Getting Their Start: AAPI Leaders in News & Entertainment

Connie Chung, George Takei, George Sunga, Ann Curry, Pat Morita, Leo Yoshimura, and James Hong share stories of their first jobs and first big breaks


By Mirek TowskiLIFE Photo Collection

Since 1997, the Television Academy Foundation’s The Interviews: An Oral History of Television (formerly the Archive of American Television) has been conducting in-depth, videotaped oral history interviews with television professionals. These interviews explore the lives and careers of the interviewees, often touching on important historical moments and movements.

Gathered here are stories from Asian-American and Pacific Islander actors, producers, and journalists (including George Takei, seen here and Connie Chung, seen on the previous slide).

As leaders in the news and entertainment industries, they share how they got their start in the business, often forging new paths for themselves and those who followed.

Connie Chung on her first job in television newsThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Journalist Connie Chung talks about the first job she had out of college, as a newsroom secretary at a local news station in Washington, DC. Though she had hoped to start out as a reporter, she took the job and made opportunities for herself to move up as quickly as she could.

George Takei on being cast as Sulu on Star TrekThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Actor George Takei shares the story of how he came to be cast in his most famous role: Sulu on the original Star Trek. He describes his anxious wait after auditioning for the role and why he was so excited at the potential opportunity.

George Sunga on how a college project led to a career in TVThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Producer George Sunga found his way into the television industry through a college research project where he visited the set of Climax!, then filming at CBS Television City, to study the production of a live drama.

The few days he spent on set were like a crash course in television, and once he wrote up his study and sent it to CBS, they were so impressed that he was hired in the mailroom following his graduation.

Ann Curry on being a woman in news early in her careerThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Journalist Ann Curry shares the story of how she embarked on her professional career after college - first as an intern then as a reporter at a local television news station.

The opportunity was not without its challenges: the men in the newsroom were reluctant to accept a woman in the role and let her know it. But this only made Curry more determined to prove herself, for her own sake and for the sake of women who came after her.

Pat Morita on how he got into show businessThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Before he entered show business, actor Pat Morita had a career working at an aircraft manufacturing company. He had a family, a house, and a steady job, but still felt a longing to pursue a creative career. He tells the story of how he began to reassess his goals and found his way into stand-up comedy.

Leo Yoshimura on how working at Second City led to attending YaleThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Production designer Leo Yoshimura has worked at Saturday Night Live since the show debuted in 1975. But before joining the creative team of that venerable comedy institution, he was a college graduate without a clear career path.

He started designing sets for theater in Chicago and that's where he got to know Paul Sills, co-founder of Second City. Sills helped guide him toward attending graduate school at Yale, and his eventual professional career.

James Hong on his first agent, Bessie LooThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Actor James Hong talks about his first agent, Bessie Loo, who was a pioneer in representing Asian-American actors and performers. But Hong, who grew up in Minnesota, had a particularly original story of how he introduced himself to Loo and was taken on as her client.

Credits: Story

The Television Academy Foundation's The Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Jenni Matz, Director
Adrienne Faillace, Producer
Jenna Hymes, Manager, Exhibit curator, Video editor
Nora Bates, Production Coordinator

Additional video editing by the Pop Culture Passionistas, sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington, who have made a career based on their love of pop culture.

Credits: All media
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