Actor Brian Tee as Dr. Ethan Choi in NBC's 'Chicago Med'. (Photo credit: NBC)
According to studies, Asian Americans remain significantly underrepresented in American media, and when visible primarily relegated to flattened and stereotypical roles in support of a white lead’s personal journey.
It was therefore noteworthy when in 2015, Chicago Med — a spinoff of the popular Chicago Fire series situated in Dick Wolf’s Chicago universe — premiered with a multiracial cast of characters that included Korean American Dr. Ethan Choi (played by actor Brian Tee) as a series regular. Although it was possible to write Ethan Choi as stereotype — he is a doctor, after all — series writers chose instead to write a character that defied conventional stereotypes: Ethan Choi is presented as a principled military veteran and a National Guard reservist, and a dashing romantic love interest.
Chicago Med is airing its 100th episode this eveing, in a storyline that features Dr. Choi. To mark the occasion, I asked actor Brian Tee to reflect on his time playing Dr. Ethan Choi on Chicago Med.
Note: A version of this article originally appeared last year in Just Add Color.
A few months ago, during one of my shifts for Shadow and Act, I reported on Gabrielle Union’s upcoming starring role in a new Screen Gems rom-com. The film is unique among Screen Gems’ repertoire: it’s about an interracial relationship between an Asian man and a Black woman, and is written by Chester Tam.
The film is based on Tam’s real-life relationship experiences. Currently, no actor has yet to be cast opposite Union as her romantic interest.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Chester Tam will direct a rom-com for Screen Gems starring Gabrielle Union. The film, based on Tam’s own script, will be semi-autobiographical and follow “a newly single African-American woman who begins dating a recently divorced Asian-American man,” per the article’s description.
The logline, the article states, hasn’t been fully revealed, but will focus on “how a drunken one-night stand leads to a secret relationship that eventually becomes public, surprising both friends and family of the couple given that neither is typically the other’s type.”
While the plot of this upcoming film sounds interesting, I’m hesitant. Given this backdrop, how will this film present heterosexual interracial relationships between Asian men and Black women — and might it do more damage than good?
The specter of war between North and South Korea has dominated headlines, particularly as President Donald Trump increasingly matches the bellicose posturing of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un word-for-word (and tweet-for-tweet). Under the best of circumstances, the precarious relationship between North and South Korea requires precise and thoughtful diplomatic handling; that is no more true now that North Korea approaches the threshold of achieving nuclear weapons.
A better president might develop a program to halt North Korea’s nuclear advancement with a measured balance of diplomacy and international sanction. A better president would understand the devastatingly high price of war, and would seek to avoid that at all costs.
But, America elected Donald Trump, a self-aggrandizing buffoon who sees the rising tensions on the Korean peninsula as just another opportunity to provoke Kim Jong Un with belittling — and highly racially emasculating — language.
Recently, Brooklyn Nets star Jeremy Lin said to the New York Daily News, “A lot of times we have Asian girls go for non-Asian guys but you don’t see a lot of the opposite. You don’t see a lot of the opposite; you don’t see a lot of non-Asian girls go for Asian guys. When they said ‘Yellow Fever’ growing up, it wasn’t all these white girls going for Asian guys. It was the Asian girls going for the white guys.”
Although Lin was relatively thoughtful throughout his interview, his answers nonetheless reinforced a damaging myth: that Asian American women have more advantages than their male counterparts.
Lin represents a segment among men of color who have become obsessed with embodying a superficial and regressive “masculinity.” If our goal is to dismantle patriarchy, we must form a deeper, layered understanding of “masculinity” and its relationship to Black, Brown, and East Asian American men. That radical reexamination of the “masculine” must account for the marginalization that many men of color feel, while not absolving them of their role in perpetuating misogyny.
Johnson is also only the second Black man (after Denzel Washington, who was named Sexiest Man in 1996) and the second AAPI man (after Keanu Reeves, who was retroactively named 1994’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2015) to receive the title.