Asian American women on the set of “Dr. Ken”
by Rosie Narasaki
As a kind of extension from her hosting duties at East West Players’ recent “One Night Only: The Future is Bright” gala, Dr. Ken actor Suzy Nakamura generously invited eight playwrights from EWP’s David Henry Hwang Writers Institute to a taping of the show. It was something of a dual opportunity, both to enjoy the experience of a live taping and to celebrate the fact that the episode was both written and directed by Asian American women—definitely something of a landmark in today’s TV landscape.
The episode was penned by Dr. Ken staff writer Nicole Sun and directed by Jude Weng, whose TV directing credits also include Fresh Off the Boat. It’s a rare occurrence (hopefully less rare in the years to come) for that kind of confluence of Asian American female talent to happen in TV. It felt kind of like bearing witness to some kind of empowering solar eclipse.
The episode itself was a lot of fun. The episode centered on Ken’s relationship with his divorcé father, DK (played by EWP stalwart Dana Lee), and it hit that perfect sitcom balance of zany, silly, and heartwarming. After the taping, Suzy introduced us to most of the cast as well as the aforementioned director and writer, all of whom were every bit as lovely and funny as you’d expect (yes, Albert Tsai really is that charmingly adorable in real life).
Even with film and television continuing to slowly change for the better, it’s easy to get discouraged sometimes. It feels like for every Dr. Ken, there are ten Tilda Swintons in yellowface. But it’s landmark moments like these that serve as a great reminder of just how much Asian American talent is out there, fighting the good fight.
Rosie Narasaki is a Los Angeles-based playwright and actor. As an actor, recent highlights include a play called In Love and Warcraft, and a short film called Fish Bowl. As a writer, her play Visitation Rites is being produced by Becky & Baldwin, and her play Friend Request is currently in development with hereandnow theatre company. She can also be found extolling the many virtues of Kylie Jenner for Bustle.com, as well as doing various odd jobs for East West Players.