This year, celebrities and attendees alike dazzled at the 16th annual Unforgettable Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Honoring Asian-American trailblazers in their respective fields, the Gala awarded the likes of Daniel Dae Kim, Chloe Kim, Justin Chon, and more at the stunning event. With performances from stars such as Judith Hill and Kinjaz and presenters including Harry Shum Jr. and Karrueche Tran, we couldn’t have anticipated a bigger night. However, the Hallyu Wave came in with a force; Epik High delivered an indeed epic performance, whilst Cha Inpyo, Michelle Lee, and Seohyun of Girls’ Generation graced the red carpet.
Check out our interviews with some of the honorees, as well as others on the star-studded guest list!
Mary Sohn & Lyric Lewis (A.P. Bio)
Q: If you were given the opportunity to play the lead in a remake of a popular film, which film would it be and why?
Sohn: Honestly, I don’t know why this is popping into my head but Chef? That movie where it’s about a food truck? I just love the idea of filming in a food truck and just, like, in between scenes forking a lot of bites in between.
Lewis: That’s tough! Well you said your first one; my first one is wildly inappropriate. It’s Jurassic Park! I don’t know, I like Sam Neill! I’m not trying to replace him! But, you know, I think it would be fun playing a paleontologist. That’s the first thing that came to my mind.
Sohn: I thought you were going to say something nasty!
Lewis: Just dinosaurs! I just want to play with dinosaurs.
Q: I think that’s cool! So, what’s your biggest tip for aspiring actors and actresses?
Sohn: I always say keep making offers—whether that’s writing or creating work for yourself or showing up and doing embarrassing things. Sorry! Sometimes that’s just what it takes. So, for me, I think it’s just never stop making offers, unless you don’t want to do it, then don’t! But no one is forcing you to do it, that’s what I always tell myself: “No one’s forcing you to do it.” So if you really want it, you better get it.
Lewis: I think I would say to give yourself time. I feel like a lot of people move out here and they’re like, “If it doesn’t happen in two years, then I’m going back to Oklahoma!” It’s always people from Oklahoma. They’re like, “I’m going back to the Midwest!” And it’s like, for some people it isn’t an overnight at all. For a lot of us, it’s 14, 15 years is an overnight success—not a month into Hollywood! So, be realistic. Give yourself time to grow and study and strengthen your muscle. Don’t be discouraged if it’s been five or seven years. Yeah, give it time! The Midwest will be there.
Q: How do you think your Asian-American and African-American backgrounds have influenced your career and work choices?
Sohn: I think, for me, I did kind of grow up in a stereotypical household where graduating with a theater major is a little unheard of. They don’t even know you could even do that. I think it’s helped me in my career in those times where I’m like, “I should just quit.” I had to fight my parents tooth and nail for this thing, so there’s no one I can’t face. I’ve been fighting this whole time to get here so...I forgot what the dang question was!
Lewis: Well, my answer is ditto yours. It’s the same thing. I feel like I grew up the same way. I also had a theater degree, like “Great! You paid money for a piece of paper that nobody will ever actually see again.” I think just growing up not having, just being used to a really hard-knock situation—it takes a lot for something to ruffle my feathers. It’s like, okay that was one “no,” I’m getting no’s all up through here! It’s just easier to deal with the toughness that L.A. can be.
Q: So one last question, but we actually want you guys to pick your own last question! Would you like to pick it?
Lewis: I’m excited! It’s like when you pick your own Goosebumps ending—we pick our own question!
Sohn: This was tailor made for us. “If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?” Honestly, that’s so tough because I want to have bites of everything, like one bite of sushi! One bite of McDonald’s french fries! You know what, there’s this Indian dish. I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s like this really spicy okra, and I love that thing! That’s my answer.
Lewis: Now see, I would have to have the stipulation that I would never physically change if I had this one meal for the rest of my life. The first thing that came to mind would be fried shrimp, like Southern fried shrimp with macaroni and cheese, green peas, and cornbread. That’s one of my favorite little meals. I’m from New Orleans, so it would be something very fried and very heavy.
