To close off the month, Chung held an event in NYC’s Chinatown to support her favorite Asian restaurant last Saturday and shared some of her favorites in other cities.
This AAPI Heritage month marks a time of unity, but unrest. With the continuous hate crimes occurring across the nation, many acknowledge the importance of creating impact this month. Korean-American actress Jamie Chung felt the impact of this sentiment. Chung decided to partner with whisky brand Johnnie Walker to celebrate Asian businesses affected by the pandemic. Along with Johnnie Walker, Chung was joined by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a civil rights organization focused on providing legal aid, which received funds from Johnnie Walker to continue their initiative.
Chung spoke exclusively to The Knockturnal on collaborating with Johnnie Walker, its’ major donation to AAJC, and sharing her favorite Asian restaurants across the country.
The Knockturnal: How did this partnership with Johnnie Walker come to be?
Jamie Chung: Well, it’s AAPI month and Johnnie Walker early in the year raised all this money to AAJC, which is Asian Americans Advancing Justice. They are a legal team, a nonprofit, they bring communities together, and they’ve done a lot for the Asian community, not just this year, but they’ve been around for a while. They’re kind of a long-term solution for real change. They raised a lot of money during a concert earlier in the year, and they asked me to partner up with them to celebrate AAPI month by highlighting some of my favorite Asian restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. I said yes because I come from a family of restaurant business owners and they have long since retired. But these businesses are the lifeline to not just our nuclear family, but to our extended family and generationally as well. So, supporting these businesses during such a tough time, especially during this pandemic, but also being the target for hate crimes. Our businesses were terrorized, and they still continue to be terrorized. I think this is just a great way to kind of not only celebrate AAPI month, but also help businesses that are struggling the most, and that need the most help bouncing back.
The Knockturnal: What were your thoughts about creating this in support of the AAPI community, especially with the rise of anti-Asian attacks and #StopAsianHate?
Jamie Chung: We’re always trying to find ways to activate and engage the community and also give back. I’ve been doing a lot of Clubhouse talks. I think it’s important to continue this conversation so we’ve been doing a lot of talks, a lot of IGTVs, and I love that brands like Johnnie Walker are actually giving back to the community, giving back to small businesses, and amplifying our voices. Yes, it’s important, but it’s also important that we have long term change and that’s why I’ve actually worked with AAJC previously for a different fundraiser, but I love that Johnnie Walker is taking the initiative to work with them specifically because they’re an advocacy group that is determined to do and make long term change.
The Knockturnal: You partnered up with Nom Wаh Teа Pаrlor in New York’s Chinatown to host an event Saturday, May 22. Can you talk about highlighting that restaurant and your favorite Asian restaurants across the US?
Jamie Chung: Yes, we are so excited! We just want to spread a little bit of joy. I think it’s a great way to wrap up AAPI month by giving a taste of Nom Wаh Teа Pаrlor which is a great dim sum restaurant in Chinatown. It’s a place that my husband and I and our friends frequently visit. During the pandemic, we were always trying to support the business by getting takeout. Their food is so good, and we can’t wait to share that with people. We want to help drive people to that area, and also the businesses around there. From three to five, we gave out some delicious food and we also gave out Johnnie Walker. We’re really trying to bring some joy to that entire neighborhood.
The Knockturnal: Since you’re working with Johnnie Walker, what’s your favorite cocktail?
Jamie Chung: During the summer, you can blend ice, Johnnie Walker, and then add a little bit of pineapple or any kind of citrus, and it is very delicious. That’s kind of my summer drink.
The Knockturnal: How did Asian American Advancing Justice’s (AAJC) beliefs really connect with yours?
Jamie Chung: After the Atlanta shooting, we thought of what we can do. AAJC is actually a coalition of five different firms. There’s the Atlanta office, there’s San Francisco, which is the Asian Law Caucus, which is where I’m from. There’s Chicago, Los Angeles, and it’s a nonprofit organization that provides legal funds for not only refugees, but it also organizes advocacy groups to bring local and federal legislators together to try and make policy changes. They’re a group that helps make policy for equal rights. My thing is as long as everyone’s treated equally, as long as our rights are protected, that’s important. I think the number one source of all of it is hate, and that’s the injustice that we just need to end. We need a fair justice system. We need to end the hate. There are groups out there that can help like AAJC. During the spike of hate crimes, you could log into their website and if you experience microaggressions or any sort of hate crime, you can report it there on their website anonymously. There are also resources there to help you connect with other community members. The whole thing is about bringing our community together. They also have something that’s really interesting to me with everything that’s happening in terms of violence towards Asian Americans. There’s a whole course that you can take called “Hollaback.” It teaches you to de-escalate the situation and to intervene safely as a witness, which I think is really important. You just want to help spread the word because I think of my parents all the time, and they’re in San Francisco and I’m all the way in New York, but as long as we can provide them with these resources and information it could possibly be lifesaving.
The Knockturnal: You’ve been an actress for over a decade. Do you believe we’ve made progress towards having more Asian representation in the media?
