Clyde Kusatsu - Interview Transcript
[00:00:00] yeah, because I feel like there’s a lot of Japanese American culture is its own. It’s its own entity and I love it. And so getting connected with other people is really great.
Clyde Kusatsu: Well, you know, the Japanese culture, it depends upon where you were born, you know? And then, I mean, my God, I mean, the, the whole thing about the Japanese culture is if the nail stands up, it’s your duty to pound it down. So anytime you seek to spotlight or bring attention, that’s shame. And so one thing in Hawaii, that was very much stressed in the community, shame, you know, Japanese wouldn’t be bad person.
Wouldn’t do this, do that. must be shamed for the parents. And the thing about it is the irony of it is the Japanese in Hawaii, worked on keeping, retaining the culture and everything. But when they went to Japan, they were looked like as country bumpkins, cause a dialect, nobody spoke in that Japanese anymore.
And then they were known as, you know, they went, they were farmers or whatever, but, it’s [00:01:00] really weird. I mean, in 1981, I was in Kyoto for like about three months doing a film for John Frankenheimer and I was like, you know, the cuisine, it looks beautiful. Well presented. It has no taste. And then somebody said, no, no, no, you’re for Hiroshima.
Right. So Yeah, Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, no, it tastes better there. There’s. we’re used to, I’m used to, with the taste buds developed from the Hiroshima people, not from, because in Kyoto, everything was about how a kid in that aisle, pretty the presentation. That’s the beauty. It’s like the taste, you know, you know, that kind of a thing, but it’s, it’s interesting.
Masami Moriya: I’ve never been, I’ve never been Japan. My dad’s never been Japan and his mother has never been in Japan. And so I just, I’m looking forward to that day to seeing know what those differences are, how I fit in. I probably won’t fit in at all. but just to, just to go back and see a lot of different things that I wish I could go to.
I know my family has a, there was my [00:02:00] great-great-grandfather came over. He sent money back to his father and his parents said that they could stop making boats, but they can own land to own an orange farm on an island off Hiroshima. And actually there’s an orange farm there. I don’t think we own it anymore, but I’m like, it, it survives.
Clyde Kusatsu: Well, the thing about it is there’ll be surprised unless it’s your father or whatever. It was a big movement in Hawaii. Cause it was,in Japan, like my great grandma, my great grandfather lived to like 96 and he went through like three wives or whatever. He went back to Japan, but there were people that lived on the land.
Like, and then after a certain amount of time, you become sort of like,squatters who, who own the rights to be on the land. So basically they own the land, but if you were supposed to, to sell it, you still have to go to the original deed older. So though at one point there were a lot of disappointed family in [00:03:00] Hawaii and they thought they’d hit the gold mine, but they didn’t And everybody was trying to be very nice because they wanted the land. So it’s sort of like another kind of, in a way disappointing,fracturing the balloon of expectation for people. We think, my, my Homeland, I mean, there was a reason why you left the Homeland. It wasn’t about opportunity in the Homeland, you know?
So it’s, it’s kind of interesting. It’s an interesting. But I remember in Kyoto,the, I I’d say to the interpreter, there was a sign of me. I said, do you know, it’s very funny that, when I ask meaning, do you understand English? They giggle? And the woman said, well, you have to understand. Cause that’s a song.
you look at Japanese, but you’re not. And it’s just the way we are, the way we were born, the, culturally and also spatially, how we take the space up, you know, in Japan, it’s the whole idea is into yourself. So you can have, we [00:04:00] always knew it was Saturday and Kyoto, Saturday and Sunday because the OBA channels and everything would come to kilter to see all the temples.
Clyde Kusatsu: So it was nothing for 25 to go into the elevator because you’re just into yourself. Right? Does the space doesn’t matter? So there’s a little thing where you just go like this. If you’re in a crowd, Mitch means, excuse me, let me go through. And so that’s, that’s how they deal with space, cause it’s all interior and everything, and it’s just why they can have the essence of nature, especially in culture, over the little courtyard with the CR, because then it fall winter, spring, summer.
It affects the garden and you have a little view captured a little view of nature there. And I went, oh, that’s, that’s interesting. you know I mean, we’re used to in America for like the cran view right here and there at the grand view, and it’s not, it’s how you accomplish a sense of being in a smaller space.
There’s a great, there’s a great [00:05:00] documentary about how people design homes now in the little space, it’s incredible how you can do a four story house that gives a spacious feeling that you’re in a bigger house, but you’re not, you’re in like, almost like a closet in a way. but everything is structured so that underneath the stairs, there’s this, this, this, or whatever, you know, but, it’s those little things.
So one of the things was very concerning,for being an actor is that you’re an American actor in America, gene coming into Japan to play a Japanese Japanese, but it just so happened. I was with east west players for like about nine, 10 years where I learned stuff of how to wear the chemo, know how to tie Hocoma and how to move in, Zodiac and TBI and, and how to pronounce certain things.
Cause Mako wa was my mentor in many respects. So when I did, and I was playing Japanese [00:06:00] Japanese to, to shoot on the food end, which was the second time I worked with my full name. I was the guy that would go, what sensei Yoshida said is this is what is happening this way. You know, like in midway, I can remember we opened the film and the phone and I, and I’d get the rewrites, the pinks, the yellows, blues, and everything.
And he’d wind up with maybe two lines and I’ve got all the dialogue going. They relaunched the land-based bombers B 25 from aircraft carriers at 25, you know? And, but I went, yeah, but the camera’s going to be on him because, you know, it’s like, how old are they do it? What did they do? And I’m go, well, this is what they did.
But in, so in, in, in, in the, in the challenge, that’s was my role. So I was always dressed in traditional chemo Hocoma And I, I think there was a small scene where Scott Glenn’s character is going to use the ugly American. And I just go throw the book down and go [00:07:00] sambal. And three arrows hit the ground right next to the book.
Cause we’ve got archers and martial artists, you know, we train them and at the cut, the wardrobe guy and a couple of other. some very, very good because they have their eye watching, whether you’re true to it, because for those that are not is like, even though they don’t say anything, there is usually a inner amount of disdain and you know, that kind of a feeling about it.
But, it, it causes you as an actor to put in the extra time to do your research about who your characters, where does it fit in, in the story? like in midway, my character of commander Watanabe was real life character who was,Admiral Yamamoto Yamamotos aide. And in the books that? I read there was maybe he was just mentioned three times as commander Watanabe the aide.
So I wound up getting a book. two books, one was [00:08:00] called,summarize story. He was like an enlisted man became warrant officer. And he was the,he had the largest kill ratio as an ACE in the Japanese military. I mean, he, he survived the war, but he describes the brutal nature of, class structure officer’s structure where, the structure is like the captain could slap the Lieutenant who can punch the Sergeant.
The Sergeant could kick the private and then the prisoners, of course you have no honor. So they could stomp on the prisoners. And then there was another book called destroyer captain, which described maybe the first two chapters. the Japanese Annapolis was called ether Jima off of Hiroshima in Hiroshima bay, where the Naval base was.
And it described, the, training and discipline in forest. That’s why, when you see the movies, world war II movies made by the Japanese, there’s the, the leader at the head of the table and all the officers just looking straight ahead, they don’t [00:09:00] look at your commander. He was just listen, just as you would listen to the emperor, you could Not see the emperor that would be disrespectful to gaze upon another person.
And, but the, the thing that separated the Navy from the army was the Navy was based on, the British Navy. So it was a sense of formality and a culture in that respect, whereas to the army was more than the Germanic, model, very militaristic and very harsh and brutal, that it was part of the ingrained nature of it.
