Directed by Steven J. Kung, A Leading Man follows the life of GQ Qi (Jack Yang), an aspiring Asian American actor, as he navigates the Hollywood movie industry. GQ receives an offer to play a Chinese exchange student on a television sitcom only to realize later his character is distasteful and staggeringly offensive. During the first rehearsal, GQ challenges Mitch Lebowitz (Bruno Oliver), the executive producer, on his blatant tokenism of the foreign exchange student stereotype. Lebowitz immediately fires GQ, and he is escorted off the production site. In attempt to salvage his career, GQ begins dating Lebowitz’s casting director Rachel Cohen (Heather Hazur).
The relationship between Qi and Cohen faces objection by Qi’s traditional Chinese family, particularly his mother. Kung introduces an additional financial strain, as GQ is unable to find other acting roles and Lebowitz fires Cohen for dating Qi. Frustrated with their career mishaps, Qi admits to Cohen that if she were not a casting director, they would not be dating. Despite his desire to play developed, well-rounded characters, Qi’s vapid personality and malicious intent proves him undeserving of these roles.
A Leading Man acts as Kung’s polemic on the Asian American identity in film. GQ is a talented actor with degrees from prestigious theatre institutions, yet he is unable to perform in a major production without being pigeonholed as an Asian American stereotype. The opening casting scene illuminates the struggles of Asian American actors. GQ introduces himself articulately in his casting interview, but during his audition he must speak in broken English about bootleg Louie Vitton purses. In this scene, Leibowitz criticizes Qi’s accent as being “too white,” and Cohen translates this statement, telling Qi that they are looking for a “generic” Asian accent.
The film also comments on Asian American’s perceptions on the film industry, as GQ’s family is unsupportive of his acting career. Qi’s grandmother criticizes him for not being a Harvard graduate and wasting his time pursuing theatre. Qi’s mother becomes disillusioned with his career, as she finally meets Cohen and blames her for Qi’s lack of acting roles.
Overall, A Leading Man implores us to consider the Asian American in theatre—what compromises must one make to become a “successful” Asian American actor and what hurdles must Asian Americans overcome to succeed in today’s film industry?
Mance media will release A Leading Man for video on demand on Friday, November 21, 2014. Watch A Leading Man now using iTunes, Google Play, the Sony Entertainment Network, or Xbox Video.