Audrey Magazine’s Women of Influence | Keli Lee, Executive VP of Casting at ABC Entertainment (with Web Exclusives!)

Article: WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
ISSUE: FALL 2013

Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!

by Ada Tseng

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Photo by Narith Vann Ta.

KELI LEE
Executive VP of Casting at ABC Entertainment

For everyone who’s grateful for the recent rise of minority faces on American television, it’s important to note that behind every Sandra Oh in Grey’s Anatomy, every Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Jorge Garcia and Naveen Andrews in Lost, is a casting director responsible for pairing these actors with the unforgettable roles that will go down in television history.

Keli Lee, an executive who has been casting TV shows at ABC for more than 20 years, was on her way to law school when she landed a fortuitous college internship that introduced her to the entertainment casting industry. In her first week working for Phyllis Huffman, who often did casting for Clint Eastwood’s films, Lee operated the video camera that captured the auditions for the Academy Award-winning 1992 film Unforgiven. From there, she eventually worked her way up the ladder, and as Executive VP of Casting at ABC, Lee now has a corner office with a view and spends her days looking for the next new star.

Born in South Korea, Lee moved to the States as a toddler, and whenever her father stayed in Korea for work, her adventurous, road-trip-loving mother would move her young kids to a new state every six or seven months, depending on her whims. “Up until I was 13, I never started or finished the same school, so I met thousands of people from around the country,” says Lee. “It forced me to socialize and understand people, and ultimately I think that’s how I got to be good at what I do. I’m searching for people and learning about their emotional core.”

For Lee, more important than finding a good-looking specimen or skilled thespian is determining whether the actor is authentic. “I think within the first 10 seconds of meeting someone, you can get a sense of a person,” says Lee. “You know whether you want to continue to watch them.”

Twelve years ago, Lee started the ABC Casting Department’s Talent Showcase with the goal of providing more opportunities for minority actors who either don’t have representation or aren’t even aware of the opportunities available. Since its inception, 14,000 people have auditioned, and 432 actors have participated in 30 showcases, with winners earning mentorships. Beneficiaries of this program include Liza Lapira (Crazy Stupid Love,Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23), Carrie Ann Inaba (Dancing with the Stars), Aaron Yoo (Disturbia, 21), Archie Kao (CSI), Randall Park (Larry Crowne, The Five-Year Engagement), and Janina Gavankar (True Blood, The L Word).

In the upcoming fall season on ABC, TV audiences can look out for Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Wang Bennet in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Liza Lapira in Super Fun Night, Ginger Gonzaga in Mixology, Summer Bishil in Lucky 7, and Albert Tsai in Trophy Wife.

“My goal is to change the face of television,” says Lee. “When I came to the U.S. at age 2, there wasn’t much diversity on television, and now, it’s such a different time.”

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WEB EXCLUSIVES:

On how she ended up in the casting industry

Like most Korean American families, entertainment [as a career] was not an option. It was the stereotype: are you going to be a doctor or a lawyer? So, I had planned to go to law school, I was studying philosophy at NYU, and I was a hostess at Caroline’s Comedy Club, so it was the comedians who introduced me to the world of entertainment. I actually fell into this business. I got an internship in casting and worked my way up, while I went to school full time at NYU. First, I worked at Warner Brothers, and then I went to ABC, where I’ve been for 21 years.

On starting ABC Casting Department’s Talent Showcase to find diverse talent

12 years ago, we were talking about diversity and thinking about how we can provide more opportunities for diverse actors, so I started this showcase program to give exposure and training to actors who either don’t have the representation or aren’t even aware of the opportunities that exist. After my team auditions the actors, we select the top 15-20, and we put them through this training program. Usually you have material, and you find people to play the characters, but this is the reverse: we find the right actors and then try to find the right material for them. Some of the actors who’ve gone through this program that we’re excited about are: Liza Lapira, who was on Don’t Trust The B—- in Apt 23, Jorge Garcia from Lost, Dania Ramirez from Devious Maids, and Jesse Williams on Grey’s Anatomy.

On their first digital talent competition this summer

This is new. We’re the first network to launch a digital talent competition. We had over 14,000 submissions, we’re having a public vote, and the winner will be announced August 30. The winner gets $10,000 and a talent option hold with ABC. Just based on the submissions, I’m excited to be able to find new faces. These are actors from around the country: there’s coming from everywhere from Florida to Alabama, and it’s really great to hear some of their stories.

On the Latino and Asian Outreach Initiatives

This is international. We started this program last year. For the Latino Outreach, we targeted Mexico, Latin America and Spain, and I’m excited to say that one of actors we found in first year of the Latino Outreach Initiative, Adan Canto, was cast as series regular in Mixology. The Asian Outreach Initiative started in India, and we just expanded to the Philippines this year.

