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asianamericanfilmlab:

ABC’s Head of Casting Keli Lee Provides Opportunities for Minority Actors of Color

by ADA TSENG
For everyone who’s grateful for the recent rise of minority non-white faces on American television, it’s important to note that behind every Sandra Oh inGrey’s Anatomy, every Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Jorge Garcia and Naveen Andrews in Lost, is a casting director responsible for pairing these actors with the unforgettable roles that will go down in television history.
Keli Lee, who has been casting TV shows at ABC for more than 20 years, was on her way to law school when she landed a fortuitous college internship that introduced her to the entertainment casting industry. In her first week working for Phyllis Huffman, who often did casting for Clint Eastwood’s films, Lee operated the video camera that captured the auditions for the Academy Award-winning 1992 filmUnforgiven. From there, she eventually worked her way up the ladder, and as Executive Vice President of Casting at ABC, Lee now has a corner office with a view and spends her days looking for the next new star.
Born in South Korea, Lee moved to the States as a toddler, and while her father stayed behind in Korea for work, her adventurous, road trip-loving mother would move her young kids to a new state every six or seven months on a whim.
“Up until I was 13, I never started or finished the same school, so I met thousands of people from around the country,” says Lee. “It forced me to socialize and understand people, and ultimately I think that’s how I got to be good at what I do. I’m searching for people and learning about their emotional core.”
For Lee, more important than finding a good-looking specimen or skilled thespian is determining whether the actor is authentic.
“I think within the first 10 seconds of meeting someone, you can get a sense of a person,” says Lee. “You know whether you want to continue to watch them.”
Twelve years ago, Lee started the ABC Casting Department’s Talent Showcase with the goal of providing more opportunities for minority actors of color who either don’t have representation or aren’t even aware of the opportunities available. Since its inception, 14,000 people have auditioned, and 432 actors have participated in 30 showcases, with winners earning mentorships.
Beneficiaries of this program include Liza Lapira (Crazy Stupid Love,Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23), Carrie Ann Inaba (Dancing with the Stars), Aaron Yoo (Disturbia, 21), Archie Kao (CSI), Randall Park (Larry Crowne, The Five-Year Engagement), and Janina Gavankar (True Blood, The L Word).
In the upcoming fall season on ABC, TV audiences can look out for Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Wang Bennet in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Liza Lapira inSuper Fun Night,Ginger Gonzaga inMixology, Summer Bishil in Lucky 7, and Albert Tsai inTrophy Wife.
“My goal is to change the face of television,” says Lee. “When I came to the U.S. at age 2, there wasn’t much diversity on television, and now, it’s such a different time.”
***
On how she ended up in the casting industry:“Like most Korean American families, entertainment [as a career] was not an option. It was the stereotype, ‘Are you going to be a doctor or a lawyer?’ So, I had planned to go to law school, I was studying philosophy at NYU, and I was a hostess at Caroline’s Comedy Club, so it was the comedians who introduced me to the world of entertainment. I actually fell into this business. I got an internship in casting and worked my way up, while I went to school full time at NYU. First, I worked at Warner Brothers, and then I went to ABC, where I’ve been for 21 years.”
On starting ABC Casting Department’s Talent Showcase to find diverse talent:“Twelve years ago, we were talking about diversity and thinking about how we can provide more opportunities for diverse actors, so I started this showcase program to give exposure and training to actors who either don’t have the representation or aren’t even aware of the opportunities that exist. After my team auditions the actors, we select the top 15 to 20, and we put them through this training program. Usually you have material, and you find people to play the characters, but this is the reverse: we find the right actors and then try to find the right material for them. Some of the actors who’ve gone through this program that we’re excited about are: Liza Lapira, who was onDon’t Trust The B—- in Apt 23, Jorge Garcia fromLost, Dania Ramirez fromDevious Maids, and Jesse Williams onGrey’s Anatomy.”
On their first digital talent competition this summer:“This is new. We’re the first network to launch a digital talent competition. We had over 14,000 submissions, we’re having a public vote, and the winner will be announced on Aug. 30. The winner gets $10,000 and a talent option hold with ABC. Just based on the submissions, I’m excited to be able to find new faces. These are actors from around the country, they are coming from everywhere, from Florida to Alabama, and it’s really great to hear some of their stories.”
On the Latino and Asian Outreach Initiatives:“This is international. We started this program last year. For the Latino Outreach, we targeted Mexico, Latin America and Spain, and I’m excited to say that one of actors we found in first year of the Latino Outreach Initiative, Adan Canto, was cast as series regular in Mixology. The Asian Outreach Initiative started in India, and we just expanded to the Philippines this year.”
Who influences you?“I have an amazing circle of really strong, smart, successful female friends, and we feed off that positive energy and help each other out. That’s part of what I do in my profession, I’m helping people realize their dreams, and that’s what we do for each other. I often have these conversations with my girlfriends, where I wish I had women as role models or mentors, so now that we’re in our positions, we think, how can we help empower other women and be role models for them? All these female pioneers paved the way for us, so how can we pave the way for other women?”

