Over the course of his two-decade career in acting, hometown boy Rick Tae has seen changes in both Asian and gay representations in media. But he’d still like to see more.
Although he said by phone that he has witnessed “huge” change in gay roles and feels that LGBT communities are “quite strong” in being vocal about mainstream content, he doesn’t necessarily feel the same way about Asian roles.
The actor-writer-producer said he has seen an increase in Asian faces in North American media, but he noted that quantity doesn’t equal quality.
“I’m not totally convinced that the complexity of the characters are there yet,” he said. “There’s still stereotypes out there. I personally have played over nine different doctor roles and immigrant roles. It’s just all quite two-dimensional a lot of times.”
After not seeing enough roles for Asian male actors, he went from being in front of the camera to getting behind the scenes as a writer-producer.
“I’ve had an acting career for about 20 years now and I’m happy with it except that I’m not oftentimes challenged,” he said. “As actors, we all certainly want to train and be good and meet the standards of material that comes out.…But we also need experience as actors to really garner confidence and complexities in character and all that. So I certainly recognized that something was missing in this chicken-and-egg scenario. And so I kinda stopped complaining about it and started doing something about it, so that’s why I shifted my focus to writing and producing.”
Tae wrote and produced John Apple Jack, a locally shot and set gaysian romcom that will have its world premiere as a centerpiece film at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival, which runs from Thursday to Sunday (November 7 to 10, www.vaff.org/ ). The low-budget feature follows the screwy misadventures of John (Chris McNally), a spoiled rice queen and restaurant-empire heir whose sister is marrying his childhood crush, chef and closet case Jack (Kent S. Leung).
Tae said he wrote the screenplay to explore his questions about love.
“Coming out isn’t easy…and I certainly felt that it was a little bit of an arrested development, so once I came out I felt like it was important to embrace it and go all out, but all I knew to be gay was to have sex,” he said with self-effacing laughter. “And so… I had no experience with relationships, right? So it was just a completely separate concept. So after having a great time and after meeting so many wonderful people, I still was clueless as to how to be in a relationship and fall in love.”
As for other selections at VAFF, the program runs the gamut, with titles as diverse as a documentary about basketball sensation Jeremy Lin (Linsanity), a Bollywood comedy-thriller (Kismet Love Paisa Dilli ), and Karen Cho’s examination of feminism in Canada (Status Quo? ).
Tae pointed out that, ultimately, Asian-content films need to reach beyond specific communities in order to succeed.
“A lot of Asian content doesn’t go beyond Asian audiences, and that’s a challenge,” he said. “But who said this was easy?”