New Series Hopes to Bring Diversity to Web Streaming Platforms

Monica Luhar for NBC News Asian America, November 5, 2015

Lynn Chen stars as Peggy Lee in the teaser for The Lees of Los Angeles Photo Credit Phong Le

A six-minute teaser has been released for “The Lees of Los Angeles,” a potential TV series that co-creator Phong Le hopes will gain enough of a following to grab the attention of Hollywood executives.

“There are two great shows featuring Asian-American families that are doing extremely well on network TV right now: ‘Fresh off the Boat’ and ‘Dr. Ken,'” Le told NBC News. “We’re hoping to have an opportunity to tell our story on a different platform in a different way.”

If the series gets picked up, Le hopes to turn it into a half-hour comedy/drama for a cable network or subscription service. The first season would include a 10-episode arc, Le said.

The teaser, which was released Oct. 27 on YouTube, follows the story of Peggy Lee (played by Lynn Chen, co-founder of the blog Thick Dumpling Skin) as she anxiously prepares to introduce her Caucasian musician boyfriend to her “highly judgmental family.”

The teaser also introduces Peggy’s brothers (played by “Supernatural” actor Orsic Chau and also by Le himself), her parents (played by veteran actors Elizabeth Sung, whose credits include “The Joy Luck Club” and “The Sopranos,” and Jim Lau, seen in “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Fear the Walking Dead”) and sets up the conflict the show plans to tackle. The show also includes a cameo from American Authors lead vocalist Zac Barnett.

Le, who co-created the series with writer and producer Nick Morris, describes the Lees as a family that has achieved the American dream while navigating the struggles that come along with cultural and generational divides.

“Like most families with parents who emigrated over from another country and had children that were born and raised in America, a huge cultural divide exists between them,” Le said. “Having the family live in such a diverse and eccentric city like Los Angeles exacerbates this cultural divide, which adds to the drama and also the comedy.”

Le hopes to use the series as a chance to shatter stereotypes and call on Hollywood executives to create and feature more diverse content.

“We wanted to create more content for Asian-American actors where the roles aren’t caricatures of what many perceive us to be. Yet, we still want to have fun and not take ourselves too seriously while doing it,” he said.

According to GLAAD’s 2015-2016 annual “Where We Are On TV” report, 53 regular characters are Asian-Pacific Islander—a 2 percent increase from the previous year.

Le is hopeful there is a shift occurring in Hollywood toward telling more diverse stories. Along with shows like “Fresh Off the Boat” and Aziz Ansari’s upcoming Netflix series, “Master of None” leading the way, new shows in development such as “Eat Pray Thug” and “I Love Lakshmi” have the potential to continue the upward trend.
“We still have a long way to go, but I think Hollywood has made significant progress in the last few years as far as diverse content goes…We need more people like Eddie Huang, Margaret Cho and Aziz Ansari, for example, to create and bring their unique stories to life. If we have more diverse content creators telling interesting stories, I believe Hollywood executives will not be able to ignore them for long,” Le said.

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