It was somebody who described it to me this way, that years ago you could go, in Japan, everything was just very kind of subdued a bit sometimes in Japan. when you drink, this allows you culturally allows you to be an asshole. He can tell your boss to go screw himself. And the next day. That’s fine.
You were drunk. You were, you were not, you, you know, [00:10:00] so, it’s it’s cause where we shot in Kyoto, the Guianan business district, the night district, you’d go there at night and you see all.
these guys and gals falling down of noxious behavior and this sort of likes is yeah. You and when the Philippines were noted for the six tours, Thailand and everything for the, for the Japanese, they’d go down there and act like complete buffoons and misogynist, you know, because back home they would not be that.
So it was there and it was the culture. And so it was like, I remember I’ve got, I have 27 years in recovery. And so,someone said, you know, cause I was a star in Japan, no alcoholics. So that’s why there’s a biggest island of denial in the country. There’s, there’s a big elephant walking down the whole archipelago.
And but the one thing I learned was that they don’t understand that kind of a truth because there’s no, I can’t drink an alcoholic. You have to say, [00:11:00] can’t drink because of malaria. they go, oh, okay. That’s fine. And you know, you’re not, you’re not, compromising your sobriety or anything like that because I’m grateful for that because, I th I, I feel that being sober and in recovery has allowed me to become that better actor because you couple it with, therapy and years of therapy, finding out how you tick and why you do these things and that it also health wise, you know, no smoking or drinking.
I think it also, extended my, physical range. So people say, how old are you? 73? You know, he’s like,
Masami Moriya: that?
Clyde Kusatsu: no, you know, that’s the thing, you know, so, which is good. And sometimes as the body begins to get a little creaky, whatever, but those are the, the interesting thing is for acting. It helps you become more,honest and truthful.
You’re not carrying [00:12:00] around a big secret because that’s one of the precepts, it’s, principles of and personalities. It’s about the principles one day at a time. And part of the principles is the truth of who you are. And a lot of times the most liberating thing is to say, this is what I am and people can’t it’s.
Difficult. I remember I was two years into sobriety when I was cast in paradise road that Bruce Barris for a director down in Australia and Malaysia. And it was based on a true story of a women, prisoners of war Dutch, British American, Australian, who are captured by the Japanese and putting these camps and treated very brutally.
But they survived by organizing a vocal orchestra, but people that remembered, so everybody was singing parts for the violin or whatever, and they combined it. And my character was based on a real life character who was very [00:13:00] brutal guy, but he was like a Sergeant. They called him the snake. And the thing is that in the course of it, you see him watch the women because above him is the captain and the Colonel of the camp, which was played by Saatchi mono and Stan egg.
He played the at Thai captain and fast forward, after the war and the war crimes trial, many of the women who were prisoners spoke. In support of the Sergeant, but he was executed nonetheless, however, the captain escaped and wound up being a politician in the diet. And in back in Japan, you survived a badly.
I mean, in that sense, but, what it was was that the fact of we’re able to, show usually in the war film, the Japanese are the bad guys, brutal, blah, blah, blah, blah. But, like Bruce Barrett’s versus while, you know, Clyde,[00:14:00] your character is the only male character. That’s again, just see some development, you know, and I see what I saw what he was doing.
Cause I may not have any dialogue, but the camera would cut and you would, this character would watch. And through his eyes, he slowly changed and you would stop in whatever way, any kind of the torture going on. And there was one scene Glenn close, played, the character where I pull her out of the week, work detail and marshal often into the forest or the jungle, with my rifle and the audience.
And everyone believes that I’m going to shoot her and kill her. And I find a clearing and I sit her down and at the other end and I start singing, the folk song of my village. I wanted to share with her and at the end, she’s crying. And I think the only English I say in the whole picture is. You like, then she knots and it was one of those moments where, Bruce said, now you get [00:15:00] to do the same.
I don’t know when we’re going to do it. so he says, you better learn, you better learn the song or you learn the song. And so I rehearsed it rehearse. So when we finally did it about maybe two weeks before the rap, you just float, you know? And so in, in it affected Glen Glenny, Glenny, didn’t expect to cry.
She just expect, you know, but it was one of those organic things that happened. Two characters are sharing what, a common thing that they have, even though they’re from different cultures. And in a way, my character was able to bring some humanity into what would normally been a stereotypic thing. Like, you know, Merry Christmas, Mr.
Lawrence or whatever the different things are. the brutality of it all is. And an interesting anecdote is that, my dialogue in technical advisor coach, for the film was a guy named, is a guy named Tomo Mueller. And when [00:16:00] he first introduced himself to me, you know, we’re talking, I said, oh, well, yes, you know, you’re from Japan.
And, I, I must say that I, in 1981, I did a film with John. Frankenheimer called the challenge with the furniture Shiro and in which Frankenheimer was able to get three more of the original seven samurai actors in there, like Shimada, Inaba and Sejima Gucci and saves you, me a Gucci in the film was a classic.
The swordsman would practice in the forest, Glen. He was just expert of it all. And Tomo looked at me and went, it’s my father and a lot. What’s your father. Whew. Because my career is, I find it interesting is been sometimes on the journey, a series of six degrees of separation that I never even thought about, I didn’t even know about.
so that kind of connection where all of a sudden, excuse me, a second. Can you stop please?
Masami Moriya: Sure.
Clyde Kusatsu: [00:17:00] That’s breakfast being deposited in front of my door.
Masami Moriya: If you need eat something, please feel free to go ahead and jump away.
Clyde Kusatsu: Okay. So,
so anyway, what was it? The six degrees of separation is that I thought here it was, you know, 1981 in 25 years later, I’m working with the son of one of the actors and say, gee, I was like, kind of shocked in a way, cause I’m short, like I’m at five, five maybe, or maybe less. Now that I’m 73 and you’re kind of shrink and CG was tiny back then.
it was like, and he had to be taught how to click and draw the customer and everything. I went really because in the movie it was like, you know, that kind of, it was like,so not being able to do the whole thing, you know, but what it is is just understanding the,that kind of performance well, which is what east west players also, because Mako [00:18:00] had us do in different kind of, shows, productions where you have to utilize the and how to handle it and how to treat it with reverence or whatever.
Clyde Kusatsu: And so I find that the point being is that, you know, life. various things, you have to be observant, different cultures and, behavior, but they all come into contact when you organically attempting to create a character and build on the character, you know, it’s like, you know, so it’s like, if I may, there was another incidence of this,
Masami Moriya: to do things, if I thought I heard the doorbell ring again, did someone deliver more things?
Clyde Kusatsu: No, no,
Masami Moriya: Oh, okay. I thought it went, well, yeah, well, we can get into it a little. I do want to get to a few points too, cause I know he’d go on for awhile is well, cause I’d love to hear one of the biggest things when I saw it.
Like even when you’re on your IMDV even you started in 1970, I’d love to hear more about when you started, how, what, like what got you into acting, how [00:19:00] you got there and then, but you’ve also been a working actor every year, since 1974, at least just in filming 73, at least since, since, since fulfillment TV, I’m sure.
And you’ve done tons of theater too, so I’d love to hear. and our audience would love to hear like how you got started. Cause it’s been so long and, but also just, we want to know what it was like back then.
