An Asian American actor walks into an audition and proceeds to give his best impression of yellow face for a white director’s overtly racist project. This is the opening scene to “A Leading Man,” a film about GQ Chi (Jack Yang) as he tries his best to stay afloat in Hollywood. An undiscovered talent, he’s admired by his circle of actor friends and by those in the know, but he has yet to land that one role that can get his acting career going.
Facing family pressure and a film industry that lacks meaningful roles for Asian American males, GQ must manage his professional and personal relationships in order stay afloat. Not everything goes according to his plan and GQ must choose his future—continue to pursue acting, or take a bow and get a real job. GQ has the ambition and talent to make it big, which makes his struggles all the more honest and his character all the more sympathetic. There’s nothing more frustrating than wasted potential—and GQ’s circumstances and life choices take him to the cusp of exactly that.
It’s a testament to Steven J. Kung’s spot-on writing that GQ always finds himself in a perfect storm of bad situations. Whether he’s late to his first day on set because his best friend’s hospital emergency, or being caught between an unintentionaly bigoted and racist director, played brilliantly by Bruno Oliver, and the necessity to take on an acting job, GQ’s life will ring true to anyone who’s tried to carve out an acting career.
The pressure cooker GQ faces at home is no easy task either. His mother (Pat Tsao) insists that his acting career has failed and wants him to take a family job in China, while his grandmother (Tsai Chin) can never seem to finish a sentence without mentioning Harvard. It serves as icing on the cake to the already precarious position in which GQ finds himself: on the cusp of fame and fortune, yet starring the down the barrel of debt and failure.
In spite of all this, or perhaps because of it, GQ crosses the line and mixes business with pleasure by cozying up to Rachel Cohen (Heather Mazur), a casting director who has the hots for him. In doing so, Steven Kung gives us a rare glimpse at an Asian American romantic leading man. As GQ tries to get a leg up in L.A., he has to make sure to work his charm in all the right angles. GQ’s obvious talent and charisma means the audience hangs on for the ride through every decision he makes.
Steven J. Kung’s expert writing, spot-on direction, and stellar cast make “A Leading Man” seem like a film about your Hollywood struggle.
A LEADING MAN, premieres at the Hawaii International Film Festival and screens Oct 17th & 18th.