AAPI Actors Roundtable: Kian Talan, Román Zaragoza, Soji Arai and Saylor Bell Curda (Podcast)

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Cover image for  article: AAPI Actors Roundtable: Kian Talan, Román Zaragoza, Soji Arai and Saylor Bell Curda (Podcast)

Our second panel discussion in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month features (pictured below, left to right) Kian Talan (CBS' NCIS: Hawai’i), Román Zaragoza (CBS’ Ghosts), Soji Arai (Apple TV+'s Pachinko) and Saylor Bell Curda (Disney+'s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series). The four talk about how their varying cultural backgrounds influenced the ways in which they saw themselves represented growing up, some of the AAPI stories they hope to see more of in the future, and the career struggles that come with being a mixed-race actor who is seen as "not Asian enough" or "not White enough."

Román shares that he rarely saw himself represented on screen due to his complex background, with his father being of Mexican and Akimel O'odham descent, and his mother being of Taiwanese descent. Despite that, growing up he found himself represented in people who he could relate to more on a personal level, like Paolo Montalban’s performance in the 1997 TV movie musical Cinderella. “That was the first time I thought, ‘We can play leading men!’" he recalls. "I even played the Prince in Cinderella in the third grade. I was so inspired by him!"

NCIS: Hawai’i made history as the first network television series to have a Filipino family at the forefront, a feat of which Kian Talan is honored to be a part. Like Román, Kian says that Paolo Montalban was the only Filipino representation he had growing up. “It’s really cool that this new wave of Filipino creatives are coming to light, like the Jo Koy project and a few others," he says. "Hopefully this opens the door for more Filipino film and TV.”

Saylor Bell, who joined the cast of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series for its upcoming third season, is no stranger to the entertainment business. Her older siblings Glory, Major and Piper Curda have appeared in shows on Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and The CW. Asked about when she first felt represented, she quickly mentioned her own sister, adding, "It is so difficult to find people who look like me onscreen, especially being half-white, half-Korean, who are actually represented as such, as mixed.”

Soji Arai talks about his heritage -- Zainichi Korean, meaning ethnically Korean but living and culturally being in Japan, as his grandparents left Korea for Japan after World War II. This was a story, although common for many in Japan, that was never seen before in Hollywood. That is, until his current series Pachinko, a generation-spanning tale of a Zainichi family, was produced by Apple TV+. It was recently renewed for a second season. “It’s just like my family!" he says. "I’m so proud to be part of Pachinko. Finally, I can feel, 'Okay! We exist!' "

NCIS: Hawai’i and Ghosts are available to stream on Paramount+. Pachinko is streaming now on Apple TV+. Season 3 of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series premieres July 27th on Disney+.

You can watch the full interview above or listen wherever you download your podcasts:Apple, GooglePodcasts, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Stitcher and TuneIn.

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