Yes, they came as refugees, but on ‘Queen Sugar’ this family from Vietnam gets to be so much more

by Ada Tseng

Khanh Phan (Tony Aidan Vo) introduces Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) to his older sister Trinh (Vivien Ngô) for the first time in the third season of “Queen Sugar” on OWN.
Credit: Skip Bolen © 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

“When I’ve seen Vietnamese characters in Hollywood, it seems like they’re always defined and centralized around the Vietnam War,” says Vo. “They’re always a victim of something, and what’s really refreshing about this storyline is that it’s a normal family living their lives.”

“I’ve played the sobbing mom clutching her child who died from the war multiple times, and it was nice to not have to cry and to have kids who were alive,” says Dinh. “I’m a refugee child [too], but there was always a lot of laughter in my family, even when my parents were working three jobs around the clock. Maybe it was part of our survival skills.”

Featured Interview with Project Yellow Dress

by Julia Ha

“I had always identified as Asian American, but this year was the first year that I really started to be proud of being Vietnamese. A year and a half ago, I was up for a TV show where a supporting character was Vietnamese. I didn’t get it, but it was the first time that seeing a big Vietnamese role in a major TV show and it just made me so excited and happy to see that this narrative was being told. This year I did No-No Boy, a show about the Japanese American experience after World War II, at the Pan Asian Repertory Theater. We had an all-Asian cast: 3 Filipino Americans, 1 Chinese American, 2 Japanese Americans, and 3 Vietnamese Americans. It was the very first time that I had worked with other Vietnamese actors and immediately we just had this bond. It’s crazy that it took me 5 years in the industry before having the opportunity to work with other Vietnamese folks.

After this, Queen Sugar came along and I got to work with even more Vietnamese actors like Vivien Ngo and Elyse Dinh. So everything in this past year has led me back to my roots and it has been so thrilling. My mom has just been so excited and proud to see me coming into my heritage and my identity and having a real interest in learning more. I even got into The Sympathizer, a Pulitzer Prize Winning novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen, about a Vietnamese Spy turned Refugee. It was really neat to read a book that I identified with so much, and one that is now a popular book in mainstream literature.”