Nico Santos (Crazy Rich Asians, Superstore)
Q: How are you feeling tonight?
A: I am feeling good, girl! How you doin’?
Q: I’m doing good, girl! You know! So how do you feel about presenting tonight?
A: Oh my God, I’m very excited! I’ve never presented an award before, so I am getting my practice on, practiced in the mirror tonight. So, hopefully I don’t mess it up.
Q: Did you have to do any preparation in order to present?
A: No, not really, but I’m very blind. So, I’m really worried about having to read the teleprompter. So, we’ll see what happens. I might flub it up.
Q: We know you’re from Crazy Rich Asians, so what can you tell us about the movie coming out soon?
A: Well, it’s coming out August 17, 2018. I play Oliver T’sien. I fell in love with that character in the book, so it truly is a dream come true—the fact that I’m playing him in the movie. I hope that the fans of the book are going to be surprised and pleased with our interpretation because we’re very excited and we can’t wait for everyone to see all the hard work that we put into it.
Q: How was it to work with an all Asian cast?
A: I mean, it was crazy! It was really crazy! Because it wasn’t just Asian-American actors; I mean, you have the legendary Michelle Yeoh and Constance Wu who’s also amazing and Awkwafina. So you have all these amazing actors from London and from Singapore and from Australia—people I have nothing but love and respect for. So, it was really kind of amazing not only being in the same room but getting to say that at the end of the process, they were my family, so it was really great.
Q: We have one last question for you, but we actually want you to pick the last question!
A: Oh, okay! “Name a song that will get you on the dance floor.” Oh my gosh, okay. What was it right now I was just dancing to—oh, it was “Freedom” by Beyoncé! That’s a good dance jam.
Liane V (Social Media Influencer)
Q: So how are you feeling tonight?
A: I’m feeling amazing! I’m really happy to be here.
Q: Who are you most excited to see tonight?
A: Honestly, everyone. This is my first time at this event, so I’m really looking forward to experiencing tonight. I’m really excited to see the Asian-American culture grow and I’m just really glad to be a part of it, being Filipino. It’s a real blessing to have a voice and to be able to speak to the community.
Q: How do you think being Filipino has inspired your career and your work?
A: Everything! I feel that growing up with a family that’s so supportive—that’s why I involve my parents with everything. We know, us Filipinos, we love to stick together and support each other. And again, that’s who I am and that’s what I’m really proud to support and promote just because we need each other. Everyone, again, is very supportive.
Q: We want to ask you one last question, but we want you to actually pick. Would you like to pick it?
A: Oh, I get to pick it! “What is your most memorable fan encounter you’ve had during your career?” My most memorable, I’d have to say, is when I did a meet and greet in Sacramento and there was a line that wrapped around the entire building and they were crying. To me, it’s still hard to understand how, when you think about it, how these fans really feel for you and they tell you, “You inspire me. You make me want to follow my dreams.” That right there is honestly so inspiring and makes me want to keep going. That’s memorable for me.
Ross Butler (13 Reasons Why, Riverdale, K.C. Undercover)
Q: How are you feeling tonight?
A: I feel great!
Q: How do you feel about winning this award tonight?
A: Honored, honestly. I’m excited to meet everybody and to get more involved with this community in person. The more people I meet, the more nervous I get. Right now we’re all like, “Hey!” but in an hour, I’m going to be up there [on stage] trying not to be an idiot. Yeah, so nervous, excited, honored, all that.
Q: So how do you think your Asian background has influenced your career plans and work ethic?
A: As far as my career plan, I feel like, at first, it was going in a direction that was very stereotypical and I didn’t want that. Me seeing the balance in misrepresentation made me work harder, to be completely honest. It forced me to really go after the roles that weren’t written as “Asian” and to make a point. So, that definitely impacted my work ethic and my trajectory.
Q: So what can we be expecting from you in 2018?
A: I have a project, can’t talk about it. You guys will hear about it soon, but I’m very excited for it. It’s going to be a good year! That’s all I have to say.
Q: We actually want you to pick the last question! Would you be down?