Clyde Kusatsu: Well, the sixties and seventies were what you expect, not very much enlightened. You know, things are beginning to stir. Everything was before that was sort of like, know your place and, you’re not supposed to, aspire beyond what your world is. but there’s some, some reason in Hawaii growing up, I think my salvation was TV in the fifties.
They had one TV station, kg MB, and then was a CVS affiliate. So you saw the CBS shows. Then another station group would open up a channel [00:20:00] four, which I think was ABC at the time. And then another one for NBC and what they had to do to fill out the, the time was they had bought all the libraries from the Warner brothers, film libraries, MGM Columbia, Paramont so in essence, it needs to have a thing like playoffs, theater, morning theater.
And I, I grew up watching all these movies as well as Warner brothers, Looney tunes, cartoons, which were very advanced. Back then everybody thought it was for, for kids, but it was really for adults like Glover, double entendre is in a way a learned, comic timing in, how to break that. Fourth wall is one, it comes in threes.
1, 2, 3, the reaction to the camera, which was Daffy duck or Sylvester or Elmer Fudd or Porky when they realized, well I’ve been had boom, [00:21:00] boom. And that moment. So it was like comedies and threes, how to break that fourth wall judiciously. And then I just thought, what was really, kind of inspiring was watching your Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland movies going, Hey, let’s do a show.
I got a space, there’s a barn. Anybody got chairs, let’s have us sweep out the know and they’d make a show. And it would be fantastic. It was like, God got time. You know, I like to do that. And then I got involved. cause I was one of those guys who was in the band, played the clarinet and the string bass.
I wasn’t sports minded because I didn’t feel I had, coordination as a,athlete or, or whatever the predisposition. But I remember in doing high school musicals, I could follow the choreography. I can do the basic dance numbers and everything. And I started off at 14. I was in the choir. And they were doing a production of guys and dolls at Ilani at that time.
[00:22:00] Iolani school was an Episcopal boys school, one of the oldest second oldest to porthole, which is where famously Obama win, and put home originally was founded in 1841 for the missionary kids. So it was basically a Holly or all white school was formed by Episcopals on Maui in 1863 for the education of the Asians, Chinese, Japanese, whatever.
And then they finally moved to, they eventually moved and it was also,sponsored by, I think command may or the third and his wife, they sponsored the school and then they moved to Honolulu. And at one point when I was there from seventh to 12th grade, the big, one of the most famous alumni was Sonia Sen was educated there, the father of the Chinese Republic or whatever,
Masami Moriya: Okay.
Clyde Kusatsu: you know, it’s way back. And, but anyway, getting back to it. And [00:23:00] so my choir teacher, Helen know, Lee said,someone dropped out on the chorus. Would you like to replace the person? I never auditioned because I was scared to, I was, didn’t have the guts to audition because you have to put yourself on the line. And so I got plopped in learning the music to learn the songs and everything, and it discovered a whole new world there because there were girls because they were brought in from Belinda hall, from the priory St.
Andrew’s primary, where it was at this couple girls school and wherever there’s some talents from doing a high school production. So it’s the only time us all boys school prep prep is, would see girls. I mean, part of the reason you joined the choir, because you’d leave the campus to go into the other, you know, chapel service, whatever, and sing.
And as you’re walking along going, Hey, take a look at that one, you know, and he’s comparing notes. so anyway, that was that kind of a very deep reasoning about it. But I discovered, I found my world. I found my people, I found where I would want to be. And [00:24:00] so from then on, it was the dream was, you know, to take classes and do this and do that.
And I wanted to be a theater major. And in 1966 to be a theater majors, like, what are you thinking about? Why there’s nothing there? You know? So anyway, The summer of 66, I was, I started my second summer job back at Dole pineapple cannery working for a buck an hour. And I get a call because that year, hurt Rogers, brought summer professional summer stock theater to Honolulu, Hawaii civic, light opera.
He called it. And if you’ve ever been to Honolulu, there’s the concert hall. And it was a brand new concert hall and the whole convention center auditorium type of thing. And so, that was the home for it, but there were six musicals are going to be done with, stars from the, from the, the business coming over and, giving professional plays.
And the third show was, the king and I with an blaze [00:25:00] starring and Blyth was an MGM starlet and a New York actor named Joel Fabiani Fabiani. And, they were, they needed to find that crown prince locally cast. So,my choir teacher, Helen Ali,you know, would you call, suggested me that I audition and, one of the, the musical director, Donald yap, he was originally from Hawaii, but.
With conductor in New York theater and stuff like that. So client Casazza Jesus, what kind of name is that? You know, anyway, long story short, I want to be in cashed. So I was the crown prince and it was like on this huge stage 1500 people in the auditorium. And like, I shot, I was like this classic thing, even when I wasn’t on IBS, on the wings, watching the show, you know, I mean, even though this is like out of a story, the S the assistant stage manager taps me on the shoulder, like, keep on doing that.
That’s how you learn, you know, so anyway, I wound up being invited to be, an intern, unpaid intern for the [00:26:00] rest of the season. So I wound up, then I wound up going on stage a couple of performances with south Pacific,that start,Howard keel, who we bonded. But in the meantime, I got, I had applied, for different theater departments and I got accepted to Northwestern university shadow, a famed, theater department there.
I don’t know how they did. I mean, for some reason I got in, but I thought, Hey, I’m pretty good. You know, I’ve got summer stock and as a freshmen, and I went, I got whittled down because a lot of these kids, there were theater majors were really. Mickey and Judy type of, they did theater as apprentices.
Clyde Kusatsu: They did things in Vermont, in Maine, in Pennsylvania. And so I felt like, Ooh, and then, but you still felt camaraderie. And then, as a freshmen, middle of freshman year, I got stopped in the hallway by professor went, why do you want to be an actor? There’s only king and I, and TSL the August moon. How can you [00:27:00] possibly make a living?
I couldn’t say anything. I was like, not only a dumbfounded, shocked, but deflated at the same time. I went back home to Hawaii and I wound up in a night job, summer job, at Primo beer, the brewery from four to 12 at night, sometimes a graveyard shift from 12 to eight, they had free beer. And here I am with all these, blue collar workers.
Right. Real Hawaii, local kind of guys, Hey bro, what are you reading? is a Lord of the rings. What’s that about? Well,
you know, they got these L’s and orcs and hobbits. Oh yeah. You know, and I thought, nah, this is not the world I want to be. And you know, but anyway, you play it wrong. You, you don’t, you become one of the people, you, you just do your job.
And then I thought if I’m going to have to work 10 times harder to be better and to be noticed. That’s what I got to do. And so I started that sophomore year [00:28:00] auditioning for directing scenes, studio shows, children’s theater and slowly long story short within the three years, sophomore, junior, and senior year, I became a working member of the theater department.
Half the professors would cast me half wouldn’t. Those that didn’t would, but those who didn’t would hold me as an example of a working actor at Northwest. All right. Do you want to, you know, and then in between I wound up doing summer stock theater in grand lake, Colorado, Michigan city, Indiana, Aspen, Colorado.
I mean, I think grand lake, we did six shows. We got paid 25 bucks a week, you know, and we, that type of thing then the next summer in Michigan city, it was $50, but if you were a stage manager, got an extra 75. So I was a stage manager and an actor, so I could make more money, you know, enough money at that time to be able to get home after the summer was over.
but what it did [00:29:00] was in the course of college and summer stock, I did a lot of character roles, you know, the gangster. The father and the Fantastics, I did never have never done any Asian or Oriental roles at the time. So in a way, the challenge was to get the audience to accept you. I was able to, people would say, yeah, when you got on stage in that restoration comedy and you’re saying, Hey, my name is Spock is shores is what, you know, it’s sort of like startling, but then yeah, that sounds good.
