Putting Asian actors in US TV shows

Putting Asian actors in US TV shows
Executive vice-president of casting at ABC Entertainment Group Keli Lee.

Growing up in the United States, Keli Lee remembers that her television diet included comedies such as Love Boat (1977-1986), Three's Company (1977-1984) and action series Charlie's Angels (1976-1981).

She tells Life! over a chat at The Fullerton Hotel recently: "These were my favourite shows but if you think about those shows, there weren't diverse faces."

Back then though, it did not cross her mind that it was odd to have no Asian faces on the small screen.

As executive vice-president of casting at ABC Entertainment Group, she has been playing her part to overhaul the TV landscape. She was in Singapore to speak at industry event ContentAsia Summit.

She has been casting shows at ABC for more than 20 years, which means the following decisions were all made during her watch: Sandra Oh as the driven Cristina Yang on the medical drama Grey's Anatomy (2005-present), Kim Yun Jin as plane crash survivor Sun on the sci-fi fantasy series Lost (2004-2010) and Eva Longoria as one of the titular Desperate Housewives (2004-2012).

And she says that casting ethnic faces has gotten easier.

She notes: "It's changed gradually and it will continue to change. It's hard when it's a family and we've already cast one of the family members, but it is easier for dramas. We can cast any character with any ethnicity if that person is the right person for the character.

"There are still so many opportunities."

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