A: Okay! Oh! Alright, “If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?” Oh man, I’m a big foodie. If you’ve seen any other interviews I’ve done, I always talk food. I would say ramen—not like the store-bought ramen, but legit ramen with chashu. I’d probably gain some weight, but hey, if it’s for the rest of my life, you got to make compromises!
Wong Fu Productions (Asian-American filmmakers)
Q: So how are you guys feeling tonight?
Philip Wang: We’re feeling great! We just got here and we just got thrown in so we’re like, “Oh shoot!”
Wesley Chan: We’re getting warmed up so the interviews are getting better, I hope. We’re getting practice with our answers.
Wang: Yeah, so we’ll give you the best stuff! Earlier, we were like, “Uh, uh, uh.”
Q: How important do you think is it to be an Asian-American filmmaker in this political and social climate?
Chan: I think Asian-Americans need to be diverse in all of their careers. There just hasn’t been an emphasis on the arts as much within Asian-American families. So, there’s definitely a strong push for that, but I think being diverse in anything is always good.
Wang: Yeah, I think these days, what’s really great is that finally people are willing to listen to different types of voices. Before, people weren’t as open. I think that, being content creators and directors, it’s our duty now to say, “Hey!” Now that people are actually listening and everyone has a platform or way or voice, we need to be there to back people up when others say, “What do Asians think?” or even raise our hands up and say, “We are thinking these things. People should listen to us as well.” While other people are making a ruckus or while other people are trying to take a stand, we should be there too.
Q: What can we expect from BgA?
Chan: You should probably ask the ring leader.
Wang: Yeah, that’s not me! You know what’s funny about BgA? It was all supposed to be just a fun project for us—it’s five guys and we’re all doing different things. We’re here to support Justin Chon today, and he’s in New York, so see, everyone’s doing different things. So really, it was supposed to be just this one time thing, we could all get together. Then, this past year, we were like, “Okay, we could do it again.” People want us to go on tour and be a real boy band! I’m like, “Guys, we have other careers!” So, it’s up to Ryan Higa, honestly. Ryan’s the ring leader. He’s kind of the one to decide. We love that people enjoy what it is and are having so much fun with it.
Q: If you could collaborate with any K-Pop star, who would it be?
Chan: Lee Hyori.
Wesley: A classic!
Chan: I mean, no one would object, right?
Wang: I definitely have to say, there’s been so many K-Pop stars that have tried to come over to the states, and they all did a great effort, but BTS, accomplishing what they have this past year, is just incredible. Seeing clips of people reacting to their performances and them being amazed at what Asian pop stars can be, from American pop stars? It makes me very proud, so I’d love to do something with them, obviously.
Chan: Last year, we saw them and they’re very talented.
Wang: And then DAY6’s Jae—apparently something I told him back in the day inspired him to pursue music. He was on some Q&A and was like, “I met the Wong Fu guys at a meet and greet and I sang for them and Phil said I was really good and I should pursue music,” and that was like his moment. I’m like, wow I need to be really careful about what I say! You never what’s going to happen. Obviously, he worked really hard.
Q: Now you have the hookup! Maybe you guys can collaborate now!
Wang: Yeah! Hey Jae, what’s up?
Q: We have one last question for you, but we want you guys to pick it!
Wang: “What is the most memorable fan encounter you’ve had during your career?” People have found us, like our office, and it got kind of awkward because someone showed up with a Nerf gun and were kind of shooting us at the door. I was being really polite like, “I’m sorry, you can’t do that. That’s really scary.” So, now we’re very secretive of where our office is.
Chan: I’m pretty sure that’s the scariest one.
Wang: Yeah, that’s the scariest one.
Chan: Most of the fans are great. All of the fans are great! I think I got asked to prom once.
Q: Did you go?
Chan: I didn’t go. She could’ve found someone much better.
Wang: Yeah, I think I had to go to that encounter because most of the time our fans are fun. It’s all good. We never have too many horror stories because the Wong Fu fans are so nice! I guess it makes sense—we’re nice guys and girls.