While it appears that acting opportunities are improving for Asian Pacific Americans in Hollywood, it is still a rare sighting to find a handsome, sexy Asian American male in a non-stereotypical role in mainstream television and movies. Unless you are one of the lucky ones cast in the TV series Hawaii Five-0, Asian American male actors are more often cast in roles as thugs, geeks, martial arts experts, or as tourists or characters with a funny foreign accent.
Nareth Chuon and Jason Peers, two young professionals in Los Angeles are on a mission to make a difference.
First, they spent their weekends and nights after their day jobs producing a health and fitness style calendar called the 2010 Asian Pacific Male (APM) Calendar featuring handsome and sexy Asian American men to raise funds for charity, with renowned photographer Jeff Sheng, one of the three original creators with Chuon and Peers. The calendar and the charity fundraising was a hit.
Now, Chuon and Peers want to take their calendar and charity fundraising concept to television. They have just completed filming a reality TV pilot based on their experiences co-producing the calendar project, with hope that the episodes will begin production in Spring, 2012.
Peers said the original project was a success because "people had never seen anything like this before." Before the 2010 Asian Pacific Male Calendar Asian American men were usually photographed on "rafts or holding a bamboo fan," he quipped. The 2010 APM calendar models were photographed doing activities such as surfing, mountain climbing and riding motorcycles.
Chuon and Peers partnered their calendar project with the Asian Pacific Health Care Venture raising awareness and funds for the non-profit community-based health care organization which provides medical and wellness services in at least fourteen languages.
Peers said the calendar was a "passion project" and they didn't take a penny from any of the sales, but paid for the hard costs including the printing and donated 100% of net proceeds of more than $6,000 to APHCV.
After the 2010 calendar project finished, came the realization that what they pulled off during the weekends and at nights was a "great statement on what a group of friends can do," said Peers.
Peers said the proposed TV show will continue the legacy of the original Asian Pacific Male Calendar, with multi-cultural models and the same focus on raising funds and awareness for a charity. The proposed TV series currently includes roles for Asian, Hapa, Latino, Caucasian and African Americans.
Male models cast for the reality TV series will require that they have a proven track record of non-profit work or community-based civic services.
“Here you have a group of “Joe Next Doors” who just got up one day and decided they wanted to pool their talents and work together on a project in their spare time,” Shine said. “Their efforts ended up raising awareness and generated tons of money for a great cause. How in the world can anything get better than that? We hope this series will show that being an agent of change in this world is fun and fantastic and easy once you get the ball rolling”
Actor and activist Mike C. Manning, the 2011 recipient of the Courage Award by LifeWorks for his work with homeless youth in Los Angeles, has joined the team both as a producer on screen as well as behind the scenes. Manning made a name for himself on MTV's “Real World: DC,” and has since used that platform to get involved in non-profit work.
"When I heard about the calendar project, a project that raises money and awareness for charities, I was excited to get involved," Manning said. "When you can entertain people and help many others at the same time, it's a win-win."
Other cast members are recording artist Sikora, actors Price Troche, Jr. and Khalif Boyd, and photographer Michael Darling.
"This show just made sense from the start," Peers added. "The way the show is intended is to prove that a group of average, every day people can find ways to give back and have fun doing it. Good reality TV doesn't have to reach for the lowest denominator and hopefully this show can prove that."