Clyde Kusatsu: That sounds good. Yes. So like, if you notice, if you watch any,shows in the UK, you’ll find it. So assimilated, you know, the procedurals cops and everything, you’ve got to commander, who’s a south Asian, who’s having an affair with a white detective or a white woman is having an affair with a black detective or they’re Asians.
They’re, you know, it’s, it’s all, and it’s no big thing. There’s no big just [00:30:00] part of the British scene, but that was what flash forward back to the sixties and seventies. That was my kind of objective was to why can’t we just be seen as normal. Right. And I didn’t, it took me to come to Hollywood in 71 to get hit in the face where no, no, no, you’re you’re Oriental.
And at that time, the rules were kind of limited, you know, maybe laundry man, dry cleaners or whatever, or if there was a. Period thing, Tong, the villain or a war or whatever. and that’s what we would say. Fate happened in that in 71, I had gotten my equity card because I was cast musical called street scene by the inner city.
Cultural center was specifically formed to have multi-racial casting and everything like that. They were ahead of their time. And, so anyway, I got my equity card from that and I met [00:31:00] a gal named Sumi HADU who was Filipino American, but she was also a member of east west players. And at that time, this was in 1971 east west players are sort of like in kind of a sabbatical in a way because the artistic director of Mako was in Japan filming a passion project of his called silence about missionary Christian missionaries in Japan.
And, so she took me down to the little rented space that they have. And I got shocked because a lot of the guys that started coming in for rehearsal were like, I’m saying to myself, shut the gay. I’ve never seen Asian gays before. I was like, oh, Is there any guys coming in and then especially what killed it was one guy was walked in a person walked in we’re in address or, or like, you know, like a sarong or something like that and went, oh, Okay.
That’s you know, no, I don’t think so. You know, and, so I spent,
71, [00:32:00] you know, just working in a drug store and then in 72 inner city did a production of, the gold watch that was written by Mamoko eco from Chicago. She was Japanese American playwright. Mako was the star of it. yeah.
Mako was a star Nobel McCarthy played the wife and I got cast as Tanaka, the family friend.
Masami Moriya: And,I keep thinking. It’s Muno McCarthy as the wife too. And it’s not nowhere McCarthy
Clyde Kusatsu: original slate?
Masami Moriya: oh, and the original one.
Clyde Kusatsu: Yeah, we did in 72, not the film blend,
Masami Moriya: it. Got it.
Clyde Kusatsu: you know? so this is a stage. So I remember the first day of rehearsal, there was Mako and Maga. When I applied and went shit. Mike was talking to me because I knew Mako from when I was in college, when the sand pebbles. And it was like blew me away.
His performance blew me away, especially as working with Steve McQueen, the whole introductory scene in the boiler room, steam, this and that being, understanding how the steam engine works. [00:33:00] And then when he was nominated for an academy award that year, I was like, wow, that’s great. I mean, he didn’t win. But,it was the first time such an impression was made on me because it was like a, a real character.
It wasn’t like the Asians you saw in the world war II films were like really broad character, kinda. There was no subtlety, right? Everything was stereotypic and everything. But with Marco’s character, there was this kind of,realism and naturalism there. And especially working with McQueen because McQueen had this kind of charisma and it. was not about the dialogue he said, but it was about the way you knew he was like Jake Homan.
You knew that he was good at a rifle. There’s a scene where Morocco’s character is being pursued by the crowd because he’s on an American gunship gunboat and Jake has Got to stop Mako from being tortured and you see him make a decision, run up, get a grand rifle, check the sculpture, make it, suit the whole [00:34:00] thing.
Then getting up and making sure he’s taking aim to put his good friend. Out of, out of his misery. So he wouldn’t suffer it from more torture, but when you watch it, you’re going shit. He knows how to handle that rifle. He knows what he’s doing when he’s doing the site, the, all those little things, the behavior, the sense memory, all that kind of stuff was just like, wow.
Which is kind of what Mako in his performance was as well. So anyway, getting back to the gold watch, long story short, he and I bonded together, I think because also he said I was one of the only one of two, two Asian actors who were trained at Northwestern. And there was another guy, Ernest Hurghada from Hawaii who went to Lambda in London and studied in Paris.
It’s gender Crowe, who was, Marcel Marceau is teacher, in mine. And I remember seeing Ernie, in a production of Oliver, [00:35:00] Oliver, the musical Oliver at the, Honolulu, community theater. And I thought, who’s this guy. Cause he walked in and, prop fell or something. He’s just in character, pushed it back up just for you.
But it’s amazing, you know, it’s like just kind of a natural flow. so he and I were at,We had a lot of tension between us because it was almost like innate rivalry type of thing. So anyway, that’s another story. So, I wound up being invited by Mako to join you, switched players. And we started off finding finally finding a place like an old warehouse. Literally we did everything. We put up the walls hanging or sheet rock famous thing is I broke the concrete to put in a urinal to make it to have a bathroom.
And so, you know, in essence you take classes, you, it costs you, what does it cost to $50 a month to be a member? I lived in the back of the theater, in a house there [00:36:00] and I had to pay rent for. And so I was paid to be the building maintenance engineer that did the mopping take care of the building. Right?
So it was like, I was a very dedicated, that’s where my focus was. It wasn’t going to nightclubs all the younger actors are going, oh, I’m going to go to club, got to go to these dances. It’s a fuck. No, no I’m going to studying. And to go to these classes, it took me two years. Finally, I, I developed the craft of auditioning to all the classes I learned and I, I got cashed in my first TV show in 1973, Kung Fu it.
was called Southern clown shadow.
I played eating’s son and I didn’t have any billing. But it was, I was in heaven because it was like, my first call was five o’clock in the morning. It didn’t end till like eight o’clock that night. And it was like, I was on a set, I’m just absorbing everything. And the thing that, the other [00:37:00] thing was that my character had everything was Western about the only thing Chinese was the vest that I had didn’t have a key or anything like that.
And I also had, like an old, Winchester, but with the big ring, like John Wayne used to have that kind of a thing. And so I thought, and that was great. But the thing about, the business back in those days, if there was another episode that they needed to go to actors, how about so-and-so and they’d recast you in that thing, there wasn’t a thing.
Well, the audience wouldn’t accept that because he saw you as this character, which is how it’s come through. Now. It basically is called one and done. You just, you don’t get a chance to do it. Another role again, I have on other shows, but in any way, get bank factor, Kung Fu. So anyway, I wind up getting for the second season, getting a call to go into audition for a CoStar part.
And I walked in and the producers there and he went, that’s the guy I was talking about. No we don’t want this one, read this one. [00:38:00] And it turned out. To be a guest star lead in the thing. And then I wound up getting it and then T to age me up, they put white in my hair and everything like that. And I worked, I got to work with Richard Lou, who was the other, guest star, and then bonded with this, a director, Richard Lange, and who would, what he’d do was say, here’s a set of clothes.
I don’t want you to take a look through the lens, what I want you to do. And so, you know, the is going to be between a shelf. So the camera’s just, you’re only going to see this of you, so don’t worry about it. And then we’re ready to go after rehearsal. And he goes,can you add an accent to it and went, oh, you know, you think I don’t want to do the rots on rock the L’s on the odd kind of a thing. And I went, hold on, hold on. You know, David Carradine as Kane has a specific way.
of talking his version of it, then I thought, Okay. let me try this. [00:39:00] So when I did do the scene, I use the stage diction technique I learned at Northwestern. So it was like quiet Chen cane. We, as a member of the Tong believes that you are a threat to this community.
