Yu is currently starring alongside Ken Jeong in the ABC sitcom Dr. Ken
Krista Marie Yu has become a familiar face to American TV lovers due to her role as Molly Park, the daughter of Ken Jeong’s character in the ABC sitcom Dr. Ken. Speaking to Resonate, Yu discusses ethnicity, representation, and life on the Dr. Ken set.
Krista Marie Yu considers herself as an Asian American actor that reflects the reality of the western world. Talking to Resonate, Yu shares her experiences of racial discrimination, her journey into the acting world and how she landed a role on one of today’s hottest network television shows.
Ethnicity and growing up
Yu is proud of her Chinese heritage and whilst her experiences with discrimination were few, they were still extremely hurtful. Her family has a lengthy history in America and it’s great to hear how much they have integrated and contributed to the country.
“I am fifth generation Chinese American. Both my parents are from Oakland, CA. My grandma, Alice Fong Yu (I call her Yen-Yen), was the first Chinese-American public school teacher in San Francisco. My grandpa, Wilbert Chinn (I call him Goong-Goong!) was a Navy Gunners Mate for our country on the USS Howard W Gillmore during WWII. And my great-grandpa, Fong Chow, was a gold miner during the Gold Rush!”
“I’ve always been very proud of my Chinese culture. My dad owned a restaurant, so I always got yummy chow mein or yi-mein for lunch. Everybody would want to snag a bite. I grew up in the bay area, which is very diverse. I love that I’ve celebrated my friends’ bar, bat, and b’nai mitzvahs, yet have also attended traditional Chinese weddings with dragon dances. My friendships have never been based on race. ”
“My pride for my ethnicity prevails”
“I never grew up experiencing too much racial discrimination, but rather racial awareness and pride. When I DID experience racial discrimination, I was hurt, but knew in my heart that they’re just mean words and at the end of the day, my pride for my ethnicity prevails. I was brought up proud of who I am, where I come from, and how hard my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have worked so I could be where I am today.”
Inspiration and deciding to become an actress
The lack of Asians on TV often deters the community from pursuing a career in the acting field. However, Yu, who regards it as just a difficult step, has proven that becoming an actor with Asian heritage on mainstream western television is certainly possible. With her love of performing and the incredible support she had behind her, Yu pursued her dreams of becoming an actress and her success has not prevented her from being excited for the journey ahead.
“Kristi Yamaguchi has always been my number one idol growing up. She represents hard work paying off, while at the same time incredible humbleness and generosity toward the community. I aspire to be just like her. I also love and live by her mantra to ‘always dream.’ I also have idolized Michael J Fox. Back to the Future has always been one of my favorite movies and I admire how he deals with and spreads awareness for his struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.”
“I still to this day audibly cheer whenever I see an Asian actor in a commercial or show or movie”
“I’ve always loved to perform ever since I started ballet when I was three. I couldn’t be more grateful for the cards that were laid out for me. I feel so lucky for all of the support I’ve received to pursue my dreams and the people I have so far met, learned from, and gotten to work with to shape the actor and person I am today. I additionally am so excited for the journey that lies ahead.”
“[The lack of Asians on TV] didn’t deter me, but it did make me realize how difficult it would be. It really feels like a dream come true, and I thank my lucky stars every day. I still to this day audibly cheer whenever I see an Asian actor in a commercial or show or movie.”
Becoming an actress
Yu is clearly inciteful as she distinguishes between an actor’s ethnicity and the character’s personality with regards to casting decisions, all the while advocating for appropriate casting when race lies at the centre of the role.
“My amazing parents supported me in pursuing acting at school. I have had incredible coaches and teachers of whom I am forever grateful for their knowledge and support.”
“I think it is very exciting that more and more roles are written with no specific race in mind. In my opinion, in most cases, an actor’s ethnicity shouldn’t usually dictate one’s role, but rather the character’s PERSONALITY they portray based on how well they contribute to the storyline. However, when race DOES dictate the role, I firmly believe it needs to be cast appropriately.”
Discrimination in the media
Whilst Yu has been unquestionably successful in entering the acting industry, she’s fully aware of the discrimination that exists in the media. Nevertheless, her positive and strong attitude when dealing with discrimination is something we should all adopt.
“I think there is a reality to our industry that there are fewer jobs created with a vision for an Asian American actor in mind. It is very exciting to me that more and more people are opening their minds. I’m thrilled any time I hear a new Asian actor or actress has been chosen to create a role. I will be so proud when our industry reflects a realistic world of immense diversity and rich culture.”
“I feel there will always be people who choose mean words instead of kind words. I hope they realize that it really can hurt someone’s feelings. Despite all the hurting words, there will also always be the positive ones, which I encourage and embrace with gratitude.”
Yu is proud to represent the community in the pursuit of diversity on screen. It’s also refreshing to hear Yu’s positive approach in celebrating our diversity instead of playing the blame game. We hope that her message is amplified loudly through her status.
“Lead by example. I feel like playing the blame game or being negative toward anyone in particular just generates more negativity and segregation. I hope as a community we can grab every chance we get to celebrate and acknowledge our diversity.”
“Actors have a job to reflect our world. To give people a voice.”
” I am so proud to be representing an Asian American teen-girl on network television. I hope just by seeing the show, or seeing my journey in this industry so far, young Asian girls are encouraged to follow their dreams rather than be discouraged. Constance Wu is an incredible actress and advocate for our community. She has worked extremely hard, and I am looking forward to seeing her tackle many, many more amazing roles. ”
“Actors have a job to reflect our world. To give people a voice. To make people feel understood, and not alone. This means EVERYONE needs to be represented in a normalized way.”
Becoming Molly Park on Dr. Ken and working with Ken Jeong
For anyone who hasn’t seen Dr. Ken, you need to watch it as soon as possible. The hilarious sitcom portrays the chaotic life of Korean-American physician Dr. Ken (Ken Jeong) and his family. Yu plays Dr. Ken’s daughter, Molly, who is going through the stages of being an American teenager. It’s an addictive watch that guarantees laughs throughout. For east Asians, especially Koreans, the show is instantly relatable and the humor is tastefully delivered.
“I think back to the day often. I auditioned 4 times with other very talented young Asian actresses of whom I admire greatly. I was at my night job hostessing at the Italian restaurant, Osteria Mamma (best homemade pasta ever!), when I got the call. I was so thrilled and couldn’t wait to work with THE Ken Jeong, who pours his whole heart into his work to create the best possible story.”
“Molly (my character on Dr. Ken) has a very similar upbringing to my own. Her personality, qualities, or life choices aren’t defined by her race, but by her interests, surroundings, and morals instilled by her parents. ”
“Ken is incredible. Period. He created the show, stars in the show, and produces the show. He is always thinking of other people, while at the same time balancing a life at home where he is a whole-hearted committed father and husband. I am constantly in awe of his dedication, hard work, and heart.”
Advice for the East Asian community
“Be true to what is in your heart. It’s hard to block out other people’s opinions, or other people saying you can’t… but you can. As Kristi Yamaguchi says, Always Dream!”
Dr. Ken is currently in its second season. Tune in to ABC to watch it on Fridays 8:30|7:30c.