Emily Furutani – Hulu Originals Vice President, Comedy
Keertana Sastry – Casting Director, Fear the Walking Dead, The Act, El Camino
Jon M. Chu – Executive Producer/Director, The Company You Keep, Home Before Dark
Avantika Vandanapu – Performer, Diary of a Future President, Sex Lives of College Girls, Mean Girls: The Musical
Alex Tse – Co-creator/Executive Producer/Writer, Wu-Tang: An American Saga
Nena Erb, ACE – Emmy-winning Editor, Insecure, Generation, Project Greenlight
Kabir Akhtar – Emmy-winning Director, Never Have I Ever, Superstore
Monica Macer – Writer/Producer, MacGyver, Gentefied, Queen Sugar
Gary H. Lee – Cinematographer/Previsualization Artist, The Magician's Elephant, Vivo
Kim Ngo – Costume Designer/Assistant Costume Designer, This Is Us, East Los High,Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Nathan Matthew David – Composer, Chang Can Dunk, Young Rock
Monica Sotto – Emmy-nominated Production Designer/Art Director, History of the World: Part II, 9-1-1: Lone Star, Drunk History
AAPI Creatives Celebrate Past, Present, and Future Representation in Television
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we asked AAPI creatives on-screen and behind-the-scenes who inspired them on their journey to a career in television, as well as who they are excited to see pave the way for the future of AAPI representation in the industry.
EMILY FURUTANI – Hulu Originals Vice President, Comedy
From Wrecked (TBS), to Hacks (HBOMax), Randall Park's Shortcomings and most recently, Big Door Prize (Apple), Ally Maki constantly delivers memorable comedic and dramatic performances that always leave me wanting more. In addition to being an actress, Ally's the founder of Asian American Girl Club, a clothing company dedicated to uplifting and celebrating Asian American women. I'm in awe of Ally's leadership within the AAPI community as well as all of her success on-screen. She's a real stand-out and definitely one to watch!
KEERTANA SASTRY – Casting Director, Fear the Walking Dead, The Act, El Camino
I am deeply inspired by Iqbal Theba, with whom I recently collaborated. A journeyman actor who has been working in Television for 30 years, Iqbal Theba started his career at a time where there were next to no faces who looked like us in mainstream arts and media. His career of diverse roles from a wide range of genres, and his warmth and willingness to work with up-and-coming creators absolutely makes him someone to thank for opening doors to more AAPI voices on and off screen.
I am excited about the future of TWO very amazing people's careers: Nikitha Menon (VP of Television at Family Owned – Destin Daniel Cretton's production banner) and Mindy Rengrudkij (casting professional). Nikitha Menon is an incredible rising star in the TV exec world; she constantly strives to meet new AAPI creatives and reach out to those looking to get their foot in the door in TV and film. She's also a brilliant collaborator, always happy to provide thoughtful feedback and encouragement – she's going to be a big name in the industry very soon. I had the privilege of working with Mindy Rengrudkij for close to two years and truly believe she is poised to be a force in the field of TV and film casting. She approaches casting from an optimistic lens, making it her goal to showcase and foster AAPI and BIPOC talent every time she works on a show.
JON M. CHU– Executive Producer/Director, The Company You Keep, Home Before Dark
Not only is she a legendary icon, Ming-Na has also always been gracious and kind to up-and-comers. Her career has continually been marked by firsts and I am inspired by how she continues to lift up more AAPI creatives with her.
I am in constant awe of what Catherine Haena Kim is doing on our show The Company You Keep. She leads our cast with love and grace and I'm so excited for audiences to watch her shine.
AVANTIKA VANDANAPU – Performer, Diary of a Future President, Sex Lives of College Girls, Mean Girls: The Musical
Michelle Yeoh and Priyanka Chopra inspired me to seek out a career in this industry. To see such incredible, strong woman pave their way in the highly competitive and prejudiced Hollywood - was incredibly influential for me.
I believe Charithra Chandran is doing amazing things right now! She's young, outspoken, and talented - and to see a fellow South Indian woman succeed in this industry makes me really happy.
ALEX TSE – Co-creator/Executive Producer/Writer, Wu-Tang: An American Saga
I've never met James Wong and, James Yoshimura, but seeing two Asian names in the writing credits on two of my favorite shows (The X-Files and Homicide: Life on the Streets) meant something to me.
Because of the recognition his work on Industry is getting, some might consider, Ken Leung an "up and comer" but he isn't. He's just an exceptional actor whose work everyone should know. Justin Calen-Chenn has a unique voice and has the work ethic to make sure that voice is going to be heard.
NENA ERB – Emmy-winning Editor, Insecure, Generation, Project Greenlight
Adele Lim, Teresa Hsiao, and Cherry Chevapravatdumrong are contemporaries that inspire me every day. They are fearless in telling our stories with authenticity and elevating the APPI voice by portraying us as unique individuals rather than lean on stereotypes. They've been formidable allies who mentor and shine a light on other AAPI Creatives.
The two people I'd like to give a shout out to are up-and-coming editor, Chris Guiral, who's doing great work and assistant editor, Irene Chun. Irene's work ethic and dedication to supporting her AAPI and BIPOC peers as they all navigate the challenges of their careers together is commendable. I hope their work will inspire others to lift up the voices of the AAPI post-production community.
MONICA MACER – Writer/Producer, MacGyver, Gentefied, Queen Sugar
Wenda Fong is one of the founders of CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacific Islanders in Entertainment) and a longtime television executive at FOX where she spearheaded the Fox Writers' Diversity Program and was the executive that made American Idol success. Wenda became my mentor and encouraged me to stay the course in TV! Margaret Cho's sitcom All American Girl was the first to portray a Korean American family on network TV. I've long admired her work and her truly authentic voice.
