Besides kicking off the summer-movie season – fun fact time -- May is also Asian-American and Pacific-Islander Heritage Month in the United States.
Asians have traditionally been the least-represented ethnic group in Hollywood, whether on television or films. But we've come a long way since David Carradine squinted through "Kung Fu," or the embarrassing stereotypes of houseboys, geishas, and Long Duk Dong (damn you, black eye on "Sixteen Candles"). Today, Asians on primetime and multiplexes are sexy, funny, and taking on leading roles.
We're celebrating the month by profiling 10 young and talented Asian (which we expanded to include a couple of South Asian performers) rising stars.
A child model of Hmong heritage, Song landed a lucrative Disney contract at age 14. The Mouse House cast her in supporting roles in its made-for-TV movies and as the air-headish hotel heiress in the popular tween series "The Suite Life" and its spinoff "The Suite Deck," as well as her top-billed star-vehicle, "Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior." But after focusing on kid-friendly movies, she impressed us with her scene-stealing performance as Andrew Garfield's crazy girlfriend in "The Social Network."
Any Twi-Hard willing to look beyond Edward’s dazzling eyes and Jacob's rippled abs has definitely noticed Chon, who plays Bella's lovable school pal Eric Yorkie. In addition to the "Twilight" franchise, the Korean American will also star in the college-golf drama "From the Rough" opposite Taraji P. Henson and Tom Felton, the sci-fi comedy "Rock Jocks," and the high-school zombie-com "Detention of the Dead."
Harry Shum Jr.
As Shum’s character Mike Chang admitted on a recent episode of "Glee," he can't sing, but his mad dancing skills more than make up for his apparent lack of vocal talent. The second season of Fox's hit high-school musical shows off Shum's moves, which are also highlighted in two "Step Up" sequels, "Stomp the Yard," "Center Stage 2," and "You Got Served." The dancing hottie's heritage is Chinese, but he was actually born in Costa Rica.
A native California girl, Chung is a second-generation Korean American who has charmed audiences since appearing on MTV's "Real World: San Diego" in 2004 and "Road Rules Challenge" the following year. Since then, Chung has transitioned from reality to a mix of TV and theatrical roles, most memorably as one of the badass young women of "Sucker Punch," and as Ed Helms' fiancée in the upcoming comedy sequel "The Hangover Part II."
The gorgeous Indian actress had the good fortune to make her theatrical debut in Danny Boyle's Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire." That led to her off-screen romance with co-star Dev Patel and on-screen collaborations with prominent directors Woody Allen and Julian Schnabel. If that weren't enough, 2011 looks like Pinto's year: She's the female lead in this summer's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," the Greek mythology epic "The Immortals," and the 1930s-set Arab drama "Black Gold" with Antonia Banderas and Mark Strong.
Tawainese singer-songwriter Chou reportedly grew up idolizing Bruce Lee, so he said it was a dream come true to play Lee's iconic role as Kato in this year's "The Green Hornet" rehash. Internationally, the performer is better known as the "Justin Timberlake" of China, which explains his awesome vocals and piano playing in "Hornet." By brushing up on his English, the Asian superstar's charisma should translate perfectly to more Hollywood gigs.
The multi-talented Carpio is a singer, model, actress and budding Broadway star. We loved her beautifully melancholy rendition of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in Julie Taymor's "Across the Universe." Of Chinese and Filipino descent, Carpio showed off her sexier side opposite Bradley Cooper in the thriller "Limitless." The camera-ready Carpio also has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the half-dozen performers to suffer an injury while performing in Taymor and U2's ill-fated stage production of "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark."
Pancholy started making us laugh aloud in 2006 as both Mary-Louise Parker's devoted drug lackey Sanjay on "Weeds" and Alec Baldwin's awestruck assistant Jonathan on "30 Rock." But the Indian-American comedian -- who earned his Masters from the über-prestigious Yale School of Drama -- isn't just a supporting player on TV; he also has 13 feature films on his résumé, and is primed for bigger parts. This summer, Pancholy appears in the A-list ensemble comedy "Horrible Bosses" opposite Jennifer Aniston and Jasons Bateman and Sudeikis.
Since Yi clearly forgoes fashion trends for hoodies and her trademark smart-girl glasses and ponytail, she might not appreciate her inclusion in this "hot" list. But the cute Chinese-American comic is one talented performer. If you don't recognize her from her hilarious bit role as Martin Starr's marijuana-mellowed girlfriend in "Knocked Up," you probably saw her name romantically attached to fellow hipster ex Michael Cera's, culminating in her "documentary" about falling in love with him, "Paper Heart."
Speaking of Michael Cera, Wong played his on-screen girlfriend Knives Chau in "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World." Like her character, Wong is Chinese-Canadian and 100 percent adorable -- even if she's not as gifted with a sword. Wong has appeared on several Canadian television series, including the medical drama "The Hot Zone," which airs on ABC this summer. With her comic timing and on-screen charm, we expect to see more of her on the big screen too.