Jamie Chung: No. It’s very slow progress. It’s great to be optimistic, but I think we have such a long way to go, and it’s quite daunting. There was a recent study by Dr. Nancy Wang Yuen and Dr. Stacy L. Smith, and they came up with all these numbers about representation in the media. They have all the numbers of AAPI leads and co-leads in 44 films that came out last year which is zero. The number of AAPI leads and co-leads of women 40 plus years was zero. If you go to @goldhouseco on Instagram. They recently published the study, and I always thought that we’re doing okay and it’s time for Asian stories and storytellers. Then, we’re looking at the numbers, and Dwayne Johnson made 14 films. Last year, Constance Wu was in two, Ryan Potter was in one, and Steven Yeun was in one. I don’t think there’s enough representation. I don’t think that we’ve had our time to really own our stories. I do think that this is just the beginning, and that’s fine. But, do I think we’ve come very far and there’s fair representation? I would say no, we’re not even close. We have a long way to go, but there are these great writer mentorships through multiple organizations, as well as, different studios who are helping us amplify Asian voices. Whether it’s HBO APA Visionaries, which is a short film contest with not only a cash prize but having their short film streaming on HBO and HBO max. That’s huge so I do think there’s a lot of programs out there to help Asian American storytellers. But, I do think that we have a long way to go in terms of pushing the rock up the hill. I think all Asian actors who’ve been working for the last 10 years had a major challenge of speaking out before. Now, we’re at a place where we want a true representation of our experiences and owning the narrative. Becoming our own storytellers and I think that is the phase that we’re in.
The Knockturnal: You play Ji-Ah on HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country.’ How was it starring in such a well-received show?
Jamie Chung: I learned so much from being on that show. It was a crack in the door in terms of empathizing or trying to understand the Black experience in America and the adversities that they had to overcome and still have to overcome. So it was eye-opening, but it was so refreshing and so different and so inspiring to be able to see Black leads in a genre that hasn’t happened before. Which to me is insane. We’re in 2021, we don’t see that. Seeing Jurnee Smollett in one episode where it felt like ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ just brought so much nostalgia, but with all these refreshing faces and amazing talent. So in terms of story, there was so much depth, but in the genres of Horror and Sci-fi, and it was so cool to be a part of it because they were so generous enough to showcase an episode that took place in Korea. We’re talking about the Korean War from the perspective of a Korean woman and a Black soldier. I have never seen that before even when I had to study, or when I was diving into this piece. I realized that all of the stories about the Korean War that were available to me in English were from a white soldier’s experience. To me, the show is groundbreaking. It’s the best thing that I’ve ever worked on in my entire life.
The Knockturnal: What are your hopes for furthering Asian voices in the media when this month ends?
Jamie Chung: It’s exhausting, but this conversation needs to continue. It needs to continue not only within our communities but with other communities. I do truly believe that we are so much stronger in numbers. I do think that beautiful things happen when we come together. Once we realize that our struggles are quite similar, very different, but very similar. It’s about keeping that conversation alive. I believe that art heals, and I believe that I will continue to make art that inspires me but also is a true reflection of what I’m experiencing and make real, authentic stories. I sold a show with a really talented writer, Richard Manis, and we’re in the works with a studio to develop a pilot, but I’m inspired to take control of the narrative and I really want to inspire other storytellers to do the same. I think it’s also continuing to support all of these grassroot organizations or nonprofit organizations like AAJC. But, I think what’s most important to me and what I’m most passionate about is creating art to heal.
The Knockturnal: Any upcoming projects that you want to reveal? The pilot sounds great! Could you tell us a bit about it?
Jamie Chung: I think it really dives into being in an interracial relationship, and the cultural clashes that come with that. When you pull back all of the problems layer by layer, it’s just about love. It’s about love and making it work, which is crazy. Also, another show that I’m currently working on is ‘Dexter.’ We’re doing the revival series. I have a movie called ‘The Misfits’ that comes out in June starring Nick Cannon, Pierce Brosnan, and Hermione Corfield. It’s a really fun heist movie and you can still catch ‘Lovecraft Country’ on HBO or HBO max.
You can enjoy Chung’s favorite Johnnie Walker cocktail “the Fuzhou Highball” by Mixologist Danny Louie at home with the following ingredients:
- 1.5 oz Johnnie Walker Black Label (we can include a full 750ml bottle)
- 0.5 oz Jasmine Tea Syrup
- 4 oz Sparkling Water
- Cucumber Slice + Lemon Peel for garnish
- Jasmine Tea Syrup: Boil 8oz water per 1 tea bag, add 8oz cane sugar to boiling tea mixture let cool
- Highball glass + straw
Additionally, for Johnnie Walker, the winning message behind their brand is simple.
“Now more than ever, it is so important to show our support for local AAPI businesses. Not only were these establishments hit hard during the pandemic, but also from the rise in Asian hate crimes across the country.”
Visit www.advancingjustice-aajc.org to learn more about Asian Americans Advancing Justice and ways to stand up for Asian voices.