June 1, 2011 – Blog post from Project Obangsaek mentioning Daniel Henney and other Korean American actors such as: Kim Yunjin, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, James Kyson-Lee, John Cho and native Korean actors like Rain and Lee Byun Hun being in Hollywood films and television shows helping to open more doors and more roles for Koreans/Asians/Asian-Americans in the entertainment industry.
Related HUSA blog re-post: [Article Link] Daniel Henney Avoids Cliched Asian Roles
Korea: The Next Face of Hollywood?
Type-casting and a dearth of roles for Asians and Asian-Americans has made it equally difficult for Asians to break into Hollywood and Broadway. But with the Asian minority increasing in the U.S. and a burgeoning growth of Asian actors in meatier roles, this seemingly immutable tradition might be changing.
Of the Asians actors and actresses in Hollywood, Koreans are the largest minority. Kim Yunjin and Daniel Dae Kim had their breakout roles when they were cast in Lost in 2004. Sandra Oh followed with her character on Grey’s Anatomy. Currently, James Kyson-Lee stars as Ando Masahashi in the TV-hit-series Heroes. Daniel Henney, whose mother is Korean and father is American, has been generating a lot of hype in Korea. From acting in Korean dramas to his panoply of commercials and advertisements, he has also found a niche in Hollywood, most recently playing Agent Zero in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine action flick. Perhaps the most recognized Korean-American actor is John Cho, who was the co-leading man in the Harold and Kumar comedic movies, and played Sulu in the 2009 Star Trek movie.
With a developing base in Hollywood, Koreans seem to be gaining ground quickly. Many native Korean actors also are starting to make a splash on the silver screen in the U.S. Because many of these actors and actresses have larger global appeal, particularly in other Asian countries, they are lucrative casting choices for Hollywood producers. Actors like Lee Byung Hun, who took on the role of Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and superstar Rain who starred in the movie Ninja Assassin both have a particularly large fan base in many Asian countries and appeared to be both suitable and financially profitable choices. With the large-scale appeal of many Korean actors and actresses in addition to the widespread fan base of Korean Dramas, it only seems logical that Koreans will continue to become a steady fixture in Hollywood.
Although there is no hard evidence to prove it, I would also argue that Korea’s investment in English programs and their ascending economic status and ties with the U.S. also favor Koreans chances for being cast in American films. Even Korean-Americans who are not necessarily directly affiliated with Korea’s economy and mostly speak fluent English without an accent can only benefit from Korea’s blossoming reputation on a global scale. Of course the notion that Koreans, let alone Asians or any group of people will or could take over Hollywood, is presumptuous and irrational.
The increase of Koreans in Hollywood will be—and has been—very gradual and is not without difficulty. In order for Koreans or other Asian actors/actress to fully thrive, there have to be more roles that are either race-unspecific or written with the intention of casting and Asian person. Currently in Hollywood, this simply does not exist. Secondly, for native Koreans the challenge of perfecting English is paramount for being cast in an American film, particularly for a leading role. Native Korean actors may also encounter a dilemma: deciding to act in movie or show in the U.S. while sacrificing potential jobs in Korea. Considering many roles for Asians are still limited, stereotypical and sometimes racist, actors may also find themselves in a predicament of taking a high profile role but worrying about how they will represent their country or people. Although there seems to be no evidence for it at least currently, other Asian minorities, particularly the Chinese or Japanese could feasibly start to bolster their talent pool and competition for the roles prescribed for Asians might increase.
Now more than ever is the zenith for Korean actors both in Hollywood and on a global scale. Korean actors are not only capable of entertaining, investigating and reflecting human nature through the skill of acting, but they have the unique opportunity to promote Korean culture and break down racial barriers within a racist industry. Although this change might not be rapid, it would be well worth it. After all, weren’t we taught at a young age that “slow and steady wins the race?”