By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
For David Kang, an Asian American casting director and producer, his path to Hollywood has been anything but conventional.
Kang’s start in the entertainment business was an unexpected one. During his four-year stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, Kang was recruited for a Japanese commercial while stationed in Okinawa, Japan. The commercial required one of the main actors to lead a specific military march and, when the actor didn’t know how to do it, Kang stepped in to demonstrate.
The experience led in part to Kang launching Combat Casting — his own company focused on casting real military, law enforcement, and firefighting personnel on TV and film.
“These [professionals] know the ins and outs of what these positions actually entail, so they’re the best ones to portray it on screen,” said Kang. With his background in the armed forces and growing interest in entertainment, Kang found a niche to start his career in Hollywood.
Shortly after, Kang went on to work for casting companies that managed extras or booked background actors for major feature films. He eventually started David Kang Casting (DK Casting), and has booked actors on commercials for a range of clients, including BMW, Budweiser, and McDonald’s, as well as castings in music videos for artists like Britney Spears, David Bowie, Justin Bieber, and Rod Stewart. Kang’s company has now become one of the industry’s biggest music video and commercial casting companies, casting for hundreds of music videos and commercials.
On Asian Americans in Hollywood
In Kang’s 17 years in Hollywood, he’s seen few other Asian casting directors. Early on, Kang heard of revered casting director Jimmy Jue (JJ). JJ was mentioned often on sets, “I had so much respect for this man who was Asian American, working in a field dominated by Caucasians,” said Kang. “I thought if someone like JJ could do it, then I could do it, [too].”
Kang learned quickly on the job, relying on his mantra of watching others, asking questions often, and growing. There were times when he was upset about other casting directors being hired over him, but he soon took matters into his own hands.
“As casting directors, we rely heavily on directors and producers to hire us, so if they’re not working, then I’m not working,” said Kang. “It’s that simple. … I started thinking that, to create more jobs [for myself], I need to get into producing.”
In the film and television industry, producers play a key role in casting, often making the final calls on who to cast, along with directors.
Now that he’s a producer, Kang feels like he’s created more opportunities for himself. “I can work hard and hire who I want,” said Kang. “I don’t look at [my industry] as a ‘bamboo ceiling’ anymore, but more like, ‘the sky’s the limit.’”
Kang, who started producing six years ago, has since produced music videos for popular pop artists like Rascal Flatts and Katy Perry, and has produced several projects for commercials, film, and reality TV. He is also a member of the Producers Guild of America.
According to Kang, diversity in Hollywood has changed considerably since his early days.
Asian American producers routinely hire Kang for casting, and there are now more opportunities than ever for Asian American actors.
“It’s the best time for an Asian American actor to come into this business,” said Kang. This is especially relevant when booking talent for commercials, he said, because advertising agencies and marketing companies need to look at all demographics when representing their brand. Unless a client is bound to an ethnic-specific setting, such as a street scene in India, there is always a guarantee that advertisers will hire a diverse cast to ensure that everyone is represented.
Kang makes on-camera debut in “Cast Me!”
Now, Kang is taking a shot at being in the spotlight. He currently serves as one of the judges in “Cast Me!,” a new reality show on Myx TV that features aspiring actors competing for their big break. Myx TV is an entertainment network that targets Asian Americans, in addition to promoting edgy programming for multicultural millennials.
“Cast Me!,” based in Los Angeles at DK Casting, features Kang and a panel of judges who ultimately decide whether the contestants make it to the next stage of the audition process and book a gig.
For Kang, the hardest thing about being on camera is simply being on the other side of it.
And, given that he’s in a reality show, there are no second takes, which means the show captures his good and bad moments. This has been one of the toughest adjustments, but Kang is hoping to become more comfortable as he gains more experience.
“It’s so hard being in front of the camera!” said Kang. “I’d much rather be behind it and be the decision maker all day long.”
“Cast Me!” airs on Myx TV on Tuesdays at 8/7c and is available online at myxtv.com on Wednesdays.
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.