Well, the reason I really wanted to get you into Oasis was something you mentioned after the screening of 'I Wanna Be a Republican' at the Castro Theatre in June. And it was that Trixie used to have the platinum wig, but you said, and I don't know if you told me specifically or if this came up in the Q&A...
I think I just told you...
... but I asked about the platinum wig, because Trixie was always known for it, and you said it was something you did specifically because you wanted Trixie to be Asian. Why was that important to you?
When I was growing up, watching television, theater, movies, all of that... I loved watching what I saw, but I couldn't identify with anybody. If I saw an Asian face, undoubtedly it was someone who was a supporting cast member, or a background member. And if it was a main character, it was evil, or they knew kung fu, or they were very intelligent. There were these strict stereotypes. There was no hero character that was specifically Asian or Asian American, and I wanted to see that. It's only fairly recently where I've seen more faces where someone looks Asian and doesn't have to be a kung fu master or stereotyped as a smart immigrant. I want to see Asian American faces in the media. I want to see that, and part of what I want to do as an actor is to just put my face out there for other Asian Americans or Asian people to say 'Oh my God! My face is up there!' I can identify with that. And I think it's very powerful to see a face that you recognize on the poster, on the CD, and whatever. I want that! Seeing Margaret Cho in the 90s, when she first came out, Oh my god! She was an Asian American person and she's doing her thing, and people are going nuts for her, and she didn't have to apologize for anything. I want to do that in all of my roles. It's important that my face is easily identifiable. It was hard for me to be in the blonde wig in the theater, because people thought I was playing white, and I didn't want to do that. Trixie doesn't have to be white.
She just has to be easy! And it isn't easy being easy! She's glamorous, she has all these other qualities, but she doesn't have to be Caucasian. And I think people actually identified her as a Caucasian person when I was wearing the blonde wig. Some people were very surprised to hear a joke about Trixie's "Asian-ness" in the 'Republican' show, because some people thought that she was white. What is Winnie talking about when she says "We don't think of you as Asian, we just think of you as not black"? That joke is difficult to comprehend when you think Trixie is white.
And in the movie, you're wearing the platinum wig?
No, in the movie, I have the black wig. But when we first debuted the show, I was still wearing the platinum wig. And I love the platinum wig! I think platinum is a fantastic look. I love, love, love the look. But it's important personally for me to show an audience, 'Hey, there's an Asian-American face out there, doing her thing, and she doesn't have to apologize for it.' I love people identifying with that. I've had people come up to me from all parts, when we travel around. The one Filipino-American person in North Carolina who sees the show comes up to me and says, 'Oh my God, I can't believe I'm seeing you. I never see an Asian face onstage.' That resonates with me!
There was a run of Miss Saigon in Florida. And there were a number of Asian Americans who did the show. And, interestingly enough, there were some Asians in the community who saw the show and were very moved by it, because they saw Asian faces in the show. And they told the director, the producer... they stopped after the show to express their joy because finally they are seeing their face, their story up onstage. It's strange living in a place where you're not seeing yourself in media. I don't like that. I don't want to be invisible to other people. I want people to see clearly what they are looking at, and I don't want to have a blonde wig hiding that.
You didn't want to be an Asian actor playing a generic role, because that wouldn't bring the community into that experience.
Yes. I didn't want to be confused as an Asian actor playing a white role and Trixie still being the original, glamorous white woman. I wanted her to be specifically Asian American, because I want people to identify that.
Well that reminds me of when I saw the first touring company of RENT, it didn't seem like they were casting the roles. They all seemed to look like Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal. But it seems that the further you get from the original cast, there is more freedom in casting established roles. Initially, they probably were looking to cast a Maurice. 'We lost our Maurice, so we need a new Maurice...'
But it seems that the further away you get from that, you realize that it's more special when people bring themselves to the role, rather than having the role forced on you.
You totally hit the nail on the head. When you bring yourself to the role, that's when the magic can happen. If you're just bringing the role, that's just being an understudy filling a role until the next actor comes in. But when an actor can create that magical synthesis of themselves and the character, then it's something special.
With the Kinseys' schedule, do you ever have a window where you can do plays, or is it just Kinsey Kinsey Kinsey?
In the last two years, no. There's been no window. We're working non-stop. For a play, I'd have to commit two months at least. I wish I could. I've done play readings. We're trying to schedule ourselves so we have more time to do personal projects, but first and foremost we are Kinseys.
Well, Ben and Irwin were lawyers, so they probably don't want a break to do law for two months.
Not likely, but hey, if the shit ever hits the fan... hopefully that will never happen. Praise be Jesus! God help me! I hope the Kinseys last for a very long time. And I think we've got creative and intelligent people. And I'm really lucky to be working with Irwin and Ben, because they've got such business-minded skills. I'm still learning. I don't think I had those until I joined the group. I had always separated my business world and my creative world, but this group synthesizes the two.