As Asian Americans have begun to break the stereotypes in the entertainment industry, director and choreographer Shawn Ku is no exception. Ku had a change of heart and started dancing instead of continuing on the Doctor path. As he moved further into the entertainment industry, Shawn solidified himself as a major director and choreographer in his directorial debut of MTV’s “The American Mall.”
Set in Ohio, “The American Mall” is a musical romantic comedy set at a mall and focuses on the relationship between two young musicians and their respective personal and professional struggles.
During the red carpet premiere of the film which was held at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, Shawn Ku took a quick moment to talk about his debut as a director and Asians in the entertainment industry.
ASIANCE: Did you do any of the choreography in the movie?
SK: Oh, yes. I did.
ASIANCE: Would you consider yourself another Adam Shankman?
SK: Oh I don’t know about being like Adam Shankman. I actually worked with two choreographers in the film. We worked it out and did it all together.
ASIANCE: How did you get involved with this project?
SK: I met with the producers who did “High School Musical” and really hit it off. The story obviously appeals to me even though I’m not a girl who grew up in Ohio or whatever. (Laughs).
ASIANCE: Is this your first major directorial debut?
SK: It is.
ASIANCE: How does that feel?
SK: It was exciting but it’s what we come out here to do. It’s the culmination of a lot of effort.
ASIANCE: What’s next up for you or what’s in the pipeline for you?
SK: There’s actually a sequel to this. We’re already talking about it and I’m moving quickly on this. It’s more of them.
ASIANCE: Seeing that more and more Asians are being exposed into the mainstream entertainment industry, do you see that it’s getting easier for Asians to break into the industry?
SK: You know, I hope so. The groups that still are made fun of are Asians and gays. It’s the last frontier. Yeah, so I hope so. I mean it’s funny and not funny. You know, it’s starting to become easier. You know that kid from Disturbia (Aaron Yoo); it’s not about the Asian being the smart one or the nerd. It’s just starting; we’re just staring to break the stereotypes.
ASIANCE: Just like MTV’s “Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance crew,” you see quite a bit of number of crews or individuals of the Asian persuasion.
SK: I know! A lot of Asians are representing. I mean there’s this Filipino group that I like. Are they still on?
ASIANCE: Oh yes, that’s SoReal Cru. They’re Still On.
SK: I saw last week and they were excellent especially when they did that sexy Janet Jackson dance.
ASIANCE: While watching the show, do you ever get that urge to get into dancing more as a crew?
SK: Oh, I’m too old for that.
ASIANCE: You’re never too old!
SK: But you know with Katee in “So You Think You Can Dance,” I look at her as the Asian girl who can dance. I notice that the Asian girls in “American Idol” never get that far. But Katee’s amazing. She’s fantastic.
ASIANCE: Do you think there might be that slight glass ceiling for Asians in the entertainment industry to play mainstream characters, which doesn’t look at that individual as being Asian?
SK: I don’t know. I think that like Sandra Oh of “Grey’s Anatomy” changed a lot of things. None of her story lines have anything to do with her ethnicity at all because even back on “E.R.” with Ming Na, she had something of her being Asian and Sandra’s role isn’t about that. She’s just a doctor, which is great. Do I think there’s a glass ceiling in Hollywood? You know, there just might be because unfortunately the country doesn’t look at – “ this is horrible to say – “ doesn’t look at Asians as attractive in the same way as a Hispanic guy is or a black or white guy. I don’t know why that is. It might be that they’re always going to looked at Asians especially with the baggage the United States has with Asian countries and the wars we had. It’s a lot of baggage. It takes a lot of time for that baggage to go away.
ASIANCE: Did your parents give you a hard time with you following your career into the arts?
SK: Oh yeah! I hate to say, I was that typical kid that was supposed to go to med school and my sister’s a doctor. I got into Columbia Med and decided not to go and started dancing. It’s like my mom still cries about it. Well, not really cries about it. Maybe just last year.
ASIANCE: Would you say, your life is like “Harold and Kumar?”
SK: Haha. Maybe! A little bit. I don’t know about the White Castle part.
“The American Mall” debuts on MTV on August 11 and will be released to DVD on August 12.
By Peter Gonzaga
Photos by Sthanlee B. Mirador/Pacific Rim Photo Press