In his panel at Kansas City Comic Con, Peter Shinkoda minced no words about his feelings about how Asian actors are portrayed in Hollywood, as well as discussing his family and involvement in such projects as Falling Skies and Daredevil. There were plenty of things to say about friends, family, and his journey as an actor in a panel which, sadly, only left time for a single audience question.
The Falling Skies actor fell in love with acting at an early age watching movies and TV shows. As a child, he auditioned for the role of Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but was passed over for the part. (It’s not too often someone gets a second chance to try to work with Steven Spielberg!) After studying Karate and Judo between the ages of 6 and 14, he changed over to football, hockey, and other western sports. Being a more popular kid in high school, he didn’t experience the discrimination that other Asian kids might have had.
Shinkoda continued to take acting lessons, even though his parents didn’t much care for the idea of him being an actor. He went to college to study civil engineering. Although he made very good marks, his true passion was acting. After seeing Jason Scott Lee in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Shinkoda decided he could do those roles, and possibly better. So he quit university and moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. He didn’t speak to his parents for two years after that. They weren’t thrilled about his acting until the Falling Skies premiere when they got to meet Spielberg.
It took 10 years of struggling before landing Falling Skies. During which time he became good friends with Jason Scott Lee. He tended to die in most of his roles. Although he loves playing bad guys, Shinkoda really wants more and better roles for all-American Asian actors (in spite of being Canadian).
After joining forces with a new manager, he got on with Falling Skies just a few days before shooting, but almost didn’t get the role. There were two finalists for the role when he was given the opportunity to audition. Shinkoda only had a couple of hours to put an audition on tape and get it in. Ultimately, he was given a seven-year option for the role of Dai.
The original plan for his role was to kill off Captain Weaver (Will Patton) and become the number two man. According to the show’s creator and original writer Robert Rodat, Dai was supposed to be a “Silent Samurai”, sort of like Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and Lee Marvin combined. But when he was replaced by other writers and Captain Weaver was kept on, Dai was relegated to a lesser role with awkward dialogue. However, Shinkoda thinks he’s a lot like his character, but more talkative. He thinks he would act the same way as his character in the same situations.
Shinkoda originally read for the part of Wesley, followed by two other characters. Although he also read for Arrow that same week, he wanted to be in Daredevil. When he went to do the shoot, he found out the part he was to play wasn’t the part he was expecting, and the character’s name was Nobu. He wanted to get his representatives in on it. But then they explained that it was due to the secrecy surrounding the shoot.
Apparently the dialogue changes a lot during shooting of Daredevil. In fact, upon his character being killed in season 1 episode 9, the line was changed from, “Stay dead,” to “Stay down.” This opened the door for appearing in season two. After all, it’s just a comic book death, right?
The fight scenes are a bit difficult, although fantastic on camera, especially how rarely wires are used. The stunt people involved in the fight scenes spend months working on the choreography. But the actors learn the sequences on set. So the actors are only used when there is a definite face shot, and only a few moves at a time. In one sequence where Nobu is on fire, Daredevil (Charlie Cox) is laying on the ground, and Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) is standing over him, the sequence led to an injury. Daredevil says, “I’m going to kill you.” Fisk responds with, “Take your best shot!” And in the following sequence, D’Onofrio got a bad gash over one eye. They got him plastic surgery that took care of the injury and any scarring.
Shinkoda is more than a little upset with the options for Asian actors in Hollywood. While the opportunities are increasing in many ways, they tend to be stereotypes and not all-American types as is more realistic. Some films call in actors from Asia rather than in the US, thinking it will help overseas box office numbers. However, a Chinese actor isn’t going to help in Taiwan or vice-versa, and a Japanese actor won’t help much in China or Taiwan. He finds it unfortunate that more realistic roles aren’t offered for actors of Asian descent, and some Asian parts are white-washed. This also goes for other minorities as per the single audience question.
Although the audience numbers were low and only one attendee was allowed to ask a question due to time constraints, the panel was very well received by those in attendance.