And then cut. That’s it? What I learned was they wanted something different, but you don’t have to give them the stereotyped. The stage diction was enough to make it not Americanized English. So you weren’t American, but it still was understandable. So, I mean, I used that method throughout my career. You study, you learn the essence of it.
Try to learn the, kind of the pronunciation where it’s really authentic. But like, for example, if you do,animation cartoons, they’ll go. Oh Yeah.
yeah. But in the processes of it all from the control booth is can you make it less accent that still gave the flavor you, okay. Yeah. So you learn how to modulate.
So I remember one time they [00:40:00] cast this Japanese actor from Japan and when you do the read-through and everything. Yeah. That’s it. That’s great. So we’re in the session and you can, at that time, you could see the glass booth, the director’s there and she’d go, can you try this? Can you make the less guy could, because he didn’t have the technique to do it.
Then she, she caught my eye when you don’t what to do. And she was very, very nice about it. Thank you. All right. Good job. Good job. And then later she just turned around. When I came. Let’s do the, the lions. Can you do that with, yeah. Okay. All right. I know. So what it is. Like I talked about your body, the training, the discipline, a voice movement, the whole thing, which a lot of people actors back in the day didn’t bother to do, you know, they just thought they could wing it.
You know, it’s like, can you ride a horse? Yeah,
I can ride a horse when they couldn’t all of a sudden they just get on the horse and when you charge up there and that the Mar stop and the guy couldn’t, you know, couldn’t you just better, just to be honest [00:41:00] with you, I can’t do that. know, because you don’t want to either you take crash course horse riding the night before, but don’t ever lie like that because when you get caught, it could be a career ender.
Masami Moriya: well, it wasn’t clear Andrew or ally fender, right? You could hurt yourself
Clyde Kusatsu: Oh Yeah. Yes. So, you know, in a way, strange way, interesting way. Kung Fu I wound up doing four. I wound up doing two, two partners and three, one hour episodes, different roles. And, it was like, it was almost like a graduate school in, filmmaking and acting as well. And then, then there was mash and I wound up doing three different characters on mash, two as original bartender.
Then one as a. Chinese American hero who kept doing heroic things because he was self-hatred about the Asian. And then another one is just a Japanese doctor and captain Yamato, in one of the last in 82, [00:42:00] but all the shows I wound up being cast in was that it was due to the training I got at Northwestern and in many respects,a lot of there’s a lot more people going into theater departments and everything now, nowadays.
But whereas my experience was challenging. There are other Asian actors who experienced real disappointment, like at Northwestern. It’s not as if I, I did and I didn’t open the door. That’s, it’s all, it’s all weird. You know, because I think sometimes it depends upon the individual own desire and need to stick it out and survive is it’s like you get in this business, it’s not about the praise.
It’s a lot about it is how do you deal with the disappointments and the failures? Because it is a disappointment than failures, but that’s how do you pick, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again. Like the song says, you know, so,[00:43:00] that’s, I mean, as a conversation goes so far right now, you got anything.
Masami Moriya: oh yeah. Well, I was an incredible story. I mean, I mean, I think just to hearing the development of your, your education, which I think for me, it’s education is a big, huge part that we’re missing a lot in acting cinematography, filmmaking, but certainly within the Asian-American community, I feel like we’re, we’re not told to go to school for these arts programs.
and so we just don’t and then we don’t think it’s a thing, but then we come into it later in life. So even for here, you starting out in early in life, especially back in the sixties is kind of like an incredible, incredible thing to hear. but you also talked about so many things in the past, you know, 50 minutes you would just spend hears, cross ethnic performance, dialect coaching, playing, you know, non non-American Asians in America or in across seas.
Masami Moriya: And so I’d love to dive in a little further into, w what we’re doing even today. So I’d love to, well, one you’re the, the national president of sag after LA [00:44:00] right. National vice president.
Clyde Kusatsu: well, I was, I liked the win sag after merged, into, locals in New York, local Los Angeles, local. that first year I wound up being, elected the president of Los Angeles, local as well as the, national vice-president of Los Angeles and the national range. And. Yeah. As far as the national vice-president I’ve I was elected four times in the convention to be that post and I’ve pulled back now.
So I, I didn’t run, it’s very, politics and sag AFTRA. It was very kind of almost like the Republican party and the democratic party. There’s an element there that is always about anger and resentment, you know, that type of thing. And after I I’ve been involved since oh eight, so, it’s been while, and now it’s time to go and then concentrate on the business, you know, but, I’m very [00:45:00] proud of the fact that it.
was the first,elected president who was Asian and Japanese American, you know, it’s like anything, it’s sort of like, oh yeah, well, you are, that’s good.
And you go, whoa.
Masami Moriya: that’s pretty big.
Clyde Kusatsu: You know, cause now it’s sort of like, everybody’s like I was the first I was that, you know, so you have to really have a good, strong sense of one’s own character, one’s own person, to not get offended or disappointed or the non-recognition part of it all. Cause sometimes you don’t know.
I mean, I like, I would just kept on doing right every year. I’ve got to book this. I gotta do, or yes, I’ll take, I’ll go off of this and go after that. And as my wife would say, you have two kids, you’ve got tuition to pay, you’ve got a mortgage and everything else, what are you going to do? You’re going to really not do it because of Y you know, so it’s like, I’ve been fortunate enough to, do everything from commercials, stage, animation, commercial voiceovers.
You learn how to do, something in [00:46:00] 15 seconds, right. You know, this is, like for an auto dealership type of thing. It’s all about the technique, right? It’s all about, because an actor, your instrument is you, your voice, your body, the whole it’s very organic. So the better trained you are. I mean, I used to tell the story of, I used to say it’s so cause sometimes people would understand the parable or the example of an athlete rather than just as an actor.
So you say, look, Jerry Rice played wide receiver until he was in his forties. Why was that? Because his off season. Regimen. The training was so tough that even the younger guys couldn’t keep up with him when they, when they do the runs with him and everything like that, even that for pro football player, you’re going to be cut sometimes, sometimes a lot maybe, or whatever, or you have to try out and that’s where your instrument, your body, your athletic skills comes into play, [00:47:00] but also your intellectual skills, just like you gotta get ahold of that playbook.
How do they run this play in this team? Are you able to fit in? Can you follow the patterns that are being sent to you to do, which is no different for an actor, right? You got to do the research and everything. The thing about it for the longest time is to say you’re an actor is the easy part, because a lot of them are full of shit.
They don’t know what acting is. You know, people complain about the Australians and the Brits. They’re getting all the roles. Yeah. Because they’re trained in England, you got to have to three-year program, whether it’s rotten Lambda or other places, then you’ve got to spend your time paying your dues, doing regional theater and this and that.
And it’s like, when I did Shanghai surprise, I worked with a lot of predictors. And we’re just talking one day and says, well, of course, you know, it’s yeah. Radio, television, films, stage theater, whatever we’re actors we get paid to act is that right? And they go, [00:48:00] yeah. That’s of course. And so you, you notice that there’s almost the same actors doing different roles, Leeds character, or they, they, they had their moment in the sun is a romantic lead.
