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Episode Details

series: You Don't Know Jack Soo

air date: 1/11/14 11:30 PM

This program tells the story of a pioneering American entertainer, Jack Soo, an Oakland native who became the first Asian American to be cast in the lead role in a regular television series, "Valentine's Day" (1963), and later starred in the popular comedy show "Barney Miller" (1975-1978). Featuring rare footage and interviews with Soo's co-stars and friends, including actors George Takei, Nancy Kwan and Max Gail, comedians Steve Landesberg and Gary Austin, and producer Hal Kanter, the film traces Soo's early beginnings as a nightclub singer and comedian, to his breakthrough role as Sammy Fong in Rogers and Hammerstein's Broadway play and film version of "The Flower Drum Song". The film also explores why Soo, a former internee who was actually born Goro Suzuki, was forced to change his name in the post WWII era, in order to perform in clubs in the midwest. Because of his experiences, throughout his career in films and television, Soo refused to play roles that were demeaning to Asian Americans and often spoke out against negative ethnic portrayals. The film shows how Soo's work laid the groundwork for a new generation of Asian American actors and comedians.

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