You don’t know me, but I’ve been with you since the very beginning.
I was organizing on-campus screenings when Justin Lin made Better Luck Tomorrow on nothing more than some shoestrings, a little spit, and a handful of maxed out credit cards. I shelled out my movie ticket money for American Pie and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, and even gritted my teeth through the (many, many, shitty) sequels despite my being the polar opposite of these film franchises’ target demographics. I was there for you in Flashforward and Sleepy Hollow and Selfie. I have supported you for over a decade as an immensely talented actor and one of Asian America’s break-out stars, and no one was more thrilled than I when you landed the part of Sulu in J. J. Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise; few actors deserved the opportunity more.
Asian American actors are a special bunch: to a person, you all seem to be thoughtful, reasoned, caring and politically conscious activist-actors who are deeply knowledgeable about mainstream media’s (under/mis)representation when it comes to people of colour. Perhaps it comes from the years during which you are forced to toil in acting obscurity as one of the industry’s few Asian American actors or directors, but when at last you get your “big break”, most of you use your newfound platforms to force a conversation on media diversity and better representation. I experience a moment of joyful anticipation every time I stumble across an interview with an Asian American actor, because — whether BD Wong, or Constance Wu, or Daniel Dae Kim, or Daniel Henney, or Aziz Ansari, or you — you use your respective spotlights to force a necessary conversation about Hollywood’s diversity holes. And, you all always have really great and thought-provoking things to say.
Leonard Nimoy, actor best known for his role as Spock in the original Star Trek series, has passed away of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 83.
I’m a huge fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, so it was with a certain amount of fangirl glee that I stumbled across this digitized memo from Paramount Studios. The memo (which found its way online in 2010) dates back to April 1987, and it lists some of the short-list casting considerations for some of our ST:TNG first season bridge crew.
There are some expected entries — Patrick Stewart as the favourite for Picard, and Jonathan Frakes winning out the role for Riker (spelled with a “y” in this memo) And, of course, Trekkies like myself were aware that Denise Crosby was initially considered for Troi. Many African American actors of note, including Wesley Snipes and Tim Russ (who would go on to star in Star Trek: Voyager) were on the short-list to play Geordi Laforge.
And, in an alternate universe, Rosalind Chao would’ve been Commander Tasha Yar, the hot-headed and tomboyish head of security. As Trek lore goes, Chao was a favourite for the role until Marina Sirtis auditioned for Troi; Rodenberry then decided to bump Chao’s casting and move Crosby to Yar’s role. Chao, who later appeared as Keiko O’Brien on ST:TNG and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, would’ve — I think — revolutionized images of Asian American women in science fiction. An Asian American Yar is tough and no-nonsense, but also struggles with her femininity and sexuality, undermining chances that Chao’s portrayal would’ve spun off into a “dragon lady” stereotype.
But then there are a few surprises.
Paramount was already toying with the idea that it might be ST:TNG, not Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that might give the franchise its first African American Starfleet captain; esteemed actor Yaphet Kotto was considered a competitor for Patrick Stewart in the role of Picard. Kevin Peter Hall, another African American actor, was in the running for the role of Data.
In particular, I want to draw your attention to a trilogy I participated in focusing on Deep Space 9 captain Benjamin Sisko.
In part 1, James wrote a really phenomenal post on Sisko and Black manhood; in it, he recounts parallels between the character of Sisko and his own father. This post was easily my favourite post of NOC’s “Trek Week” (although, of course, one could argue that I’m biased). An excerpt:
And, in part 3, the talented Shawn S. (who is also a great cook) contextualizes the character of Benjamin Sisko in the larger history of how Black men and Black history are depicted in media. Again, this is a truly fabulous post, and a perfect book-end to the Trilogy. An excerpt:
I had a really fabulous time participating in this trilogy, which culminated in a DS9 marathon this weekend including the truly ground-breaking Season 6 episode “Far Beyond the Stars” (which actually made me cry).
I look forward to more great science fiction/fantasy race-blogging at the Nerds of Color in the future. I hope you enjoy the trilogy too!
Originally posted at The Nerds of Color
I’m an unabashed Trekkie. I grew up on Star Trek: The Next Generation, watching it at my piano teacher’s house between lessons. I watched Deep Space Nine and Voyagerreligiously when I was home from college. I crushed on the usual suspects — Wesley Crusher, Tom Paris, Harry Kim, and Julian Bashir — and consumed my fair share ofStar Trek paperback novels in the lull between new episodes.
I saw every TNG full-length movie at midnight openings in theatres. I own the Star Trek Encyclopedia and even made a point to visit the Las Vegas Star Trek Experience exhibit, when it was still touring.
And, I loved Star Trek Into Darkness (which is being released on DVD and Blu-ray this week).
This didn’t seem particularly unusual to me until I read last month that thousands of Trek fans at the official convention in Vegas had voted Into Darkness the single worst Star Trek film in canon history. They voted it worst behind Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Behind Star Trek: Generations! Behind Star Trek: Insurrection! Behind Star Trek V: I Found God at the Edge of the Freakin’ Universe!!!