Asian faces to look out for in the 2013-14 ABC season

Aubrey Anderson Emmons in Modern Family
Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Wang Bennet in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Ginger Gonzaga in Mixology
Liza Lapira in Super Fun Night
Sandra Oh in her last season of Grey’s Anatomy
Yunjin Kim in Mistresses
Summer Bishil in Lucky 7
Albert Tsai in Trophy Wife
Griffin Gluck in Back in the Game
Naveen Andrews in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
Tim Jo in The Neighbors

Who influences you?

I have an amazing circle of really strong, smart, successful female friends, and we feed off that positive energy and help each other out. That’s part of what I do in my profession: I’m helping people realize their dreams, and that’s what we do for each other. I often have these conversations with my girlfriends, where I wish I had women as role models or mentors, so now that we’re in our positions, we think, how can we help empower other women and be role models for them? All these female pioneers paved the way for us, so how can we pave the way for other women?

 

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Wong Kar-wai Made Tony Leung Fight a Real Martial Arts Champion in The Grandmaster

After a successful run in China where it was released earlier this year, Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster opens in the US today, August 23. The story about Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, most famous in the West for training Bruce Lee, stars Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Cung Le, and Song Hye-kyo.

Director Wong Kar-wai is known for his intense, free-falling style of filming, where the actors often don’t even get scripts beforehand. (At The Grandmaster‘s Academy screening in July, Wong joked that people think he doesn’t have a script, but really, his scripts just aren’t finished until the film is done.) The Grandmaster, which took four years to complete, is his sixth collaboration with Tony Leung.

Leung says this was the first time, in all of his experiences working with Wong, that he actually understood his character prior to shooting — only because it was based on a real person.

“I was very confident on the first day on the set, because I know who I am, so I can respond to different situations,” says Leung. “Before [in previous films], I always had [only] little hints about the character… so I would feel very insecure and frustrated. Also, [this time around,] I always felt very positive and optimistic, and I never had this feeling of calm and peace [on a Wong Kar-wai film] before.” He laughs. “Maybe because all the characters [I played] when I worked with him were very dark and suppressed – very different from this one.”

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Ip Man not only had the physical skills of martial arts, but he also possessed the wisdom and the desire to leave a legacy that earns him the title of a grandmaster. To prepare for the role, Tony Leung learned kung fu for the first time at age 46, spent four years training, and broke his arm twice in the process.

He calls the opening action sequence in the heavy rain the most difficult scene he’s done in his acting career. It took 40 nights to shoot, and they shot during winter.

“We were shivering behind the camera every night after midnight, and we had to keep ourselves wet all night long,” says Leung. “We couldn’t even change our rubber-soled shoes, because if the camera sees [the dry shoes], then [the shot] would be no good.”

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Cung Le, a mixed martial artist and former International Kickboxing Federation Light Heavyweight World Champion, makes a memorable appearance in that scene, though he says that by the time he showed up to the set, the team had realized they should at least provide him with a wet suit for the bottom half of his body.

“I didn’t know that at the end, I’d have to fight a real champion,” says Leung. “Here’s a guy double my size, a real champion, and I was like, ‘No….’ But Kar-wai said, if you can handle fighting him, you can handle fighting anybody.”

His training paid off, which was confirmed both by Le and co-star Zhang Ziyi, a frequent star of martial arts films herself, on the red carpet of the Los Angeles red carpet premiere at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood.

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“I couldn’t tell that it was his first time doing [a kung fu film],” says Zhang, who also trained for eight hours a day and had three different masters teaching her various kung fu skills. “He’s such a great professional actor, and he made everything easier.”

“It was a really demanding and exhausting journey,” says Leung, who is proud of the team behind the film. “Everyone [did] their best.”

 

The Grandmaster is currently playing in Los Angeles and New York, and it will be released nationwide on August 30.

Check Out Zhang Ziyi’s Chanel Red Carpet Fashion at the LA Premiere of The Grandmaster

When asked what made The Grandmaster different than other martial arts films she’s done in the past, Zhang Ziyi responded: “I have no weapons in my hands.”

Check out Zhang Ziyi’s red carpet look:

A Chanel Fall 2013 black dress with a pearl-accented leather belt

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Fuschia lips and side-swept waves

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Black and gold Casadei pumps

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Chanel handbag

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Diamond earrings

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Rings

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Add it all together, and you get a Grandmaster of red carpet style!

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Fall ’13 Fashion Extra | Chatting with Stylist Sima Kumar about Kristin Kreuk’s Cover Shoot

BUY THE FALL ’13 ISSUE WITH KRISTIN HERE!

Sima Kumar, on why it’s fun to dress Kristin: We’re both yoga junkies, and that’s part of what makes her fun to dress. She has an organic sense of her body, so she can carry off so many different looks and really be a chameleon.