Slight edits, since the term “minority” is inaccurate and offensive. Wonderful interview with an industry professional who is making big change. If you’re an actor (or writer, or director), do check out the diversity initiatives of major studios. ABC, FOX, CBS, and Disney all have talent showcases and other opportunities that could be that break you need. It never hurts to put yourself out there and take a chance!

asianamericanfilmlab:

ABC’s Head of Casting Keli Lee Provides Opportunities for Minority Actors of Color

by ADA TSENG

For everyone who’s grateful for the recent rise of minority non-white faces on American television, it’s important to note that behind every Sandra Oh inGrey’s Anatomy, every Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Jorge Garcia and Naveen Andrews in Lost, is a casting director responsible for pairing these actors with the unforgettable roles that will go down in television history.

Keli Lee, who has been casting TV shows at ABC for more than 20 years, was on her way to law school when she landed a fortuitous college internship that introduced her to the entertainment casting industry. In her first week working for Phyllis Huffman, who often did casting for Clint Eastwood’s films, Lee operated the video camera that captured the auditions for the Academy Award-winning 1992 filmUnforgiven. From there, she eventually worked her way up the ladder, and as Executive Vice President of Casting at ABC, Lee now has a corner office with a view and spends her days looking for the next new star.

Born in South Korea, Lee moved to the States as a toddler, and while her father stayed behind in Korea for work, her adventurous, road trip-loving mother would move her young kids to a new state every six or seven months on a whim.

“Up until I was 13, I never started or finished the same school, so I met thousands of people from around the country,” says Lee. “It forced me to socialize and understand people, and ultimately I think that’s how I got to be good at what I do. I’m searching for people and learning about their emotional core.”

For Lee, more important than finding a good-looking specimen or skilled thespian is determining whether the actor is authentic.

“I think within the first 10 seconds of meeting someone, you can get a sense of a person,” says Lee. “You know whether you want to continue to watch them.”

Twelve years ago, Lee started the ABC Casting Department’s Talent Showcase with the goal of providing more opportunities for minority actors of color who either don’t have representation or aren’t even aware of the opportunities available. Since its inception, 14,000 people have auditioned, and 432 actors have participated in 30 showcases, with winners earning mentorships.

Beneficiaries of this program include Liza Lapira (Crazy Stupid Love,Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23), Carrie Ann Inaba (Dancing with the Stars), Aaron Yoo (Disturbia, 21), Archie Kao (CSI), Randall Park (Larry Crowne, The Five-Year Engagement), and Janina Gavankar (True Blood, The L Word).

In the upcoming fall season on ABC, TV audiences can look out for Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Wang Bennet in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Liza Lapira inSuper Fun Night,Ginger Gonzaga inMixology, Summer Bishil in Lucky 7, and Albert Tsai inTrophy Wife.

“My goal is to change the face of television,” says Lee. “When I came to the U.S. at age 2, there wasn’t much diversity on television, and now, it’s such a different time.”

***

On how she ended up in the casting industry:
“Like most Korean American families, entertainment [as a career] was not an option. It was the stereotype, ‘Are you going to be a doctor or a lawyer?’ So, I had planned to go to law school, I was studying philosophy at NYU, and I was a hostess at Caroline’s Comedy Club, so it was the comedians who introduced me to the world of entertainment. I actually fell into this business. I got an internship in casting and worked my way up, while I went to school full time at NYU. First, I worked at Warner Brothers, and then I went to ABC, where I’ve been for 21 years.”

On starting ABC Casting Department’s Talent Showcase to find diverse talent:
“Twelve years ago, we were talking about diversity and thinking about how we can provide more opportunities for diverse actors, so I started this showcase program to give exposure and training to actors who either don’t have the representation or aren’t even aware of the opportunities that exist. After my team auditions the actors, we select the top 15 to 20, and we put them through this training program. Usually you have material, and you find people to play the characters, but this is the reverse: we find the right actors and then try to find the right material for them. Some of the actors who’ve gone through this program that we’re excited about are: Liza Lapira, who was onDon’t Trust The B—- in Apt 23, Jorge Garcia fromLost, Dania Ramirez fromDevious Maids, and Jesse Williams onGrey’s Anatomy.”

On their first digital talent competition this summer:
“This is new. We’re the first network to launch a digital talent competition. We had over 14,000 submissions, we’re having a public vote, and the winner will be announced on Aug. 30. The winner gets $10,000 and a talent option hold with ABC. Just based on the submissions, I’m excited to be able to find new faces. These are actors from around the country, they are coming from everywhere, from Florida to Alabama, and it’s really great to hear some of their stories.”

