Greta Lee Talks ‘KTown’ and Asian-American Narratives

By Sameer Rao Dec 03, 2018

After building a resume of acclaimed comedic roles on shows like “High Maintenance" and "Girls," actress and writer Greta Lee seeks to tell new stories about the Asian-American experience on screen. She discusses "KTown," the dark comedy she’s developing for HBO with writer Jason Kim, with The Cut today (December 3).

rntLee will star in "KTown" as an affluent and disconnected member of the Kang family, the fictional kingpins of Los Angeles’ Koreatown. The Cut says Lee’s character reconnects with an Asian culture that she finds "embarrassing." Lee says that for many Asian Americans, this shame is the consequence of never properly seeing yourself on screen:


“It sounds extreme,” she says quietly, poking at a piece of tuna sashimi. “But when you have no sort of representation, when you’re completely absent from media or from everything you’re consuming, no matter how strong your support system is, subconsciously, the subliminal message is, ‘You are defective.’ And I’m just beginning to understand the scope of how damaging that is to people and to myself.” Her words are careful, precise, molded, she says, by years of therapy.

She goes on to recount how hard it is to find roles that don’t involve a stereotypical Asian accent. “That was so confusing, because there was comedy in that, and I was trying to figure out what that was, but it felt like a cheap laugh," she says about using such accents in projects like the 2015 film, "Sisters." "I didn’t feel great about it.”

Lee adds that the context changed after the success of "Crazy Rich Asians," in which gatekeepers who otherwise might not care about Asian stories now see them as financially viable. “There were so many people that were like, ‘YES PLEASE,’" she says, after years of being told that stories like these wouldn’t work. Now, if HBO airs "KTown," it will be the first premium cable series focusing on Asian Americans.

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