When she was just about to turn 30, we talked about how interesting it’d be to change up the proportions of her style. She’s so fit and thin, so it’s easy to put her in tight clothes, especially since she comes out of the CW and is so pretty. But people have noticed that I’ve started draping her in looser things with different proportions in a way that’s more interesting and brave.

I always look at [fashion] as an opportunity for other people to see [Kristin] in a way that’s different than the way she’s marketed for her shows. You get so stereotyped when you’re on a series, [for example,] as the girl who’s always crying or heartbroken, so it’s just another opportunity for us to shake it up. It’s a playful way to express parts of her that the public doesn’t usually get to see. And she likes the intellectual process I go through styling, in order to try and create a story.

 

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Sima Kumar: I’ve styled so many musicians, so this look was inspired by rock ‘n roll. There’s the furry vest with long slip dress underneath, which has kind of an off-duty model/rock star girlfriend vibe. I think she pulled it off really well.

 

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Sima Kumar: This is more of a fun, bohemian look. I know she’d never wear this in real life, but I pulled it for the shoot because it photographs beautifully. We’re mixing prints, and this outfit shows her love of travel and other cultures.

 

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Sima Kumar: This look is inspired by Devo. [laughs] It’s almost like one of those ’80s videos.

 

Kristin Kreuk by Dexter Quinto1

Sima Kumar: This look was more about the different textures: the jeans are metallic, the sweater is cashmere, and the blue necklace is handmade by an amazing designer, Elke Hechler. They’re made of Austrian hand-blown glass beads that are woven and knit together.. It’s a very basic outfit — a comfy sweater, jeans, and necklace — but it shows her bumpy side, her soft side, and her shiny side. The multiple layers of her personality.

 

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Sima Kumar: This was a hot outfit; she had ankle boots, leather shorts, a T-shirt, and a chain nail vest that’s designed by Alana K’akia. So this look is about how we’re always protecting ourselves. Our armor is very complex and intricate, but she’s exposing it. And the dog belongs to Dexter [Quinto, the photographer]!

 

For Sima’s blog post about what it takes to put together a shoot, check out New Culture Revolution.

 

 

 

5 Swoon-worthy Tony Leung Commercials To Get You Through Your Work Day

Sometimes you just need a little pick-me-up, a reminder that all it takes is a smile (from Tony Leung) to brighten up your day. But it’s not like you can pop in In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express or Happy Together in the middle of work, without ignoring your responsibilities for the next two hours while your eyes are glued to the screen.

But taking a break to watch some YouTube videos can’t hurt. Just one or two. Or five.

Enjoy this blast from the past from a man who makes everything from Chevrolet Malibus to Xerox printers look good.

 

Tony Leung’s latest film The Grandmaster will be released in Los Angeles and New York on August 23rd and nationwide on August 30th.

 

Celebrating Chennai Express: Shah Rukh Khan’s Best Movie Looks (in GIFs)

In honor of Shah Rukh Khan’s latest film Chennai Express, out August 8, here are his best looks:

 

1. The “I Know I’m Here For Your Wedding/Engagement Party, but You Know You Love Me” look.

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2.  The “I’ll Save You From the ______” look.

…Fire

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…Tiger

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…Overbearing Father

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3. The “Oops, I Got Stuck to You, but It’s Not Creepy because This is How You Realize I’ll Love You More Than Anyone Else in the World” Look

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4. The “Don’t Think You Can Escape Me, I’m Always In Your Heart” Look

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5. The “I’m Acting Like a Spoiled Brat, So Your World Can Be Even More Blown When Upcoming Lessons in Humility Turns Me Into The Perfect Man For You” look.

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6. The “I’ll Catch You When You Fall” Look

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7. The “Now I’m Just Showing Off” Look

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8. The “I’m Not Ashamed to Cry” Look

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9. The “I PromiseYou. Everything Will Be OK” Look

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And of course…

10: The “I Will Love You Until The End of Time” Look

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The Voice’s Judith Hill dishes about her style

Judith Hill: Those are my own clothes! I actually found that fringe at a store in Sherman Oaks. It’s a fun, poppy, nice introduction. Because it was my first performance on The Voice, I wanted people to know that I’m into fashion, textures and patterns.

 

The Voice - Season 4

Judith Hill: That was for the Nina Simone song “Feeling Good.” To me, that song is one of the most powerful songs in music history. I wanted to feel like I was this woman that represented all women in the world. I could be from Asia or Africa or any part of the world. I wanted to be like Queen Aphrodite in a long dress with the Asian hair coming out, [singing] a down-to-earth, soulful, bluesy cry from the soul.