Now they’re the character. And so, but you don’t see them. I will not do that role like Americans do. No, no, no. It means I’ve lost. No, no, no, no, no, no. It’s sort of like Hattie McDaniel was the first black woman, you know, she played the, the slave woman in, gone with the wind. I mean, her big.
common was, be careful how you treat people, honey, when you’re going up that bowl, because you slide down, you’re going to pass the same people, you know, and that’s true. And it’s, a lot of it is how people, I mean, in many ways I wound up working for, Bob Aldrich two other times besides the choir boys. And because Bob said later on says, I just want you to be part of the team, you know, [00:49:00] that type of thing. And I remember as soon as because it’s related to Asian,Does it show a movie called the Frisco kid with Harrison Ford and gene Wilder.
And it dealt with the railroad and the character that he wanted me to do was Chinese railroad worker. So I did my research and I had a meeting with Bob and said, look, Bob, I don’t want to do the stereotype thing. I don’t want the long queue, this and that. You know, you don’t, I don’t want it to be full, this and that.
I said, great, great. So in Greeley, Colorado, when I flew up to the location, we do the scene and the, Bob said, you know, we do Bob, I’d like to work a week of rehearsals of the movie before we start shooting. He said, add rehearsals. We had, another actor play your character. And he did the real L’s and the R’s stereotypic kind of thing.
so everybody loved it. Jean loved it and everything like that. So you’re going to have to do that. And what Y who I’m in the [00:50:00] fucking field in Greeley, Colorado, I mean, okay. Okay.
Clyde Kusatsu: And we stopped cut a little bit more. I found a way to be authentic and because look, not everybody that comes over the boat, fresh off the boat or fresh off the plane speaks perfect.
King’s English, unless you’re brazen Hong Kong. so I mean, I finally got through it, you know, oh, you funny looking fellow without going, you know, that. Made it more organic and made it authentic. And at the end of the day at the wrap, Bob looked at me from across, he went, we got rid of the queue. Right, right.
It’s about, maybe you’re not going to get everything, but at least you put in the work to do the research. So you avoided one, you didn’t know that the L’s and the AR thing doesn’t happen, but you got to flow with it. Cause that’s part of the, you know, it’s like if you’re going to be a surfer, each decade is a different size board right before it was the eight foot Redwood [00:51:00] board.
Then it was like, the gun was like six foot fiberglass. And then there’s a short gun, all those different things. But if you want to surf, you adapt to the board, you adapt to the instrument, you adapt to the material around waves are still there. It’s how you approach the waves that are different now. So it’s, it’s, it’s that kind of,analogy in many respects.
It does keep you, focused and nimble and also. in that you can always learn. I mean, to this day, I’m still, I’m still learning when I watch, other actors work. I mean, people used to say, Tom cruise, Jesus Christ, what you gonna? I said, no, no, no, no, no people want to see Tom cruise movies. Why?
Because he’s really doing that running along the wing of a taxi C 17 or whatever, he’s attached himself to that. They’re going off, he’s jumping out of that plane. They can Only do one shot a day, a Dawn or dusk to get [00:52:00] that shot. And he’s got the CA no he’s doing it. So because that’s part of the belief thing, you’re going to see a Thomas cruising, Hey, you know, he’s doing, it’s not going to be cut, throwing the double and going to do it. No he’s doing it. You know, it’s, it’s sort of like, and in many respects, sometimes even in, a movie, for example, like if you look at Tom Hanks in Castaway, just him on an island, there’s a new movie called Finch where it’s him a dog and a robot is just so good. It’s touching. It’s just him. But a lot of times there’s no dialogue, but he’s telling you the story by his behavior, his intent, why he’s doing it, what he will do to finally try to escape the solar flares and this and that.
And then, you know, A lot of film acting is about reaction and behavior. You know, it’s just like, [00:53:00] Hey, camera’s there, there’s no dialogue, but you know, what are you thinking? You know, that you’re there with the character. Oh, he’s, he’s his thoughts are, being projected. So that it’s, it’s almost like the, when you look at a novelist, he’s doing the thoughts of the character.
And as you walked into the smell of it, got to his nose that th th th so when you see it on the paper, there’s nothing to that. It’s just a description of the scene, but it’s up to the actor who you may or may not have read the novel. usually I try to, I used to try to do that, especially if it’s a, very central character, because in a way, the, the author gives you a hint of who the character is.
Does this could help the building blocks of building the foundation of your character. So, I mean, but those are basically, that’s keeps you, if you want to continue, pursuing what you love doing, which is what I do.[00:54:00] and sometimes is great swaths now where, well, Hey, I’m 73, right.
I mean, the rules are not being written.
And at a certain point, like, like last year was like, there’s a hit TV show on Netflix called never have. I have never resolved that, you know, there’s a role of the grandfather and okay, fine. And money’s not so much, but I’m saying, well, even if it’s minimum, hold on. It is a hit movie for the younger group.
The younger crowd is YNR crowd. So it’s a calculated thing. So yeah, I’ll do this thing and yeah, I hit big. All of a sudden I became, oh, your grandpa dead. Oh, Darren Barnett is your place. Paxton, your grandson, all of a sudden, it’s like, there’s a new audience there. Right.
You don’t want to be, I’ll use that guy who did what I think he used to work with this way or that way or whatever.
And it’s, I must say it does. It does kind of warm my heart. Sometimes [00:55:00] when people go, you did over 300 things, your IgM D B thing is it keeps going and going on and on and on and on,
Masami Moriya: Yeah, crazy.
Clyde Kusatsu: you know? So it’s like,what, what do you do? I think I’ve been able, even people that I went to school with, we have a monthly zoom thing with Northwestern alumni and all the people that were, I thought were ahead of me, or, you know, there were this type and Broadway, or they did this and that or going Jesus, Clyde.
He keep on working. You look good too. How the hell do you do that? You know, in a way that’s, I think. Working and getting to practice. What you always aspire to do is really, gives one a purpose in your life. And I think I’m very blessed to be doing what I’ve aspired to do when I was in high school.
What I got to train for, what I have been doing. So being in quarantine, in Brisbane, Australia for is I’m [00:56:00] going to do two guest spots is great. You know, I mean, heck I’ve been able, I’ve been able to like,shoot in Kyoto, Hong Kong, Penang, Malaysia, Northern Australia, port Douglas, London, Vancouver, Toronto, Mexico, even down in like when we did volunteers, with, my scenes over with, John candy.
And it is some of those still hold up. You know, I remember John candy, we had a week’s rehearsal as well. And John said, because the director wanted to do the scene a certain way. You never let up. He wanted to do his his way. And John said, Hey, when we get there, we’re going to rehearse this motherfucker over and over into we’re sick of the scene.
Right. And we do that. Rehearsing, come on, let’s go reverse the scene. So it came the day. We were two hours for the south co [00:57:00] in a place called CATIA, Mako of the kind of Mako falls famous for the falls from and the falls are falling down and we’re there and it said, okay, let’s set up, let’s do the scene.
We’re going to do this. And then John just went to, Clyde and I worked on this. Let’s let’s do the scene for you guys and the crew. So we did it. Everybody fell down, laughing, and then the director went, fuck it. We’re going to do it your way.
Masami Moriya: nice.
Clyde Kusatsu: So we did, and it still holds up, you know, it’s like this whole thing.
I, I brainwash him into be Tom Tucker, working as a comment with his path, that Lowel outfit, you know, the whole thing. And it still holds up because it was the comic timing, the whole thing, it just was organic. You were making fun of people. You were just being that character and it just takes concentration and work.
