Garrett Wang says one of the reasons he became an actor was to reduce racism and be a role model for other Asian Americans
Asian-American Garrett Wang says he didn’t face much discrimination when he played Ensign Harry Kim, a member of the Star Trek: Voyager — not because the public accepted his race, but because fans were angry at the first woman portraying a ship’s captain as a main character in the Star Trek universe.
Wang, who is in Victoria this weekend for Capital City Comic Con, which runs until Sunday at the Victoria Conference Centre, says he was no stranger to racism growing up, but has didn’t get much hate mail when he played a character from Korea on the TV drama, which debuted in 1995 and ran for seven seasons.
It was Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Kathryn Janeway, who suffered the brunt of the star trek fan dissatisfaction. “She was getting hate mail, some even threatening to come to town and kill the cast and crew,” says Wang, whose parents immigrated from Taiwan in the 1960s. , which shows me that gender bias is even more entrenched than racial bias.”
Born in California in 1968, Wang moved many times in his youth. From 8th grade through high school graduation, he and his sister were the only Asians attending his school in Memphis, Tennessee. “That’s one of the reasons I became an actor — to eliminate racism and be a role model for other Asian Americans wanting to get into the entertainment industry,” said Wang, who followed acting classes at the University of California. , Los Angeles.
He says that, until about the last decade or so, you would only see one major Asian role per decade in Hollywood. George Takai, who is Japanese-American and played coxswain on the original star trek series in the 1960s, was one of the first.
“When Traveler Airing in the 90s, it was the only television series to have an Asian in the regular cast. It was huge for me to represent all Asians,” says Wang. “You feel a sense of well-being seeing someone who looks like you on screen. It’s empowering.
But people’s ignorance of the differences between Asian cultures came as a surprise. At one point, he was encouraging a studio executive to include a Chinese character in an upcoming show. “But we have you,” the executive said.
Wang had to explain that Kim is a Korean name, not a Chinese one. For six seasons, all the show’s producers and writers felt like they had a Chinese character, but never consulted anyone from Asia about the differences between Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cultures, let alone other cultures. from Asia-Pacific.
“I was appalled that such smart people were so ignorant of simple geography,” Wang said.
After Star Trek: Voyager, Wang traveled widely for five years and played golf for four years. During his last visit to Victoria – also for Capital City Comic Con – he met a producer in the Green Room of the Victoria Conference Center who offered to represent him if he ever decided to return to acting.
He says he still enjoys meeting fans at conventions.
Other Star Trek franchise alumni make a decent living by appearing at conventions. Wang says he’s heard that captains of the various shows — like William Shatner, captain of the USS Enterprise — get about $20,000 per appearance. He is known for attending three conventions in three major cities in one weekend.
These days, Wang is back to auditioning for roles, which he says is now done electronically. “It just opens the field. While that means I’m competing against maybe hundreds of actors around the world, it also means that a young actor living in a remote location has the opportunity to be discovered. It is progress.
Fans can meet Wang at Capital City Comic Con all day today and Sunday.
For more information, visit capitalcitycomiccon.ca.