I loved the long neck coming up. I wanted it to feel very exotic and high fashion at the same time. That’s always my thing: runway styles interpreted in artistic ways. And then when I came out of the audience, spotlight on me, all a capella, I wanted it to feel like a hush came over the room and it’s quiet. But because it was The Voice, everyone was screaming. [laughs]

 

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Judith Hill: This was the Michael Jackson “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Again, I wanted to strut that high fashion, structured look, but also have it be very fun, edgy and unique.  That hairstyle was something I emailed to the wardrobe department.

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I saw it on the runway, and I really loved it because it was so avant-garde. There were these two circles. And that’ s my thing: I love shapes in fashion. I love weird shapes and weird cuts anywhere. Any time I see a circle or triangle, I’m excited.

 

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Judith Hill: [for her performance of "#thatPOWER"] That was the most epic. That thing was so hard to wear! It was made out of hard material that bendable but very tough. It was all silver feathers in a cape that went all the way down. We found it in a showroom. I told them I wanted this to very tribal. High-fashion tribal. I wanted to be the Queen of the Amazon jungle. I wanted to feel like I was a goddess that was putting on this crazy rock concert in the middle of the ancient ruins.

The hair came from a picture I found online of that exact thing with the cornrows on the side and a huge afro. This is actually more tapered down. The one I sent was even crazier. I figured it was also very tribal and African, but rock star at the same time.

 

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Judith Hill: This was my last week [on The Voice], when I sang “Sweet Nothing” with Michelle Chamuel. That was just a simple classy look. It’s my natural hair look, how I usually wear it, plus a simple structured suit.

 

And an extra photo from Judith Hill’s Facebook page.

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Judith Hill: That’s me and my brother. He looks so much more Asian than me in this picture! [laughs] We look the same now. He plays the drums, but he’s an engineer. He’s the one in the family who decided to get a real job.

The Daily SHAG | John Abraham announces plans to launch fitness franchise

This week, Bollywood actor — and today’s Daily SHAG (Smoking Hot Asian Guy) — John Abraham announced that he is collaborating with British boxer/former WBA heavyweight champion David Haye to launch a fitness franchise in India that focuses on boxing.

John Abraham, who began his career as a model, has been celebrated for his body much longer than he has been appreciated for his acting. He may be most known in the West for his role in Deepa Mehta’s critically-acclaimed Water, but fans of Bollywood know him as the lean leading man that’s starred in everything from Dhoom, New York, Desi Boyz, and the recently released Shootout at Wadala.

But it was 2008’s homoerotic comedy Dostana that solidified him as a mainstream sex symbol for both women and men alike.

Abraham was actually not the first choice for the role, and in a 2011 episode of the talk show Koffee with Karan, Abraham was asked whether he minded being second choice. “Not at all,” Abraham replied. “When you see what’s onscreen, that’s what’s remembered. Will you remember who the first choice or the second choice was, or will you remember John Abraham getting out of the water?”

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Dostana 2 is scheduled for release this summer, so stay tuned, as the sequel will also feature an equally SHAG-able Arjun Rampal.

Editor’s Diary: Cannes Film Festival 2013, Day 5

Diary from Cannes 2013: Day 5

May 20, 2013: As Sunday ended with a Midnight Screening that didn’t end until almost 3am Monday morning (and an after-Andy Lau high that probably didn’t end until 5am), the next day would inevitably be less lively.

So of course, no better way to start off a “less lively” day than seeing back-to-back films about Cambodian genocide and the Bataan death march after World War II.

Rithy Panh’s The Missing Picture is based on the Cambodian filmmaker’s own experience during the Khmer Rouge regime, when Panh lost all his family before escaping to Thailand in 1975. He decides to tell his own story through hundreds of clay figures that are not animated, but strung together like a photo slideshow, interspersed with archival footage from the regime’s own propaganda files — some of which had appeared in Panh’s earlier acclaimed work. An interview with the director can be found at Asia Pacific Arts.

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Editor’s Diary: Cannes Film Festival 2013, Day 4

Diary from Cannes 2013: Day 4

May 19, 2013: The sun came out on Sunday, and so did… every single Asian film that I wanted to see.

What I got used to very quickly as a first time Cannes attendee (with a low-priority press badge) is that every single day, I’d look through the list of hundreds of press screenings, competition screenings, and market screenings; plan my day in at least three different formations amidst much confusion and indecision; and then when I finally decided on my schedule, at least a third of it would fall through for some reason or another (screening full, interview ran late, starving and took too long to find your third £5 tomato/ham/mozzarella baguette sandwich of the day; heard someone yell “Marion Cotillard!” and found yourself zombie-walking into the paparazzi crowd instead of power walking away); and I’d end up just improvising my way through the day.

It’s what keeps the festival exciting. And normally, it’s smart to pace yourself, but Sunday’s lineup was out of control. Too many good things to see in too little time.

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