That’s all. it’s, it’s kind of a. It kind of a thing where a lot of times when you think things are going to be really down, I remember [00:58:00] we sold our house in Atwater, had just enough money to move to the Sherman Oaks, but things were tight. Hot. How do you plan on that and went to the schools? A headmaster asked for if we could have scholarship for my two sons, is it?
Yes. And then all of a sudden the phone rings going,
and I’ll just send for this movie called air America and the phone rings was going, how do you like to go to Hawaii to do a series 13, 13 episodes? You’re gonna be the second lead the studio, give the approval and, or regarding approved and went, huh?
And this is on a Friday. And in the meantime, the other funny thing was the two casting directors for air America had done a great, audition with, Robert Downey Jr. And this older director, Roger Spottiswoode, nothing’s going to happen over a weekend. Phil leave me so I to make any kind of do the deal.
So by Monday, [00:59:00] I’m, I’m going to be a regular on a CBS show called island sun with Richard Chamberlain.
I get a call from Roger spot is with directly, how Clyde, I don’t suppose that you’ve considered exchanging 13 episodes for the. Really I went, no, I don’t think so. Roger. I don’t know. I don’t think he’s that at work, you know, so it’s, it’s, it’s funny.
Right. And then all of a sudden, several months later on a door storm United, when a lot of the regulars were in LA, we get castles and we have to go back to Hawaii to finish up the rap, you know, and you’re being recorded by entertainment tonight and you have to act gracious and this and that, and you know, like nothing and the inside you’re like devastated.
Right. And it’s sort of like what what’s next to come, but there’s always going to be something to come. And those are the days when pre recovery. So it is, everything was like, oh, what did I do wrong? It’s nothing you did wrong. It was something that there are B you’re [01:00:00] powerless beyond your control that are, are in inaction, but sometimes that bad action or would you perceive to be bad?
Maybe the blessing, you never know. It’s like, you know,
Masami Moriya: I forget that a lot.
Clyde Kusatsu: I mean, I remember there was a, production that’s, Sidney Pollock was directly called the interpreter about the union United nations and terrorists and Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn are in it, but they couldn’t get, they were working on getting approval to shoot at the United States.
Well, they couldn’t. So they’re beginning to do the build the sets in Toronto. Meanwhile, I’d auditioned for,the head of UN security. And, I even went, got it. Did the scene twice on tape to send to New York. And this was like, no Sydney hasn’t seen it. It’s got Thanksgiving. No, no, no. And then, well, I mean, maybe there’s going to be some time in December and then all of a sudden you’re booked, you’ve got 19 weeks on this film.
We’re going to [01:01:00] leave in January. I went what? But it was like, okay, fine. And then you got the casting people. Thank you for doing this. Thank you for being okay. Okay. Meanwhile, you’re going, you’re a bundle of nerves. Did I get it? I didn’t. And he can’t control that, you know, but you just have to trust that it is being seen.
It’s sort of like this today because of pandemic and everything. Everybody does zoom auditions, or much more as a selfie. You have to shoot yourself or find somebody to do your audition tape for. And, it’s a pain in the ass sometimes, but I’ve learned to accept it. And I found a great guy to, to shoot the auditions because he also provides an iPad that can have this.
It’d be like a teleprompter, which frees you up to be the character. So anyway, for this specific role, Because it’s NDA. I can’t tell you what the show is. I did it. My agent said, no, they loved it. They really casting really [01:02:00] thinks it’s terrific and didn’t hear anything, didn’t hear anything. And because it was going to take place in Australia.
Oh wow. So they have to do all these things. So after several weeks, finally, the deal was offered. And after we booked the deal, all of a sudden got this email from, the head who was Asian-American grace. Woo. She’s the head of casting and talent for NBC universal, Comcast, NBC universal.
Masami Moriya: Yeah.
Clyde Kusatsu: And I know grace when grace was a PA on All-American girl, 25 years ago, and now she’s the head and she’s always very up-to-date and tries to look for diverse characters.
Like, I forget the name of the fellow, the Asian guy who’s on Chicago med. he got cast because again,Brian, Brian T Brian T T E Chinese, Korean American, and he had grace had seen him and another project didn’t go thought might be a Perfect.
fit. So anyway, I [01:03:00] get this email from grace going, Hey, congratulations.
The scene was great. It was very funny, welcome aboard. And I went bloody hell. These tapes are being seen all the way to the top. So, you know, you can. You gotta, you gotta do your a hundred percent when you’re doing these things. And it’s like anything like surfing, right? This is just a new surf board to the point where I got, I woke up this morning from the New York agent said, can you get something done by Wednesday for this half hour?
That takes place in Atlanta. I went, I can’t, I’m in a bubble. I’m a Luddite. I’m a 73 year old guy. Doesn’t know how to shoot myself. I mean, you’re lucky if you’ve got me. I mean, I woke up early just to make sure the room was fine, you know, not blinded by the backlight. but at any rate issue she wrote back and gone.
That’s fine. We’ll try to try to see if it works for that. Maybe we’ll just send them your reel and if not, maybe they’ll have time to, because it doesn’t go to January. Maybe they’ll let you do it when you get back in a week or [01:04:00] so. Is that okay? Fine. It’s sort of like acceptance, right? You can’t push stuff.
You never know when things are going to happen. like we’re talking about the confluence of six degrees. following the Highland sun, there was a true, true life story written by Vincent Bugliosi using prosecutor LA prosecutor who put Manson away and he got into writing a defense. And this was a book based on his first defense case, a double murder.
And it was supposed to be done in federal court in Hawaii, but they had to move. To San Francisco for, conflict of whatever. So anyway, the federal prosecutor was a guy named Elliot enoki. So I got the script. I’m looking at it going Elliot enoki at Northwestern. I went to school with a guy from porno Elliot in gnocchi.
Last time I saw him, we both were headed on the L down for our preinduction physical [01:05:00] 1970, and everybody didn’t want to go to Vietnam. That was the last time it was him. It was a say he wound up being a federal prosecutor. I wound up playing him. Then it turned out the director, Tommy Lee Wallace wife at that time was a former classmate of mine at Northwestern.
And it was like,
Masami Moriya: Small
Clyde Kusatsu: is it. It is a small world.
You know? you just, you don’t, that’s where I guess in recovery, you get, you, you allow yourself to trust and just say, acceptance is the key. And No.
matter what, you’ve never really been alone. You’ve always been watched and taken care of for, and it was something it’s not tangible, but in a way it’s more spiritual, I suppose, maybe for some people go Well, if float your boat, fine, whatever.
But there’s too much. When I look at my look back on my car, And the [01:06:00] incidences and this and that even still now happening, I have to go, you know, there’s something about that. It’s a trust that there is, you have to give some kind of a belief it’s not about burning incense or anything like that. It’s about, Hey, trust that you are mean Washington’s one window opens another closes, another door closes, another door opens that type of thing.
You know, you just, you, you just never know, know.
Masami Moriya: Well, I think it’s, I think you’re right. It’s just like you, you don’t know where you’re gonna, who’s going to see you. You don’t know when they’re going to see you and you know what age, and you’re always getting grace wounds, being a PA back in 94 93. how far she’s come since then, and now she’s hiring you.
And so that’s, that’s in incredible ways. And I would like to go back it a little bit further into your career because I have, I’ve watched your career. I’ve seen you, I’ve seen you now. Not as many as you’ve been on, but I’ll see you pop up and, you know, my reviews and old, older films and stuff like that.