On the Latino and Asian Outreach Initiatives:
“This is international. We started this program last year. For the Latino Outreach, we targeted Mexico, Latin America and Spain, and I’m excited to say that one of actors we found in first year of the Latino Outreach Initiative, Adan Canto, was cast as series regular in Mixology. The Asian Outreach Initiative started in India, and we just expanded to the Philippines this year.”

Who influences you?
“I have an amazing circle of really strong, smart, successful female friends, and we feed off that positive energy and help each other out. That’s part of what I do in my profession, I’m helping people realize their dreams, and that’s what we do for each other. I often have these conversations with my girlfriends, where I wish I had women as role models or mentors, so now that we’re in our positions, we think, how can we help empower other women and be role models for them? All these female pioneers paved the way for us, so how can we pave the way for other women?”

Slight edits, since the term “minority” is inaccurate and offensive. Wonderful interview with an industry professional who is making big change. If you’re an actor (or writer, or director), do check out the diversity initiatives of major studios. ABC, FOX, CBS, and Disney all have talent showcases and other opportunities that could be that break you need. It never hurts to put yourself out there and take a chance!

Reblogged from allerasphinx  339 notes

allerasphinx:

the response to fans of colour who often can’t help but be disappointed by casting news (since it’s usually yet another instance where racial minorities are excluded) is always so over the top and nasty as though the disappointment is ruining lives.

it’s like, hollywood caters to the people who hold the majority of privilege and power all the time; these decisions are being made by people who are all about the status quo. disappointed fans have very little impact on a decision that is already set in stone.

you can be happy if you want, but other people aren’t going to be. and that’s okay. people are allowed to have different feelings. leave them to deal with their disappointment and work through their thoughts without inserting yourself into the conversation to invalidate those feelings as if they aren’t totally justifiable.

Reblogged from fatpinkcast  589 notes

For the people who are so against [casting actors of color as Dornish characters], who are so desperate to send us around in circles looking for proof, it’s like it’s never enough.

Sometimes i just want to ask them what is it about the Martells being people of color that bothers you so much? It is so discouraging when people are telling us to “wait and see.” “Wait and see” for what? Guys, we’ve been consuming media since we were children. The second you come out, you listen to music, you sit down in front of the tv, you step into a movie theater, you are consuming media.

"Wait and see" for what? Do you know how many times I read a book and I fall in love with this character of color just to have them be turned into a movie and played by a white actor? Just to have that director say they picked the best actor for the whole when they only sent out casting calls for white actors?

Do you know what that feels like? Do you think game of thrones is the first time that we’ve had to experience something like this? it is not the first time! and I’m sorry to get so emotional but it’s not gonna be the last time and that’s what makes it so painful! In television, film, whether it’s in fashion, everywhere we turn, we’re fighting for diversity. I had to learn to love the darkness of my skin because everywhere I turned, it was a problem for people. So it’s fine if you don’t care, it’s totally okay, but please, please stop telling us to accept it. Please stop telling us to get over it. stop telling us to just take it. Stop telling us to accept the table scraps because you have a plethora (if you’re white) of characters to choose from. but for us, if you’re darker, if you’re black, if you’re asian, whatever, we just have a handful of characters and we can’t even have that!

By episode 18, fat pink cast (via caterinasforzas)

"In my experience as an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry (being on the executive board of Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, being co-chair of Actors’ Equity Associations Equal Employment Opportunity Committee and sitting on various diversity committees with various parts of the industry engaging in dialogue about these issues for the past 15 years or so), I’ve found that most everyone likes to pass the buck. I’ve heard everything from it’s the producers’ fault to it’s the directors’ fault, to it’s the playwrights’ fault, to it’s the actors’ fault for not showing up to auditions. At the end of the day, I believe that casting has to be a truly collaborative effort.
"An actor has to be up to the challenge, his/her agent has to submit/push for an "outside the box" suggestion, the casting director has to give that agent’s client an opportunity to be seen by the creative team, the creative team has to have an open mind to re-imagine the role, the producer has to set the tone and mandate to the creative team that he/she is writing the checks to back a production that’s committed to portraying the world through a wider lens"
-Christine Toy Johnson, an award-winning writer, actor, filmmaker, and advocate for inclusion. Member: BMI Workshop, Dramatists Guild, ASCAP, AEA, SAG-AFTRA, Asian American Composers and Lyricists Project (founder), executive board of Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, elected leadership of Actors’ Equity Association (and co-chair of the union’s EEOC), founding steering committee member of AAPAC.  

