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The Cast Of ‘Ktown Cowboys’ Discuss Their New Film And Coming Of Age In L.A.'s Koreatown [EXCLUSIVE]

By Adrienne Stanley | March 30, 2015 06:27 PM EDT

“Ktown Cowboys” is a hilarious coming-of-age film which examines the Korean-American experience of a group of friends in Los Angeles, Koreatown. The world premier of the film was on March 15 at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2015, to critical acclaim. Based on the successful web series, “Ktown Cowboys” embraces the carefree nature of its source material, while approaching serious topics including embezzlement, dementia and adoption. The friendship between the film’s five central male characters serves as the heart of the story.

Danny Cho, who is one of the screenwriters, portrays struggling stand-up comedian Danny Cho. Restauranteur and liquor-store owner Sunn Wee is Sunny, a character who is reluctantly working side-by-side at a liquor-store with his aged father. Sunny struggles to keep his father out of a nursing home, while resisting the notion of taking over the family business. Bobby Choy, who releases indie folk as Big Phony, is Robby. Robby is an adoptee whose Caucasian parents are actively interested bringing him closer to Korean culture, even if that means sending their son back to his birth country.

Shane Yoon is Jason, a wealthy businessman, whose position is threatened by a partner in his company. The circle of friends is completed by Peter Jae who portrays Peter, an aspiring fashion designer who is not hesitant to join in on a brawl.

“Ktown Cowboys” heavily focuses on the experiences of its male characters but the film also incorporates strong women. Angie Kim portrays Mindy, Jason’s sassy niece who is prepared to stand up to the guys. Camilla Greenberg is Esther, Robby’s girlfriend, who is both dominant and supportive.

“Community” star Ken Jeong serves as the executive producer for the film. Directed by acclaimed music video auteur Daniel Park (D.PD), “Ktown Cowboys” takes viewers on a wild ride through the hidden nooks and crannies of Koreatown.

“Ktown Cowboys” will follow the success of its SXSW screening with a Los Angeles premiere on Saturday, April 25 at 8 PM. Space is limited but the cast and crew will be present for the screening. 

Kpopstarz had the opportunity to have a sit-down question and answer session with the cast.

Kpopstarz: How did the film adaptation of ‘Ktown Cowboys’ come about?

Danny Cho: D.PD [Daniel Park] and I didn’t think we were going to do a movie. We started getting lots of good attention and response for the web series. People wanted to know, “when is season two coming out?” Shane encouraged us to shoot a movie. We started writing and working. We were trying to figure out what kind of story we should tell. Was it going to be a continuation or something else?

Ultimately, we were five-years-older than when we had started the web series. I personally thought it would be silly if we made a movie about us partying and being stupid. I think we wanted to reflect on how we really feel, right now. Particularly, with the main members of the cast. The movie and the stories have more layers than the web series. You get to peek into the inner workings of the characters, including what they do during the daytime.

Kpopstarz: Why did you choose to film in LA Koreatown? 

Danny Cho: Before we shot the web series, no one had ever focused on K-Town. That’s where the director and I spent most of our formative years, partying. I thought that would be interesting and we knew that most people didn’t know about it. Once the web series came out, The Food Network visited Koreatown. Anthony Bourdain was eating at Sizzler, for some reason.

Before, you could barely find any non-Koreans there. Now, there are a lot of non-Koreans at restaurants. When they are there, they visit the bars, but they are still missing something about K-Town. That’s what the movie is about. It’s to show that you are there but you’re not fully aware of what is happening.

K-Town is not necessarily full blown Korean culture. It’s Korean-American culture and it’s different from Korean culture. I don’t want people to think this is Korean culture because it’s not; it’s kind of a like an older version of it. I like to think of it as a 1980s version of Korean culture. That’s when my parents immigrated and they never went back. It’s like the culture stopped.

Bobby Choy: Now, I live in Korea, so that speaks to me. The rules that I learned about Korean culture in K-Town is what I took with me to Korea. I thought I was ready to go and would be fine but when I got there, it was all new rules. It’s like a new place. The rules are those we didn’t even go by.

There are a lot of eyes on K-Town right now with all the food and travel shows. People are interested in K-Town. If they want to know a little more or the underground backstory, “KTown Cowboys” has come at the perfect time to take people further into that world.

Peter Jae: Touching on what both Danny and Bobby said, this is a story of being Korean-American. Not just K-Town. Not being Korean and not being American. It’s a story that focuses on children of immigrants who are trying to hold on to Korean culture while also trying to acclimate to being Americans. Some people can’t even speak Korean and that’s the story that we’re telling.

