What is Ken Leung’s (The Night Shift) “safe space”?

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Rick Yaeger: Hey, everyone. It’s Rick Yaeger here with “One Question Interviews,” the show where I ask famous people curious questions. Today’s guest plays Dr. Topher Zia on NBC’s “The Night Shift.” Please welcome Ken Leung.

Ken Leung: Yay. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

The Night Shift

Rick: There you are. Did I say it right? Is it Zia or Zia?

Ken: Zia.

Rick: Zia. Because they just call him Topher.

Ken: I don’t know that I’m ever referred to as Dr. Zia. Oh, maybe. No, in a couple of flashes. Yeah, it’s Zia, which happens to be the name of the New Mexico symbol.

Rick: I should know that. [laughs]

Ken: Yeah, you should. It’s cool. The Night Shift, our final episode just aired. We’re going to start up again in a couple of months, I think. The show, it’s a medical show. It’s about the night shift at a San Antonio trauma center. All the cases that come in, it’s the middle of the night, so we get all the craziest cases. It’s very action-packed and it’s adrenaline-pumping and it’s that type of show.

But it’s great. It’s the first show that I’ve been on with a cast of this size where everyone is and was tight from the very beginning. It’s like a family. Every group is like a family, but this one we really gelled right away.

Rick: Right away.

Ken: Right from the get-go, yeah.

Rick: It’s only been eight episodes.

Ken: Eight episodes.

Rick: Right. That’s a short time for any show to find its audience.

Ken: Yeah.

Rick: You guys managed to do it.

Ken: It’s also thanks to the audience. It’s the summer. Who knows what catches people’s interests sometimes. I’m really happy that it’s fun for people to watch, because it’s really fun for us to do.

Rick: For people, who haven’t watched it, watch it. [laughs] You’ve got till, we’re not sure, actually. It’s coming back for a second season, so you get the virtual high five for getting renewed for a second season, which is so hard these days.

Ken: Thanks to you all.

Rick: Yes. Virtual high fives to the whole fan base.

Ken: Yay.

Rick: But we’re not sure when it’s coming back because the scheduling hasn’t been announced yet.

Ken: It was on this summer, presumably it will be on next summer, but maybe the spring. That’s a network, people in other departments question.

Rick: Yeah. But when you’ve got fans, they will find you. People, look them up. Keep tabs on it.

Filipino American Museum

We talked a bit before the interview about some of your wife’s work with the Filipino American Museum.

Ken: Yeah, FAM. It’s incredible. Basically she’s been working for a Chinese American Museum for years. This one day a close friend was like, “Why don’t you do something for the Filipino American community since you’re Filipino American?” She was like, a bell rung. She started this roving museum called FAM, filipinoamericanmuseum.com. It’s very new, it’s still forming, but we’re engaging with the Filipino American community.

We held a few fundraisers that raised a lot of money for the typhoon victims last year. I’ve been a cheerleader and a support and on her team, but it’s really all her. There’s a group of us, but the heart of it is really all her. It all came from her just being curious in a way she’s never been before, I guess, about her Filipino heritage. It’s great, yeah.

Rick: Is there a website for people to go to?

Ken: Yeah, filipinoamericanmuseum.com, all spelled out.

Rick: OK. That will be right below your face.

Ken: Oh, cool.

Rick: I’ll link it up in the show notes as well. There you go, yeah.

Ken: Awesome.

Thoroughly Modern Millie

Rick: In researching you, I was trying to see if your little number from “Keeping the Faith” with Ben Stiller and Ed Norton, if I could find a soundtrack of you singing. I couldn’t find it, but what I did find was that you’re on the soundtrack to “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

Ken: Oh, God. Yeah.

Rick: I interview people from TV and movies mainly, but I’ve been talking to quite a few people about their Broadway experiences. I understand through this you have Broadway experience.

Ken: Yeah, I was in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Crazy. Crazy. [laughs] Totally accidentally. I went to see my friend Alec Mapa, who is great. He has a new movie out called “Baby Daddy.” He was doing a one-man cabaret show. I went to see it, and at this place, audience, people, sit together at the tables. Strangers sit together at tables.

I happened to sit next to Dick Scanlan, who was the librettist for Thoroughly Modern Millie. He at the time was looking for Chinese or Asian American actors to play these two Chinese roles in Thoroughly Modern Millie. He asked me if I sang like Alec was going to do in the show we were about to watch. I said, “No, not really.” But then later he asked Alec Mapa for suggestions of who else to ask, and he suggested me.

Dick Scanlan is the sort of person where that means something. “Oh, I’m hearing that name again. This is a sign.” He pursued me like from his heart, because he had a sense. It really wasn’t because I had any ability or was right for a musical show or anything. [laughs] It was just like, “Oh, I sat with him and Alec suggested him.”

Rick: “It’s a sign.”

Ken: “It’s a sign.” Fast forward a number of years and a number of readings and workshops and whatever of this show, I was on Broadway. It’s crazy.

