Life has been busier than ever for filmmaker Jennifer Thym, who directed the new KoldCast TV series Mister French Taste. Here, she dishes on the story behind the series, the cast, Asian accents, and what’s on the horizon.
What is the story behind Mister French Taste? How did you get the idea for this show?
The show was co-created by our lead actor Olivier Malet and our producer Veronique Girma. They grew up together in France and met again in Hong Kong years later—how crazy is that? Olivier had been on a successful TV show in Macau and one night over lots and lots of wine, Mister French was created.
How did you get the series off the ground and to this point?
Olivier and Veronique watched my web series LUMINA and contacted me through the website about directing their show. Yeah, website submission really works! Actually, I’ve met lots of cool people through that website. I was busy producing a feature film at the time, but after that wrapped we got underway with the comedy series. Like with most independent projects, it took some time to get from concept to completion, but here we are!
What did you do to get funding for the series?
I have to give props to our fabulous producer Veronique for that! Mister French, like many other TV and web series, is supported by a mix of private investors and sponsors. For those of you looking to kick off a show of your own, I’ve seen alot of shows lately on sites like Kickstarter.
How did you find the lead cast (Osric Chau, Sarah Lian, and Olivier Malet)?
You know, it all goes back to a very cool artist community called alivenotdead.com, set up by Rotten Tomatoes founders Patrick Lee and Stephen Wang along with Asian star Daniel Wu. I met Sarah Lian through that site, and then cast her in a supporting lead role opposite Jason Tobin in the independent feature film Jasmine. When this opportunity came up she was top of my list for the show.
I met Osric Chau through an email intro by our mutual friend and Canadian actor Darren E. Scott and then we met in person at an alivenotdead networking event. I had seen his work in 2012 and really enjoyed his performance! When we started looking for the right actor to play spoiled hip-hop wannabe Leon, I reached out to him. Osric was up in Beijing shooting the Chinese remake of What Women Want and took the time to audition for us on Skype. He just blew us away.
Photo courtesy of Elden Cheung (101sight.com)
In North American mainstream sitcoms, Asian characters are still caricatures (think Han in 2 Broke Girls) if they even exist at all. Did you write the series intending to reflect a different kind of Asian protagonist? For example, none of the Asian characters had noticeable accents, only the character of Mister French Taste having a French accent (of course).
Accents are funny things… we watch films like Rome and 300 and as long as everyone speaks with a vague British accent we accept that as kosher for “ancient times”, though in reality, they wouldn’t even be speaking English! And explain to me the accent difference between Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in Avengers. As long as the story is good, I treat accents as creative preference.
I didn’t want Osric and Sarah to put on a simulated Cantonese accent for the show because it was entirely plausible that the characters, as young well-off Hong Kongers, had a Western accent to their English. It was after all a British colony! Plus lots of local Hong Kong families send their children abroad for college—often to Canada, the US and the UK—and they come back with those accents and the accompanying slang. Olivier’s French accent is real though!
On a personal level, I would love to see more Asian faces speaking with North American accents in entertainment, and where the roles are not necessarily specific to Asians—e.g. “girl next door” who just happens to be Asian, but she could have been white or black or whatever! And I’m not against kung-fu movies—I’m totally for them actually—but I would love to see a wider range of roles for Asians and more importantly, for mainstream audiences to accept them as believable in those roles.
What projects are you working on now?
Mister French Taste Season Two of course! We are in talks with potential sponsors and distribution channels, so it’s a very exciting time for us. I’m also in development on the feature version of my award-winning supernatural action short Bloodtraffick, as well as a gamer movie and a space movie.
You can catch the next episode of Mister French Taste on KoldCast TV on Monday May 14.
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