Shane Yoon: The whole movie is in English, by the way. It’s not in Spanish.

Kpopstarz: This is a question for Angie Kim and Camilla Greenberg. What was it like to be women acting in a male dominated project? 

Angie Kim: It is male dominated but what I loved about this role is that my character is very strong. She is dominant, as well. I don’t play the concubine or the shy, meek Asian girl. I also hold my own against the guys. I like the way the film portrays Asian women. I am very thankful.

Camilla Greenberg: I wasn’t in any scenes where we are in Koreatown. But I live in Los Angeles and I am familiar with the culture. I feel really blessed to be part of this movie because it appears to me that it isn’t just a comedic film. This is about a movement and it is a kind of a Cinderella story to look at how the project started and what it has become. I am kind of along for the ride and I feel honored to be part of the family, as the token white girl who is sober and doesn’t eat meat. I am the total opposite of the culture but I get to witness it.

Kpopstarz: That is a reverse stereotype, in a way. What are your thoughts on that?

Camilla Greenberg: I am the minority in the film. I am part of the diversity in the cast. I am happy to have this role.

Kpopstarz: What are your thoughts on the increased opportunities for Asian-American actors?

Peter Jae: No. I think it’s slowly happening. I don’t think it’s anything to jump for joy about. People think there are changes happening because there are Asians in commercials. But that is because they are trying to talk to Asian consumers. They know we spend a lot of money. How many times do you see Asian guys playing normal characters?

It’s almost like they are trying to fill a quota [in Hollywood] and are trying to get the token Asian guy in. The person will say five words every three episodes. The roles are still stereotypical. We have Daniel Dae Kim, which is great and Steven Yeun in ‘The Walking Dead.’ This is great but how many of these roles do we have? At casting calls, we have one role and we all try to fight for it like crabs in a bucket to get to the top.

I do stunts now just because I am trying to get any opportunity. I am not a stunt guy but I train in stunts. This was not what I came to Hollywood to do but I am willing to do it because I am hoping to squeeze in a line or two to get exposure. I am just hoping that I don’t break my neck as I am trying to do it. Those are the things that we do. I think it is all smoke and mirrors.

Shane Yoon: Actors are always looking for that breakthrough role. Whether it is in a film or TV show. You look at Asian male actors that have broken through in the past few years. Look at Ken Jeong in ‘The Hangover’ and Daniel Dae Kim in ‘Lost’ or Randall Park in ‘Fresh Off The Boat.’ All those actors have accents in their roles. Steven Yeun is probably one of the only contemporary Asian male actors who has broken through in a role without an accent. He is able to portray a normal guy.

Danny Cho: He fights zombies, also.

Peter Jae: It’s sad because even people in our community think that things are happening. I bartend in K-Town and people come up to me, thinking that I am really excited about the current times. Are we really supposed to jump for joy for the crumbs that are on the table? I am not happy about this. I want the cake and want to get fat.

Danny Cho: No you don’t.

Bobby Choy:  Then, you can go into comedy.

Camilla Greenberg: There needs to be an Asian Shonda Rhimes.

Peter Jae:  I am so happy about Shonda Rhimes because she is opening up the door for other opportunities. She is taking over ABC. I love what ABC is doing right now with “Fresh Off The Boat” and “Black-ish.” It’s opening mainstream America’s eyes to minorities and showing our layers, our different colors. Hopefully, it is humanizing us and helping to make the world colorblind.

Shane Yoon:  It starts with the writers and creators of these shows. I just auditioned for a NBC or ABC pilot. It focused on three different couples; one of the characters was a Korean-American lawyer. The writer of the show was a Korean woman. She wrote the male character as a muscular lawyer who is an alpha male. Brian Tee got the part. If you are familiar with him, you should look out for him. It’s a really cool role.

Kpopstarz: What were your thoughts on being able to screen the film at SXSW 2015 ? 

Sunn Wee I am happy to see that we are here as a community. Bobby was on the stage to play the guitar with No Brain. We were able to host the Geeks from Gangnam showcase and Seoulsonic. This shows that K-Town is a community. We all have each other’s back. Koreatown would not be what it is, if it wasn’t for the people and their support. It was nice to have that shown in Austin.
“Ktown Cowboys” is not-rated but parental discretion is advised for the film due to adult themes.

Tagged :  KTown Cowboys, SXSW 2015, danny cho, Bobby Choy, Peter Jae, Shane Yoon, Sunn Wee, Angie Kim, Camilla Greenberg

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