The 20th annual Coalition for Asian Pacifics in Entertainment gala drew celebs like Maggie Q, Daniel Dae Kim, Carrie Ann Inaba and George Takei for a dinner and ceremony honoring the cast of "Hawaii Five-0."
"When I was growing up there were few Asians on TV and now I'm one of many and that makes me happy," said "Dancing with the Stars" judge Inaba. "I see how far we've come, which is amazing. But diversity is still an issue and we have to continue to grow the message," she said, praising CAPE co-founder Wendy Fong for being an inspiration and mentor to her. "She's inspired me to make sure that I always give back, pay attention and do what's right."
With the "DWTS" finale nearing closer, she called J.R. Martinez "pretty fantastic" and Ricki Lake and her partner Derek Hough "amazing," but wasn't sure who'd take the third slot. Once "Dancing" wraps, she'll concentrate on the pair of dance-based scripted dramas she's developing, one for NBC. "I'm on a mission," she said. "There's so much great dance out there and I feel like there's more ways to showcase it than just reality shows."
Inaba confided that she and her fiancé, Jesse Sloan, recently became vegetarians. "We saw that amazing documentary 'Forks Over Knives' and that cleared everything up for us. Every Sunday we're going to the farmers market now, getting our fresh fruits and veggies. It's just two weeks, but we feel much better. I love animals. I don't want to eat them," she said, noting that she lives with Sloan and four cats (her eldest, Shadow, recently passed away) and is considering fostering more. Sloan, who she met online via eHarmony.com, is "cooking amazing vegetarian meals for me," she added, noting that she hasn't had time to plan their wedding. "He's totally better at wedding planning than I am," she said.
"It's a real benchmark achievement for Asian-American professionals in the industry," noted George Takei, who has seen "a whole sea change" since he played Sulu on "Star Trek" and was one of very few Asians on TV, "but there's still a lot we have to do yet," he said, citing Warner Bros.' plans to cast a new version of the Japanese anime classic "Akira" with Caucasians.
Takei attributed his longevity in the business to reinventing himself by doing things quite different from the sci-fi niche, one of which is an upcoming Broadway musical about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. "It's a powerful and moving story and a very significant issue that too few Americans know about," said Takei, who'll star in it with Lea Salonga. "We open next summer in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre and then go to Broadway" in the winter of 2012-2013. Currently shopping for a hybrid car, he's "looking at Priuses." He'd get the all-electric version, "but we have a place in Arizona and driving the distance over desert highways makes my hubby uncomfortable," he explained.
Just back from Asia, Archie Kao will return this week to his lab tech role for the second half of the season on "CSI," starting with episode 11. "I'm looking forward to meeting Ted Danson," said Kao, who's encouraged to see CAPE "grow by leaps an bounds," and was glad to be able to participate in the "celebration of all that they've done for the Asian-Pacific Community." The Chinese-American actor recycles, drives a Prius, and "just got solar panels on the roof of my house," he said. "I try to do my part."
Although quite grateful for the CAPE award, "Hawaii Five-0" producer Peter Lenkov felt "like a ringer" because ethnically diverse casting is the natural, default position in Hawaii. "We're definitely a green set," he said. "We recycle everything. We're very environmentally responsible," having traded plastic water bottles for coolers and cups. One future storyline will take a cue from the stalled Superferry project, which was to link Oahu and Maui but was suspended in 2009 amid protests and following a state Supreme Court ruling that a law allowing the ferry to operate without an environmental impact review was unconstitutional. "That will come out in the spring," said Lenkov.
"I've always been proud of my heritage," said Kelsey Chow, of Disney XD's "Pair of Kings," attending with her Chinese-American dad. "We have a really cool episode coming up that's like 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,' with a lot of wire work. It'll air early 2012," said Chow, whose team won at the eco-friendly Disney's Friends for Change games this year. "The most important lesson from Friends for Change is that little things make a big difference, the little things around the house that you can do like reusing and recycling," she said.
Photos: ZUMA Press