I play the “young” Keye Luke from the beginning of his acting career through the heyday of the studio system.
When did Timothy Tau first approach to play the role?
I believe it was January of last year when Tim sent me an email pitching an idea he had for a film project about Keye Luke. It definitely seemed like an interesting topic and it certainly would be an honor for any actor to get the opportunity to portray such a pioneering figure in American cinema. I was flattered that he would consider me for the part.
What kind of research did you do to prepare for the film?
Tim did some pretty extensive internet research and has probably found just about every article and every interview involving Keye Luke that has ever been written. He shared all of his findings with the cast and I read a good deal of them. I also watched clips of Mr. Luke’s work on YouTube. Prior to this film, I was probably most familiar with Mr. Luke’s later work, such as “that old Chinese guy” from “Kung Fu” or “that old Chinese guy” from “Gremlins”. I say that half-jokingly, of course. I think to the average moviegoer, Keye Luke is probably best remembered as “that old Chinese guy”, but the truth is, Mr. Luke enjoyed a long, impressive career in films and television that spanned decades and his impact on Asian Americans and on American cinema is still being felt today. In many ways, he was far ahead of his time and one could argue, that he is still ahead of the times. Here was a handsome, eloquent, and masculine Asian American man playing leading roles in Hollywood films. Some seventy years after Mr. Luke starred in “Phantom of Chinatown” we still don’t see much of that in American film or television. So that makes Keye Luke not only a pioneer, but almost one of a kind.
How has learning more about the history of Asian American actors in
Hollywood impacted you?
Asian Americans have been in Hollywood since the era of silent films, often unseeen, marginalized, or forgotten completely. But the fact remains: We were there and we still are, struggling to make our voices heard and our visions seen. I can only hope that this film would inspire folks to do their own internet sleuthing to learn more about Keye Luke and other pioneering Asian American actors and artists or better yet, pay a visit to the library or the video store to check out what is a real treasure trove of films from the Golden Era of Hollywood. For Asian Ameican artists, I think Keye Luke represents how much we can achieve and how far we still have to go in Hollywood. He stands as an inspiration and as a challenge. I look at Tim’s film as a call to arms to Asian American actors and filmmakers. Get out there and make your voice heard.
Where are you in your own career?
I’m not a Hollywood legend but I play one in short films.What’s next for you?
Working on a few different projects that I’m contractually obligated not to discuss. But I can tell you that I’m just writing, writing, writing. Well, actually it’s more like procrastinating, procrastinating, procrastinating. But I’m doing a lot of thinking about writing, I can assure you. Otherwise, just the usual auditioning and whatnot. I’ve had the good fortune of doing some more voiceover work recently so be on the lookout for the audiobook version of sportswriter Timothy Dalrymple’s “Jeremy Lin: The Reason for the Linsanity”, which I narrated.