I shot this about a year ago now in July of 2015. When I first got the audition, I didn't think much of it and I really didn't think I was going to get it. I went to the audition and there were a bunch of other actual Japanese guys there who were speaking to each other in the language. Me being not Japanese at all, I figured I wouldn't get the role for that reason alone. I wasn't going to out Japanese them, but maybe I could out crazy them. I went into the audition and did my few lines and just really committed to it. I had to pretend that I got stabbed in the neck and I really fell to the ground and pretended blood was gushing out of my throat. I based how I would talk on how announcers in the Japanese Street Fighter tournaments that I watch scream while they're broadcasting. The casting director thought it was hilarious. But, I just left immediately after to go on a Vegas vacation and forgot about it.
It wasn't until I was in the middle of my Vegas vacation when my former agent called me and said that she wanted to personally congratulate me on getting the role of a Giant Penis because she doesn't get to say it very often. (Exactly how often do you get to say that?) I had very mixed feelings because I now had to wonder if this was the kind of role I would want to take. I had just come off of shooting my best role yet on The Big Short and now I was going to be doing something potentially racist and weird in the form of doing a couple of lines in a giant penis costume while doing the Asian accent? But.... part of me just went with it cause at least it would be comedy and it didn't seem to be too derogatory. That and I didn't feel like I was in a position to be turning down work just yet I guess (The struggle).
So I came back from my Vegas trip and shot for Lady Dynamite. I remember it being a very recurring joke to everyone that I was coming in as the Giant penis. I didn't take many pictures, but this was one I knew I had to take.
There were light jokes here and there like "Hey, who brought this dick around?" and people wanting to take pictures of me in costume. I didn't really mind it. I do remember having a distinct feeling of WTF am I doing? when we had to shoot this dancing scene in this giant penis costume. No one actually said it, but I kept hearing in my head the words "Dance Monkey! Dance!" This picture shows maybe how I felt about it.
There was one actual Japanese guy there and I asked him how an actual Japanese person would say my lines. Apparently Pussy Noodles is said more like PU-SHEE NEW-DAH-RU. I recorded him and practiced the way that he said it. If I was going to "do the accent' I wanted to make sure I was doing it authentically. Even if everyone else thought the version I made up in my head was good enough to cast me in the role.
When it was all said and done, I really wasn't sure how to feel about it. I remember my sister called to ask about it and she told me that she felt ashamed for me. I wasn't quite sure how to take that. Was I supposed to feel shame for taking that role? I talked to other friends who thought it was awesome. I went to my ten year high school reunion shortly after filming and when people asked me if I had any projects lined up in the future I would mention The Big Short and when they asked what else a mental image of me dancing around in a giant penis costume popped up in my head and I would reply with "That's it!"
A few months later I watched the show Master of None that specifically had an entire episode dedicated to Asian American people auditioning for shows that require you to do the accent and what it was like to be an Asian actor and fighting for the representation that you want to have. I felt inspired watching it, but disappointed because I had already technically sold out. But with the rise of whitewashing of Asian roles and yellowfacing of others I still decided to stand up. I started turning down auditions that I felt were emasculating towards Asian men or just weird and exploitative. I went to a Golden Globes party and got to run into Aziz Ansari briefly in passing. I told him I did a shameful role where I did the Asian accent, but it was only after I saw his show. He did one of his trademark "Nooooooooooo"'s then said that it was alright and that he forgave me. It helped.
A few months ago, Lady Dynamite came out on Netflix and I begrudgingly watched it. As I got through it though I realized that it was actually a pretty great show and that part was funny. Apparently they thought so as well and used it as a viral clip that got a couple million views. I don't know if there are people out there that are hating on me for taking that role (like they have for every other role that I've taken), but I can say that in this particular case I'm proud of the work. Not sure if I'm going to be putting it on my reel anytime soon though.
I thought that it was sort of a comment on stereotypes, and Maria Bamfort isn't exploiting, but is instead exploring those things. It's interesting to read this from your perspective, though, and I am glad that you posted it. Most of us who watch movies and TV shows just assume that everyone on them is just so glad to be in them (and get paid), we forget about the humiliation factors. It was a hilarious bit, and you did a great job.ReplyDelete
I would say the episode on racism was more about stereotypes. Lady dynamite's use of my scene was definitely kind of just laughing at a common Japanese trope. That said, it was a very cool use of making it a metaphor about self esteem.ReplyDelete
Thanks for appreciating the write up. I know it's a lot to swallow about a guy wearing a giant Penis costume, but for sure I didn't just jump at the chance to wear it. I've learned lately that there is a level of responsibility that comes with taking on roles now.
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