Read the full interview at LeeandLow publishing

"In my experience as an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry (being on the executive board of Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, being co-chair of Actors’ Equity Associations Equal Employment Opportunity Committee and sitting on various diversity committees with various parts of the industry engaging in dialogue about these issues for the past 15 years or so), I’ve found that most everyone likes to pass the buck. I’ve heard everything from it’s the producers’ fault to it’s the directors’ fault, to it’s the playwrights’ fault, to it’s the actors’ fault for not showing up to auditions. At the end of the day, I believe that casting has to be a truly collaborative effort.

"An actor has to be up to the challenge, his/her agent has to submit/push for an "outside the box" suggestion, the casting director has to give that agent’s client an opportunity to be seen by the creative team, the creative team has to have an open mind to re-imagine the role, the producer has to set the tone and mandate to the creative team that he/she is writing the checks to back a production that’s committed to portraying the world through a wider lens"

-Christine Toy Johnson, an award-winning writer, actor, filmmaker, and advocate for inclusion. Member: BMI Workshop, Dramatists Guild, ASCAP, AEA, SAG-AFTRA, Asian American Composers and Lyricists Project (founder), executive board of Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, elected leadership of Actors’ Equity Association (and co-chair of the union’s EEOC), founding steering committee member of AAPAC.  

Read the full interview at LeeandLow publishing

Reblogged from secondscreenmosaic  230 notes

I wish people wouldn’t just see me as the Asian girl who beats everyone up, or the Asian girl with no emotion. People see Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock in a romantic comedy, but not me. You add race to it, and it became, ‘Well, she’s too Asian’, or, ‘She’s too American’. I kind of got pushed out of both categories. It’s a very strange place to be. You’re not Asian enough and then you’re not American enough, so it gets really frustrating.

I can’t say that there is no racism – there’s definitely something there that’s not easy, which makes [an acting career] much more difficult.

By Lucy Liu (via secondscreenmosaic)

Here’s a question you didn’t ask: “Name one non-white person with greater star power than Armie Hammer?”

By

io9 commenter Bazzd in response to another user’s rationale for the casting of Johnny Depp as Tonto.  The other user asked:  "Name one Native American with the star power of Depp?"

Bazzd responded:

You realize this is Hollywood, right? They’d rerelease Roots with an all-white cast if they could get away with it. And here’s a question you didn’t ask: “Name one non-white person with greater star power than Armie Hammer” because the protagonist of the movie is both white and nowhere near the A-list.

But that’s how racism works. C-list white guy as the titular lead? No problem. C-list non-white guy as the sidekick? “WHAAAA!? What is he doing in this movie!?”

Seriously, Johnny Depp could have been the Lone Ranger and a Native American actor like Adam Beach or Lou Diamond Phillips could have been pursued as Tonto, but I bet the thought never crossed the producers’ minds.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Actress Roundtable interview brings together seven amazing stars, and they talk about issues that affect actresses in Hollywood like sexism and ageism.  At the same time, a vital perspective is being glaringly left out, and that is the inclusion of actresses of color.
It’s hard to believe that it’s 2012, and women of color are still not being included at the table.  

The Hollywood Reporter’s Actress Roundtable interview brings together seven amazing stars, and they talk about issues that affect actresses in Hollywood like sexism and ageism.  At the same time, a vital perspective is being glaringly left out, and that is the inclusion of actresses of color.

It’s hard to believe that it’s 2012, and women of color are still not being included at the table.  

Reblogged from nprfreshair  563 notes

nprfreshair:

When you are the only Indian-American female lead in a television show, you seem to be making sweeping statements about that person simply because you are that person and the only one whereas, for instance, Steve Carell — he’s not making sweeping generalizations about white American men on his show because there’s so many different white American men on different shows. …

So I get worried by doing this character that people think that I’m saying that about all those people. And I just have the weight of that on my shoulders, which is something that I do envy other performers for not having.

Mindy Kaling on being an Indian-American actress on TV

Reblogged from negrokage  152 notes

    kennywaves:

    Kerry Washington debating Affirmative Action on Real Time with Bill Maher.

    I’ve seen the gifs of this segment of the show on my dash so I thought I’d post the clip in its entirety. I couldn’t agree more with what she’s saying. It’s great to see a celebrity having an intelligent and informed opinion on an important issue.

    Kerry Washington so much <3 here.   It’s mostly a debate on affirmative action, but relevant for the last part of the conversation.

It’s been a big challenge to get the right guy…We’re sort of picking a character who is part of an oppressed people. We had to be very very careful with it. We wanted to be both historically accurate and earnest in how we treated it. So we wanted to get an actor who is Native American. [Noah Watts] is half-Blackfoot. And we wanted to get the events that happen in the game that are historically accurate as possible.

By Assassin’s Creed III creative director Alex Hutchinson on casting Noah Watts to do voice work and motion capture for the game’s Native American hero, Connor Kenway/Ratohnhaké:ton.