By Ed Diokno
Now that the Emmys have been handed out and Master of None deservedly won a golden statuette for the writing of Aziz Ansari and Alan Wang, its time to look at this year’s crop of new television shows in another round of “Find the AAPI actor.”
It would be difficult to top the 2015-16 television season in terms of the unprecedented boom growth of the AAPI presence. With the return of Agents of Shield and the renewal of Fresh Off the Boat, that show was joined by Dr. Ken, Master of None, Quantico, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Into the Badlands, the surprise Netflix hit The Man In The High Castle and the hard-to-ignore spectacle of Marco Polo with its cast of hundreds.
- Asian American TV revolution is happening
- The AAPI revolution on television continues into the new year
Last year was really a historic year in the annals of AAPI entertainment with over 60 AAPI actors appearing in prominent reoccurring speaking roles among the fall shows. As the year went on, mid-season premieres brought us more additions: Superstore with Nico Santos and Nicole Bloom and Conrad Ricamora became a regular cast member in How to Get Away With Murder.
Half-dozen or so shows featuring AAPI actors that debuted in 2016 didn’t make the cut for a second season, but we have 22 new shows either starring Asian Americans or at least giving them roles of substance.
So it is no surprise that the 2016-17 TV season may not as precedent-setting as last year, but with the new shows and roles, the wave of diversity that made last year so notable will continue.
Swedish Dicks, Viaplay
This story about a pair of Swedish detectives takes place in Los Angeles. It will feature A-lister Keanu Reeves’ first live recurring role on television where he is signed to play the TV stuntman/buddy of one of the detectives. Also in the cast is Vivian Bang in the role of Sun as one of the regular cast members. Unfortunately, the debut of the show is unknown at this point and we only have the assurances of the producers who say it will air later this year.
“I love how progressive the whole show is,” says Reeves, part Chinese and part Hawaiian. “The scripts are amazing and it was great to have the opportunity to work with Peter Stormare again.”
Vanessa Hudgens, like Reeves, has been able to play cross-over roles with ease, most notably in the High School Musical franchise, and recently, in the live TV production of Grease, in which she drew rave reviews. She’ll play Emily Locke, the lead role, in Powerless, about a team that cleans up after super heroes who leave behind a mess while trying to save the world. Danny Pudi will play Teddy, Emily’s best friend.
Falling Water, USA
Will Yun Kee will play one of the three dreamers whose subconsciousness holds clues to their fate and the fate of the world. Cindy Cheung joins Kee in the USA channel’s show.
Designated Survivor, ABC
Maggie Q never seems to have a problem finding a job. She’s back along with Kal Penn in a thriller tale when the President, most of his cabinet and Congress are killed in a terrorist bombing. Keifer Sutherland plays the Cabinet member squirreled away just in the event this scenario actually happens.
Gilmore Girls, Netflix
Keiko Agena will reprise her role as Lane Kim, young Rory’s best friend in the long-anticipated return of this popular show on Netflix. The show also stars Lauren Graham and Alexis Biedel in the title roles of this cult classic
Pure Genius, CBS
Brenda Song as Angie Cheng and Reshma Shetty as Dr. Dr. Talaikha Channarayapatra will be part of the ensemble cast in the Silicon Valley drama.
Berlin Station, EPIX
Tamlyn Tomita stars as Sandra Abe, in this espionage drama. Abe is a quiet presence leading the efficient operation of Berlin Station while having an affair with her boss, a CIA operative.
No Tomorrow, CW
Jesse Rath, an Indian Canadian, is the boyfriend (at least for a while) of the lead character Evie in this dramedy about the pending end of the world. Sarayu Blue plays Kareema, Evie’s sarcastic co-worker, who is a droll nihilist.
Chance is described as a provocative psychological thriller that focuses on a forensic neuropsychiatrist played by the popular Hugh Laurie. Playing his loyal assistant will be Greta Lee.
The Great Indoors, CBS
Christine Ko plays Emma, one of those annoying millennials who is an expert on social media (is that redundant?) in this sitcom about millennial vs. anyone over 30 in a magazine setting.
Filipino Chinese American Anthony Ruivivar portrays Stan Marano, deputy chief of police in the show based on the movie in which a detective is able to contact her late father via an old ham radio.
The Good Place, NBC
Jameela Jamil plays Tahani Al-Jamil, a fellow deceased wealthy philanthropist who traveled extensively around the world. Jacinto plays Jianyu, a phone “Buddhist monk” who’s actually an aspiring Filipino EDM DJ from northeastern Florida
Oh, those Canadians! They’re taking over! Sandrine Holt, another Chinese Canadian is making waves in Hollywood. Her latest role as Patricia Thornton, an ex-field agent of a mysterious intelligence agency who doesn’t hesitate getting in on the McGyver action.
Mary + Jane, MTV
Kosha Patel plays Jenee on MTV’s Mary + Jane, a comedy about two 20-something best friends who run an all-female weed delivery service in Los Angeles.
Van Helsing, SyFy
Terry Chen plays a leader of a group of humans in the dystopian adventures of the granddaughter of vampire killer Vanessa Van Helsing played by Kelly Overton.
The Mick, Fox
The Mick follows Mackenzie a brash, two-bit hustler from Rhode Island who must assume guardianship of her sister’s three high-maintenance children. Susan Park plays Liz.
Sakina Jaffrey, an Indian American, plays the leader of the scientists in this time-traveling adventure show.
Jaime Chung joins the regular cast the returning Gotham,which tells the story of the city that spurred Bruce Wayne to don his cape and hood. As journalist Valerie Vale, she joins a cast that already has B.D. Wong as a regularly occurring character
We look forward to the third television show featuring an Asian American family in Andi Mack. It stars a trio of Asian American actresses including 12-year old Peyton Elizabeth Lee in the title role, veteran Lauren Tom as the mother and Lilan Bowden will play her troubled sister. The series has started filming in Utah and will have a winter debut in 2017. With the Huangs of Fresh Off the Boat and the Parks of Dr. Ken, the Macks will be the third show centering on an AAPI family.
Sometime later this season …
Keanu Reeves as a half-Japanese detective in the mini-series Rain may ease the pain of what may be the loss of Steven Yeun of The Walking Dead. (This has not been confirmed, but if the TV show follows the comics, it’s bye-bye to everyone’s favorite pizza delivery guy.) In Rain, Reeves plays a war-veteran-turned-assassin in this thriller. He is also the producer.