round the turn of the century token Asian Americans were almost commonplace on TV sitcoms. Think John Cho in the WB's 2001 comedy Off Centre, Lucy Liu in FOX's Ally McBeal, Garrett Wang in Star Trek Voyager and Lindsay Price on NBC's short-lived Friends-like drama, Coupling. Most of us assumed that things could only get better. They got worse. According to Variety.com the 2003/04 season saw a marked decrease in the representation of Asian American faces on prime-time tv. Our representation on the small screen was barely half that of our percentage of the U.S. population at large.
But when the going got tough, the tough got going. Here are five Asian Americans who have not only survived, but bucked the trend to become familiar faces and even favorite personalities of American TV audiences.
ne of MTV's hottest correspondents is a sassy lassie with a cherubic smile and a charge-of-the-light-brigade drive. SuChin Pak's success owes much to a disarming knack for making her subjects feel at ease while asking the penetrating questions that can make an interview interesting enough to keep twitchy fingers off the remote. But Pak has had her share of bloopers. In one of her first MTV interviews she called the rappper Ice Cube, Ice Pick.
Since becoming an MTV correspondent in May 2001 Pak has covered everything from movie awards and video music awards to Sundance and interviews with stars like Mariah Carey, *NSYNC, P. Diddy, George Lucas, Jane's Addiction, Mary J. Blige, Billy Idol, Fred Durst and Julia Stiles.
Pak hadn't planned on a career in front of the camera. Her lucky break came while working as a volunteer for Youth in Government, a program in which kids are given the opportunity to participate in the political process. Pak was singled out for a news segment by KGO-TV, ABC's San Francisco affiliate. The program director saw the piece and offered SuChin a job as host of Straight Talk 'N Teens, a show that focuses on teen issues and entertainment. She was still in high school.
“Starting out in this business, there were some obstacles,” recalls Pak. “For instance, the only person in the business who looked like me was Connie Chung, so everyone would say to me, ‘So, you want to be the next Connie Chung?’ I would just nod my head. I actually wanted to be the next Barbara Walters, but because she is blonde, I felt like I couldn't say that. Now I've grown into my own niche. I don't feel like I have to be the next Connie Chung. I am creating my own box to fit into and not being forced into one that doesn't fit me.”
While attending the University of California at Berkeley, Pak was hired as the youngest host of PBS's Newton's Apple. She spent the remainder of her college years cramming for exams in exotic locales like Costa Rica and Tahiti. After graduation she was recruited by Tech TV as a reporter for Internet Tonight. After a year she moved on to another teen show on KRON, NBC's San Francisco affiliate. After a yearlong audition process with Oxygen Network Pak was hired to be the host of Trackers, fulfilling her ambition to move up to national TV. She was approached by MTV after her move to New York.