Rick: For me, Broadway has always been bigger to me than TV or movies. Acting in front of people that can get up and leave. [laughs] Or worse. [laughs] It’s being on the front lines, quite literally. I really respect anyone that can do that, even reluctantly.

Ken: My dear friend Jeff Weiss used to say this thing about, he refused to do TV or film. Amazing, prodigious actor refused, because he was so pure about theater. He said once, he’s like, “The thing I like about the theater, if the ceiling falls, we all die. If an odor comes in here, we both, we’re together in this.” You’re right. It’s like a church. It’s a holy place.

Rick: It’s a truly shared experience. If you’re shooting a comedy film, you say your joke, and it’s going to be months before you find out if it’s funny.


The Interview

Rick: I’m going to get to the interview.

Ken: You suddenly became a Blues Brother.

Rick: I did. I need to get the shades, though. I’m going to grab a handful of these things. As you know, the show is called One Question Interviews. I have almost a thousand different questions, ranging from the profane to the profound. I’ll choose one at random, and you’ll answer it seriously or in a funny voice if you like, and everyone goes home happy. Sound good?

Ken: Awesome. Sounds great.

Rick: I’ve got a handful of them here. I’m just going to riffle down the side. You tell me when to stop.

Ken: Wait, you didn’t start from the top one.

Rick: I will start again, then. Here we go.

Ken: Stop.

Rick: Stop. OK, good. Do you want the top or the bottom?

Ken: The bottom.

Rick: The bottom. All right. Ken Leung, what is it about society that makes you so angry we might have to have a talk?

Ken: Automatic behavior.

Rick: Automatic behavior.

Ken: Like when the person asks you, “Did you find everything OK?” There’s nothing wrong with it per se. The only thing that makes it wrong or not preferable is that we’re not together. We’re putting on a show of being together, but we’re not. I guess it bothers me sometimes.

Rick: The thing that comes to my mind is when somebody asks you, “So, how’s it going?” and they don’t listen for an answer.

Ken: I don’t know.

Rick: It’s almost like the verbal version of the trust fall, where I’m going to lean back and you’re going to catch me.

Ken: I guess.

Rick: But you’re not really there, are you? [laughs] You just said you were going to be there.

Ken: Actually, being an actor is my way of doing the trust fall. You’re in a safe space. Actors take care of each other like nobody’s business. You’re taking care of each other’s hearts. You know this is hard. Sometimes you know you’re trying to work through something together, find something together, feel deeply about something in each other’s presence.

I need to feel safe with you in order to do that. Actors understand that intimately. It’s incredible. But it’s so funny, this whole question. It is a trust exercise, a falling backwards into a trust exercise. It is that. You the audience are the hands.

Rick: That’s a profound answer to a very simple question. [laughs]

Ken: I know. It just occurred to me. It occurred to both of us.

Rick: Right. It’s the quantum mechanics of theater. We’re all interconnected and we all play a part, even if it’s playing the part of the audience.

Ken: That’s right.

Rick: Well, that was amazing, everyone.

Ken: Awesome.

The Wrap-up

Rick: Thank you so much for coming on the show, Ken.

Ken: Thanks for having me. It’s so nice to meet you. I know you’re close friends with Grunny.

Rick: Yeah, we’re both friends with Grunny. Very good guy to know.

Ken: He is, yes.

Rick: He’s a great guy.

Ken: He’s the best.

Rick: Everyone check out Ken Leung on The Night Shift on NBC. Last we checked it was Tuesdays at 10 PM, 9 Central, but keep an eye out for when it returns next year, 2015, season two. It’s coming. Be ready for it. Also, check him out on “Lost.” The whole series is on Netflix. You can enjoy that again. I actually was introduced to Lost on Netflix and binge-watched the whole thing.

Ken: How long?

Rick: It took a few months. We watched an episode an evening, sometimes two.

Ken: Oh, wow. You had self-control.

Rick: Yeah. I guess I was technically not binge-watching.

Ken: Yeah, I wouldn’t call that binge watching. I’d call that regularly scheduled programming.

Rick: Right. It actually made quite a bit of sense. I had been warned by people that have said, “I got so confused,” and all of that. But if you watch it continuously, it makes perfect sense. I don’t know what they’re complaining about. [laughs]

Ken: Interesting.

Rick: Another thing we talked about earlier is, you are not on social networks. There’s no Twitter account, there’s no Facebook. If you see anyone posing as Ken on Twitter or Facebook, do not approach them. They are to be considered armed and dangerous, or perhaps a well-meaning fan. But if you do happen to get on Twitter or Facebook, just let me know. You have my email address.

Let me know. I’ll update this video and the page that will be devoted to this video at onequestioninterview.com, where I’m going to have a transcript of this whole interview along with links to all the cool stuff we talked about; the Filipino American Museum, for instance. They’ll all be linked up there so you can check out where to find those things.

OK, that’s it everyone. This is Rick Yaeger for One Question Interviews. Thank you so much for watching. Subscribe to the show in either the iTunes podcast directory or on YouTube. They’re both free, and then you end up finding out about the next episode as soon as it comes out. Sounds good? Sounds good. OK, everyone. Thanks again. Ba-bye!

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