Hollywood has been making progress in showcasing diversity, but it’s a slow process for Asian Americans. Angie Kim and Ami Park are two actresses trying to change that.
Kim and Park get together a lot since they first met at an audition. They try to support each other as they struggle to deal with the limited roles reserved for Asian American actors.
Park is a Korean American from New Jersey with a background in theater. She moved to California to pursue her career as an actress, but it wasn’t so easy.
"I would get auditions that I need to be a stereotypical Asian person with an accent or something and it would just play solely on the stereotype," she said.
So she turns down any roles that require a fake Asian accent, saying it would feel inauthentic.
"As someone who is Asian American, born in the States, I actually don’t know how to do an 'Asian' accent," Park said.
Kim is also Korean American, born and raised in California. She worked as a paralegal until she realized she had a passion for acting. But she too couldn’t avoid typecast roles, like the sexy temptress or the villain. For a TV show called "Cry Wolfe" Kim played a mistress, wearing black lingerie and a pink silk robe.
She says she gets offered those roles "because I’m Asian and they think I’m 'exotic.'"
But the competition for acting roles is so tough, it's hard to turn down these offers.
"The auditions we get are so few and in between that if there is one, we all just kind swarm towards it and… you know, we all want it so bad, even if it’s for just one line," she said.
Kim and Park would vent to each other about being frustrated with the stereotypes and the way Asian American women are portrayed in media.
So they decided to do something about it.
Park and Kim have started creating their own roles. They’re making short skits on social media to encourage Asian Americans to embrace their identities, like this piece on Instagram called "Surround yourself with those who are crazy about you."
These skits have inspired Park to take things further. She's co-producing a series called "Lady Parts." which follows five Asian American women in Los Angeles.
Park says the series is "pretty much 'Master of None' meets 'Girls' meets 'Big Little Lies,' but with five female Asian Americans."
"There’s a Korean American, a Vietnamese American, a Filipino American, an Indian American, and a half-Japanese, half-Irish American," she continues. "You don’t see that kind of portrayal of diverse Asian Americans, diversity within diversity... on media at all. So we truly feel as though this is groundbreaking."
And she hopes that Hollywood is listening.
This story was produced in collaboration with an advanced reporting class at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Students spent a semester examining what the California Dream means to Angelenos from different walks of life.