in terms being something that people hadn't rarely seen before while helping us in our efforts for more diversity in our advertising.

    US ASIANS: Noting your online surveys that determined IDQ's two brands are virtually interchangeable but DQ carries more food credibility than Dairy Queen without losing treat credibility - does this information also reflect accurately the feelings within the multi-ethnic consumers?

    MICHAEL KELLER: We've certainly done a lot of research about the interchangability between "Dairy Queen" and "DQ" and there is an awfully good chance that we have had some ethnic diversity in our samples for respondents for that research, so again I would have to assume "yes," but we haven't necessarily studied that with a minority group.

    US ASIANS: How will the fast-increasing multi-ethnic consumers be served in Dairy Queen's future as the company modernize its brands and unify the system in a way that consumers and competitors really see and feel a difference?

    MICHAEL KELLER: We would just hope that as we modernize and as we meet the growing needs of consumers across North America that multi-ethnic consumers would be caught in that same net as well. Hopefully a modernized DQ would be as appealing to one person as it would be the next.

    US ASIANS: Recognizing Dairy Queen's ad for your (light brown) iced "Moo-Latte" - pronounced "Mulatte" - featuring two black actors and Coca Cola's pan-ethnic "Tantanas" advertising Fanta ( stereotypically favorite drink of South Asians) - among others, what factors would motivate company executives to continue marketing ( through utilization of actors from their respective communities) to the multi-ethnic markets while encouraging other companies to follow Dairy Queen's footsteps and leadership?

    MICHAEL KELLER: We're not really on a campaign to get other companies to do what we are doing. We're just trying to do what we think is right from our brand's perspective, our creative's perspective, our franchisee's perspective and our customer's perspective and if we can be a good role model for others reflecting the country's diversity back to itself, and make a stronger emotional connection with our customers, then great. However, we are just really focused on how to make that magic work for DQ.

    US ASIANS: Complimenting your efforts with Dairy Queen's commercials including Asian/Asian Pacific Americans (including the "Killer Bee" commercial featuring two Indian Americans), what was the motivating factor(s) that prompted the company to actually use these actors), has these commercials met your creative that was established by Michael Keller/Dairy Queen's management?

    MICHAEL KELLER: So far so good. We really want to be proud of the work we are doing and we are proud of that work and we want our franchisees to be proud of that work. We want our work to drive sales and that certainly seems to be happening for our system over these last few years and we've also had this nice byproduct of being very a effective competitor in the world of advertising awards. We've already received a lot of awards, which is a nice acknowledgement of work we are producing that is high quality and really connects with people.
    To Continue, Click HERE
    To explore the various specific aspects of DQ/Dairy Queen's "Dreams" commercial such as the backgrounds of the people involved, blind-casting policies involved, companies' official position on diversity, Dairy Queen's food products/promotion (i.e. Grill & Chill, Apprentice 4 promo, DQ's online "Apprentice Contest," etc.) and their successful expansion into Asia, visit the various links listed below.
    Acting in the Commercial Addressing Stereotypes Asian Pacific American Communities Asian Pacific American Consumers
    Background Info Blind-Casting & Dairy Queen Company's Position on Diversity Contest Background
    Creating the Commercial Creative Background Dairy Queen Dairy Queen & Apprentice 4
    Dairy Queen & Apprentice Program Dairy Queen & Diversity Dairy Queen in Asia Diversity
    Grill and Chill Job Descriptions & Responsibilities Jonathan Rodgers' Bio Killer Bee Commercial
    Mono-Ethnic Theater Parting Words Ryun Yu's Bio Shireen Mui's Bio


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