Q: Do you feel you have to live up to a certain image of yourself?
A: No, not in terms of having to parallel your image off-screen with your on-screen image. Basically you are what you are. I never thought of carrying over this image into real life.

Q: What are you like in private?
A: Fundamentally, a three-letter word: Shy. That could be misunderstood for aloofness. Sometimes what you think is an aloof attitude -- it stems basically from a very shy nature. The art form -- films, painting, whatever -- becomes an outlet, an emotional outlet because basically we're performing under the guise as someone other than ourselves. It's a means of letting out some of your feelings. A lot of performers I know -- and this includes big stars -- are very shy people. I think you know that to be true. I've performed live in front of thousands of people and I don't feel a shyness. but I'm terrible at social gatherings. I love people and I like to think of myself as a very compassionate person, but it's very difficult for me to meet people except in a business sense.

Q: Where does this shyness come from?
A: I'd have to ask an analyst.

Q: Have you ever been to a shrink?
A: Not yet.

Q: What was your childhood like?
A: Wonderful. I come from a large, very loving family. We're all very close. I have four brothers and one sister. I'm right in the middle.

Q: Was it an eventful childhood?
A: It was very eventful. (long pause)

Q: What were your interests as a kid?
A: Basically all the things that interest kids.

Q: Like?
A: Swimming, surfing, all the ordinary things that kids do in that wonderful island environment. It's a lovely way to be brought up. The Hawaiians are so loving, so warm, caring. To this day every time I go back it is a breath of fresh air. The people exude love and warmth. Don't forget, I'm just a country boy. That [image] has great appeal to me.

Q: Do you still feel like a country boy?
A: My roots are still there. Yes, I still feel very much that way.

Q: What are the characteristics of a country boy?
A: It's a very special thing to be brought up in Hawaii -- there's such an intermingling of racial groups, different ethnic cultures. I hope that that's never lost.

Q: Do you view yourself as an actor or an Asian actor?
A: An actor, period, primarily. I was an actor who could play certain roles and whocould not play certain roles. In recent years, the point has been more underscored regarding race -- you're a Black actor, you're an Asian actor.

Q: Why do you think this is the case?
A: I think it's because there's a demand for truth in casting.

Q: What do you mean by truth in casting?
A: Perhaps I'm not using the right expression. When I say truth in casting, I'm thinking of real life casting. In real life Asians are business professionals, bankers, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, etc.
To be fair, there are people out there trying to include Asians in the mainstream, but I don't think there's enough of that. I don't know if that's because they have a preconception of what the public expects this role to be but it's up to the creative people to hold a mirror to the world out there.


Q: Did you notice a change in casting policies over the years? I mean, you played romantic leads. There's hardly any romantic Asian leads any more.
A: The movies I made where I was a romantic lead were done during a more innocent, more romantic era. Does art imitate life or vice versa? Now they're doing films like the Vietnam war where, let's face it, there's not a lot of romanticism. I think also it's a difficult time not only for actors but also for production companies in the sense that they've got to keep making films that are commercially viable.

Q: What kind of roles do you play these days?
A: Some heavies, some good guys. Depends on what I'm offered.

Q: Would you accept roles of gardeners and restaurateurs?
A: If the writing were okay, I would certainly not be averse to doing so.

Q: Don't you think most of the "gardener" roles that are written are demeaning?
A: I qualified it by saying I wouldn't be averse to "gardener" roles fi they're well-written. If it's strictly "Yes, missy, no missy", then forget it.

Q: Have you been offered such roles?
A: No, I haven't.

Q: Does this mean people see you in a certai light?
A: Hopefully people see that I have a certain amount of credibility and I possess a certain amount of acting skills. If it is true to life, I'm not opposed to playing a Japanese chef or gardener.

Q: How concerned are you about the image of Asians in the media?
A: I'm very concerned about elevating the image of Asians to the proper level.

Q: What are you doing to elevate the image of Asians?
A: Maybe I shouldn't say I'm trying to elevate the image. I would like to project a more realistic image of the Asian American than heretofore.

Q: And what is that?
A: A realistic image of the Asian American to show to the vast number of viewers who are perhaps not exposed to Asian Americans in everyday life -- the Asian American has a positive image, generally a hard-working, successful lot. PAGE 4

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Shigeta starred with Nancy Kwan in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song.

"The movies I made where I was a romantic lead were done during a more innocent, more romantic era."

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