The East West Players awards honored “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh-McKenna for raising visibility of the Asian Pacific American community through its hit television show yesterday at the Hilton Universal Hotel. Emceed by Mark Dacascos and Tia Carrere, the duo introduced Vincent Rodriguez III to present the honorary award to Bloom and McKenna. As the lead actor of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” ensemble, Rodriguez said he was proud to be part and a groundbreaking show that giving a Filipino-American actor a chance to play the role of a Filipino-American character on television.
For Bloom, there was no doubt about having an “Asian Bro” as a male lead in her show. When Bloom and Brosh-McKenna first pitched the show, many said that they were limiting themselves in casting options if they had an Asian character in Josh Chan. That didn’t hinder them since they retorted that there are talented Asian people. Sure enough they found Vincent Rodriguez III.
“Originally, we said Josh didn’t have to sing, doesn’t have to dance. It’s okay. We’re just looking for the best actor and then we found Vince who can sing, dance, act, do martial arts. He’s an acrobat. He’s the most multitalented person in our cast,” said Rachel.
Bloom was given a suggestion to look at the smaller agencies because the bigger agencies don’t rep many people of color because the jobs aren’t there.
“The bigger agencies represent people according to demand. There aren’t too many jobs for Asian Bros and Vinnie said that this is the first role he’s ever read for in twelve years that’s felt like him,” added the East West Player honoree.
The role of Josh Chan is considered an iconic role since there hasn’t been a Filipino character that was a lead in a television series.
Actor Reggie Lee resonated that same sentiment, “Thank God for Rachel, for bringing that to the forefront.” Lee, who is Filipino himself, has played various Asian roles and is proud to currently play a Filipino character on NBC’s “Grimm.” “I feel a certain authenticity and it feels like I’m at home especially in the episode where all the Tagalog was spoken,” explained Lee.
The inclusion and diversity in characters is more prevalent in television than in the movies. Bloom explained her thoughts on the subject, “I think that films are much more profit driven. TV now, especially cable has the luxury of being able to be more specific and take more perceived risks because it’s subscription based, whereas studio movies want the safest options so they can make the most money so you hear the reasoning that there aren’t A-list Asian actors. First of all, it isn’t true. Second of all, how do you make A-list Asian actors? You cast them. So, it’s kind of like the chicken and the egg scenario. But in general, TV is more willing to take risks and be specific with characters in a way that is fresh and new than movie are right now,” says, Rachel Bloom.
Also being honored were Tisa Chang, Art Director of the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre along with Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione, the producers of “Allegiance, The Musical.”
The East West Players, who hands out the visionary awards, is the largest organization that produces Asian American artistic work and the longest running professional theatre of color in America.