I’m Not an Asian Stereotype, But I Play One on TV
As an extra I’ve played the role of “Asian Pedestrian” over and over again. I’ve been waiting for Hollywood to change, but am I part of the problem?
Photo by Bobby Lee
On an early morning in May, my fellow Chinatown residents and I were trudging through our day when a horse cart full of food broke through a gated barrier on the edge of the neighborhood. The sky was grey. All of us, hungry and abandoned, rushed toward the cart from every angle. I watched as faster people leaped on top of the cart and threw food to those of us on the ground. We fought each other in the crowd to grasp at the produce.
The mad ambush of the cart stopped, reset and repeated. I was part of a group of background actors hired to play pedestrians and shopkeepers for an episode of Cinemax’s “The Knick,” the gritty and graphic drama about the Knickerbocker hospital. This scene was set in a quarantined area of San Francisco's Chinatown at the turn of the century, during a bubonic plague outbreak. The set was located over several blocks in Yonkers, New York, 2,900 miles from San Francisco’s actual Chinatown. Designers covered several streets in gravel and dirt. T…
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