American TV is not a road less traveled nor frequented by Asians. A handful of them has graced the elusive small screen in Hollywood.
Grey’s Anatomy has Sandra Oh of Korean descent. Her performance in the TV series recently won her a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture for TV. Our very own Lea Salonga of Miss Saigon fame and Giovanni Pico appeared on ER. Lizzie Maguire had singer Lalaine Vergara, who appeared on GMA 7’s S.O.P.
Making a name for himself is Archie Kao, who traces his roots to China. He is the Asian face on CSI’s (Crime Scene Investigation) sixth season, which airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. on AXN.
The Virginia native is not new in the business. He guested on TV shows like ER as Yuri, a recurring character, and appeared on films.
Archie is also known by the American kids as Blue Ranger, Kai Chen, in the ’90s TV hit series, Power Ranger which ran until 2000. The show had a 3D version.
The ranger in him literally took off the tight-fitting pantsuits and garbed a lab suit in an investigator when he crossed over to the equally-challenging world of CSI’s high crimes.
Archie, who grew up fighting crimes for kids on TV, analyzes crimes for adults this time. But one thing is sure: Archie is out there, err inside the laboratory, to help solve the mystery.
Asked if he is naturally-inclined to science since the show is about forensics, Archie proudly replies, "I won in a physics fair back in high school. My partner and I worked on a laser project."
Thus, he need not review or get a science refresher course as warm-up for his role.
For the past six years, Archie has been appearing on CSI one season after another. Viewers will see him more this season since he has taped more episodes than the previous year. Though his character is not regular in the show, Archie feels lucky the drama-action-suspense series has been casting him. He is also grateful because Asian actors "have severely limited roles" to play on Hollywood TV.
In the latest season of CSI, Archie plays Archie Johnson, a lab technician who specializes in audio-visual evidences. In the phone patch interview, Archie clarifies that the name of his character is coincidental and was never named after him.
He recalls that he has befriended some of the cast members because they are all kind and generous. They would unwind together after shoots, he adds. Aside from the homey atmosphere on the set, Archie says what makes him continue his work is the show itself. It has a personality of its own that thrills millions of viewers worldwide.
CSI is not the typical Sherlock Holmes or detective story. It goes beyond what has transpired during and after the crime by collating physical evidence, on-location and witness interviews but before it. It uses science to come up with a strong lead to the crime’s perpetuators.
When not acting on TV, Archie produces short films. His most recent venture was Fast Money. He wishes to do comedy on TV or film.
The way he has managed his career all these years says a lot of his work ethics: There’s no small or big role for him.
"Every role is a different experience. There are a lot of dream roles to do. In Hollywood, there are so many things one can do. I’m still searching for the (right) perspective for myself."
Whatever Archie is looking for, it will redound to the good of Oriental actors who want to try their luck on Hollywood’s Caucasian-dominated small screen.