Teresa Huang is a force to be reckoned with -- a great writer/producer, she always brings her A game! Teresa always shines a light on Asian American issues, themes and characters through her writing on shows like MacGyver (Season 5) and Seal Team and through her advocacy work with CAPE and other AAPI organizations. Valerie Chu is a talented young writer on the rise! The clarity and authenticity of her voice and her strong work ethic and commitment to excellence make her a standout and a writer to watch.
GARY H. LEE – Cinematographer/Previsualization Artist, The Magician’s Elephant, Vivo
As a huge fan of Sci-fi, I love the concept of the type of shows Lisa Joy produces, and their visual sensibilities. Her shows glue me to my seat. I'm in awe of Alan Yang's taste in producing narratives that authentically speak to diverse cultural experiences. Master of None is gold.
It is inspiring to see Maggie Kang getting the chance to direct her first animated feature "K-Pop Demon Hunter". A fictional fantasy that root in her personal journey. I started my career working on George Lucas' "Star Wars" prequels. It was exciting to see the same characters come back through Deborah Chow's direction in "Obe-Wan Kenobi".
KIM NGO – Costume Designer/Assistant Costume Designer, This Is Us, East Los High, Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Sandra Oh was a huge inspiration in Grey's Anatomy and most recently The Chair. It's refreshing to see a strong female voice that's beyond the stereotypes. It all came full circle working together on HBO/A24's The Sympathizer.
Vietnamese-Australian Matthew Vo's venture into production design and styling while pursuing his career as an architect is exciting to watch. His taste is impeccable and he's such a kind soul.
NATHAN MATTHEW DAVID – Composer, Chang Can Dunk, Young Rock
Honest moment here: I didn't come up with any AAPI shows or creatives in my field. So many of my dreams growing up were based on stories from outside of my culture. With that said, I wanted to mention two creative contemporaries that have really inspired me as I've watched them up close put in the heavy work to have their stories told: Adele Lim and Jingyi Shao. I feel like we're on the path now to try and expand our world of storytelling to be more representative of the world around us; and I've seen firsthand how Adele and Jing's efforts to hold on to the authenticity of their stories yielded wins for our culture.
Two people in my field who are doing extraordinary and authentic work are music supervisor queens, Angela Asistio and Toko Nagata. They're doing amazing work to elevate AAPI composers, musicians and artists by featuring them in the shows that they're supervising. Their lift has a broad impact and is changing perspectives both within our industry and within the experience of hearing our stories. And being a close friend of theirs, I know their work and effort comes from an authentic and well-intentioned place.
MONICA SOTTO –Emmy-nominated Production Designer/Art Director, History of the World: Part II, 9-1-1: Lone Star, Drunk History
Dante Basco as Rufio in "Hook" impressed me so much while growing up, as he was a professional child actor in a major studio film, one directed by the legendary Steven Spielberg. That level of media presence felt unique and special, and I also saw that Dante Basco portrayed a strong character who led others and fit well within his society in Neverland. Dante as Rufio wasn't "other-ed" nor was the character a stereotypical role for Asian people, he wasn't clothed in pseudo-traditional Asian fashion/costuming,
Another influential figure for me was and is Margaret Cho - I remember watching her show All-American Girl and it was one of the first shows to comedically portray Asian-American life and culture, specifically Korean-American life. Her comedy shows I'm the One That I Want and Notorious C.H.O. were so relatable and I felt really seen by her comedy, and perspective. Margaret Cho challenged western media's assumptions about Asian women being docile, obedient hostesses who only care to cater to others and so-called traditional values. Her brutal honesty about herself, her life experiences and her support of other minorities like the LGBTQ+ community were and are still inspirational. She was one of the first memorable voices who told the world that there are many types of Asian-Americans who exist and have great stories to tell and have great talents to share. Margaret Cho imparts real courage to many of us who may not have direct support to become professionally creative and non-traditional.
I wouldn't call the following artists up-and-coming, as both are masters of their crafts who are very active in the creative world today. AAPI crew members in Production Design who inspire me now include Doug Chiang, who is one of the lead Production Designers for the contemporary Star Wars shows, including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Doug Chiang worked on the prequel trilogy as the lead concept artist too. Now, Doug Chiang is the Vice President and Executive Creative Director of Star Wars. He's a key figure in the Star Wars world building and visual universe, his career and work is very inspirational. Another incredible filmmaker of Filipino heritage is Matthew Libatique, cinematographer and long-time collaborator of director Darren Aronofsky. Matthew's work is so iconic, I grew up watching, re-watching and studying many of his films, including "Requiem for a Dream", "Pi", "The Fountain", "Iron Man", "Black Swan" and his later work in the films "Birds of Prey", "A Star Is Born" and "The Whale" only show that his talent is everlasting.
I am also inspired by Zaldy, well-known for his work on RuPaul's Drag Race as RuPaul's chief dress designer. His designs are automatically iconic, his fashion design is simultaneously innovative and referential to the classic artform of feminine fashion. This work applied to RuPaul's physique and entertaining persona is just a phenomenal combination and so impressive to all appreciators of fashion, drag and theatricality. RPDR is literally changing the international culture and it's so amazing that Zaldy's work is part of the center of that cultural force.
KABIR AKHTAR – Emmy-winning Director, Never Have I Ever, Superstore
There were so few visible AAPI leaders in television when I was in school, some diversity reports from the 90s don't even list "Asians!" We weren't even in the conversation! So I was flying blind when I got into this business, but it's a testament to how far the industry has come in recent years that we finally have an opportunity to tell our stories.
When I look at the next generation of AAPI in television, I see Maitreyi Ramakrishnan doing incredible work to advance the perception of the culture both on-screen and off. Plus she's a joy to work with!