Yes, I know, my husband and I are among the last six on earth who still watch this show, and the other people are probably writers of cast members of the show, but what of it? Ha. I caught a recent episode that featured a young Korean patient, who arrives beaten up, and discovers he has cancer while in the ER. Now I happen to know the young actor who played the part (an American), and I thought his acting was really connected and strong work, but his accent…ay caramba.
This is not an indictment of that young actor not doing the homework. No, what I realized wtaching is: Let’s face it. Korean American actors cannot do a good Korean accent. None of the actors who grew up in this country can do a Korean accent. We just can’t. I know we have to keep schlepping out that sad, sorry excuse of an accent for a million auditions — please, I’ve been there, and I’ll be there again — because that’s what people want to see, but there’s an elusive quality that not even the most nimble actor manages to nail. What comes out sounds like a meeting between a French and Tinkerbell accent — a French Tinkerbell accent. Do you know what I mean?
The best Asian accents I’ve heard is Margaret Cho imitating her mother, which is so recognizable it resonates in my gut when I hear it — and randomly enough, Sarah Jones (a biracial black/white performer) who dons a Chinese accent to play an immigrant character in “In Transit” show. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty damn good.
Okay, maybe Daniel Dae Kim, who grew up in Pennsylvania, is starting to speak a better broken English accent on “Lost.” I will conceded. (My husband hits me every time his character speaks English because I can’t stop laughing.) But I still remember the first season where he had to repeat “Others” three times — once to a character on his left and right, then one final to the evil approaching them on the horizon. The words came out accent, accent, then total lack of pretense of accent: “Othas, Othas, Others.” Rad.