JEFF: OK, the inevitable Glee question. The show is so slick and well produced, with epic numbers and amazing vocals each week. Can you take us briefly through the rehearsal process – from script to final filming? I imagine it was grueling! And how was it to work with Darren Criss and Chris Colfer? How did you manage to escape the Glee Tour?
TELLY: First of all, from Day One, Darren and Chris were amazing to work with. They are such pros. Shoot days are long and grueling, and I watched those two turn it out take after take. It was really inspiring to watch.
|Telly with Darren Criss and Chris Colfer on the set of Glee|
Glee days are LONG. Usually, on a set, you are doing 8 hour days or 10 hour days. On Glee, you’re probably looking at a 12 hour day minimum – and usually, it’s more like 16 hours. Shooting a musical (as the folks on Glee and Smash will tell you) is more complicated than shooting a regular TV drama. You have to get the number from all sides, different angles, crane shots, etc. But, the product is well worth it. It can be a stressful environment sometimes, but in the midst of all that stress and exhaustion comes a loopy sense of fun that I think is also captured on screen. I think it’s that sense of fun that audiences for Glee really latch on to when it comes to the musical numbers. Come on – who doesn’t DREAM of having their life be a musical sometimes?!
As for the Glee tour, they asked me to go on the road – and it was hard to say no. However, I had to chose between Glee tour and hanging with my boys in giant 20k stadiums all over the country – or doing the workshop of Allegiance – and I chose to come home and take the time to really develop Allegiance. I think the choice paid off, cuz now I’m in beautiful San Diego, working on the world premiere of this show!
JEFF: I have worked with and know several Asian-American actors, who lament the lack of roles and the having to wait for places to do The King and I, Miss Saigon and Flower Drum Song in order to find work. Has that been an issue for you and your career? How do you feel about the recent controversy surrounding the casting of The Nightingale? (I’m playing Devil’s advocate here.) If people are all for non-traditional casting, why is it “wrong” to cast a Caucasian actor as the Emperor in The Nightingale, but “OK” to cast an Asian-American as German child Wendla in Spring Awakening, for example? Isn’t non-traditional casting the same both ways? As someone who has already had quite a career and has seen it from all sides, I’m sure, how do you stand on this issue?
TELLY: The original intent of non-traditional casting was to give minority actors that do not have a wealth of casting opportunities a chance to work – doing roles that have been traditionally cast as exclusively Caucasian – especially those roles in which race / gender / ethnicity is not germane. I believe in this term and its original intent – which is why I don’t think it really works the other way around. Let’s be real – there are away more opportunities for Caucasian actors. They are the majority. Comparatively, there is very LITTLE work for Asian actors out there – which is why non-traditional casting is important. One day, the situation may be reversed (though highly unlikely). One day, IF there is a minority of Caucasian actors and the majority of actors are (for example) of Asian decent, and the majority of commercial work being produced is cast with only Asian actors – then yes – we will need to make an effort to cast Caucasian actors non-traditionally in roles that are usually cast with Asian actors. But, that’s not the reality – and it’s important to look at the statistics of how many minority actors are actually being considered and hired for projects – especially when the roles aren't race / ethnicity / gender specific.
|Allegiance at the Old Globe|
JEFF: Back to Allegiance and this issue. Is there any kind of issue taken within the Asian-American acting community when a play about the Japanese internment camps as three leads from three different nationalities – Japanese (George Takei), Chinese (you) and Filipina (Lea Salonga)?
TELLY: At the moment, there’s no issue – atleast not that I’ve heard of. Quite the opposite. I think the Asian community is actually THRILLED that this story is even being produced on a major level, and featuring so much Asian talent – and I’ve gotten nothing but encouragement and praise from my brothers and sisters in the Asian community for Allegiance. The hope is that Allegiance will benefit the community as a whole. Fingers crossed that it’s a successful run in San Diego, which will lead to a long and successful run in New York. Maybe NY will lead to other productions (West End, a tour) – which means more and more work for Asian actors.
(Photos courtesy of Telly Leung. Visit tellyonline.net for more on Telly. Also, visit allegiancemusical.com for more on the show.)
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