[01:07:00] And, two of the biggest things that I’ve watched and I’ve watched multiple times is, farewell to mans and R and all American girl. And so, you know, I want to hit farewell demands in our very first. I would love to hear more about that story now for me. this is one of my favorite stories I keep, I’ve watched multiple times over the years, about the Japanese American incarceration during world war II.
And you being one of the main characters as the brother. But also being able to, like you had said previously, you’d worked as an actor playing Japanese characters in world war two. Now I think that’s the difference. Cause we’re, you know, Gabby’s American, your Jeffrey’s Hawaiian being in both areas. Like how did it make you feel to play someone who’s supposed to be Japanese versus someone who’s perceived Japanese American in those roles?
Because I think a lot of actors today, we need to start having who’s playing what? Cause it gives it better in depth tennis. You had to teach me all of these things about being Japanese culture that I had no idea about. [01:08:00] Right. So I’d love to hear about how you got that, that role. and that’s a pretty generally, it’s a pretty big role in that, in that time and played great characters, but also just the history, because if you’ve done a lot of historical pieces too, so, uh, you know, I’d love to hear that story.
Clyde Kusatsu: Well, the irony is that, when I got cast. I got casts for midway before for a well demands. All right. And so, like, we, I touched upon you do your research regarding being Japanese, Japanese, and the whole cultural attitude and how you navigate yourself in that world and navigate and behave. In the meantime, I’d heard there was a project farewell to meds that are based on the book that Jeannie Wokinski Houston had written.
And, there was, I was doing a play at,
Masami Moriya: Okay.
Clyde Kusatsu: what’s it called? it was, Epson play and that, anyway, the director, John Cordy and Jeannie and her husband came down to watch to see it [01:09:00] did because they had heard a little bit about myself as an actor. And they were looking at a lot of people in east west players, of course.
And, then, I guess I made a good impression and everything, and I read the book and,the, the character was based on one of The brothers and I wound up getting cast in it. And it was, it was a big thing. It was a Yuki Shimoda played the father, noble McCarthy played the mother, Jimmy cyto, James cyto played the younger brother.
A fictional character. It was no younger brother. So, the irony is we’re shooting midway. The day after we wrap, we start shooting for a while to Manson or that Monday Richard Hashimoto was our second Ady on midway was promoted to first aid on farewell to Manzanar because both of our universal projects and Richard Hashimoto [01:10:00] was very Americanized and he wound up being an exec producer of Beetlejuice.
If you remember that film, that was his big thing. And I mean, he’s, he’s, I don’t know if he’s still active at any rate. A lot of the actors that are in farewell demands are, were in, midway. In fact, John talked to me, he says, look, when we get up there, I, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to coach Jimmy on certain of the scenes.
And then Jimmy came up to me when we were up north going, oh yeah. John said, you know, we said, okay, what do you wanna try? flash forward years later, he’s what much older, wiser and the whole thing. And if they choose to be told Jimmy at a certain point, you were really into the game and the world, it, all these girls are hunkering for you because your lead in a TV movie.
So your, your ma your brain, your focus wasn’t on how to do the scene. he said, you’re right. It wasn’t in a way I missed that opportunity. So, I mean, we still laugh about that. So anyway, going back, [01:11:00] I realized that I had done my research on the camps and everything like that, but I also come from, background in Hawaii where my father, was a 4 42, 4 40 second regimental combat team veteran my uncle a hundred battalion, four 42nd.
And the whole zeitgeists of Asian Americans or the Japanese Americans in Hawaii was, yeah, man. I mean, we want to prove that we were loyal and this was we did, we joined and fought, of course, didn’t have to experience the level of discrimination that the Japanese in California and the mainland had to, because there were more Japanese of them in a way in Hawaii.
There were the majority, you know, they’ve the best place for them on the bus was in the rear. Right. So then when they were training and in Mississippi, they go to the rear and then the district says, no, you can’t go there. Oh, it’s only for the colored. You have to come up front what, you know, that kind of thing. And, at any rate. So I, so there’s a scene in farewell to Manzanar where the whole thing about, [01:12:00] do you,do you sign the loyalty oath or do you volunteer or do you protest? And I was pretty clear back then based on my upbringing and everything. And at that time there were a lot of activists, Frank chin Lawson, Unata, Sean Wong, Sue Emory.
They were very, you know, this is, this play. This movie should do this, or they should do that. I would argue back and I go, it’s about a family man. It’s about a family. There’s not enough time to go to do a documentary on the whole thing. It’s the eyes of the families see the whole thing. And I found it interesting that John wound up casting Frank chin Lawson, Denada Sean Wong to play the rioters at the camp, you know, and, at least to have a shot at doing the Mako was cast to Mako.
One of the, the role of the lead as the dad and his wife, Susie, one of the role of the wife, but didn’t happen however years later. [01:13:00] And, come see the paradise that dealt with a relocation and everything. Susie wound up playing the, the woman lead. Sob, I believe played the male lead in that one,
Masami Moriya: The father,
Clyde Kusatsu: the father.
And the thing about it is, was that there’s certain shots there and that’s where the director, this guy, this Brit director says, no, no, everybody has to speak Japanese. You know, you know, Hey, you know, that’s it. I, I can’t. But anyway, when I saw it, I went this son of a bitch stole all the shots from Fairwater Manzanar, the lead character, looking through the barbed wire at the mountain, that’s, you know, directly out of farewell to Manzanar a lot of the setups and everything.
So anyway, I digress. So at any rate, I think to this day farewell demands and our stands on its own feet still holds up and it is become the definitive movie about a family and the, the interment or the relocation. [01:14:00] And I can do that. The politics is the time politics of the times back then in 75, you still have activists,naysayers, like, they’re almost like mega mega light who said no, there was never any concentration camps.
No, they, we treated them very well and we did it for their own safety, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So it was still in 75, a very, controversial touchy subject, I think is become more famous. In retrospect as the years have of. And for the longest time, that was the only TV movie that couldn’t be found on blockbuster or released, in, V VHS or anything like that until a woman at the German, the Japanese American, gift shop was able to make a deal because it’s a whole, it’s all about, it was all about the music being used in it, getting the rights to it.
Masami Moriya: Okay.
Clyde Kusatsu: Yeah.
So the Japanese market museum gift shop is the only source [01:15:00] and they keep getting renewed. So that’s, that’s good because for many, many of in our community, it’s, it’s a very much of a touchstone cultural touchstone movie to be passed down and passed along, for people go, Yeah.
I was there, my parents were there, this and that.
so the, it was so funny in the sense, like one week I’m playing Japanese, Japanese the next week I’m playing the, the allies, you know, so it, it was like kind of a duality kind of a thing. But the interesting thing is also, midway is turned into this perennial movie about the battle of midway. So even when you see the new midway that they did, with hyper-realistic CGI and everything is just like flat, I mean, it.
Clyde Kusatsu: looks great.
Is it, how could they do it? We didn’t have all those things where you see the bombs exploding in this.
Masami Moriya: Hmm.
Clyde Kusatsu: It was all accomplished with different clips from Tora, Tora, Tora, from Japanese movies or whatever. And they all put it together. But for some reason that holds up more than [01:16:00] midway the movie that’s on Netflix now, right now, I think, because it was just, it just didn’t go anywhere.
It’s sort of like watching, Pearl Harbor, the movie that was done a few years ago with it was like, yeah, Wow
go home was going this and that. But it sounded like it was just too much kind of hyper realism with the CGI, I mean with CGI. But if you see Torah of the movie, that movie in the sixties, the studio, we did, reconstructed MIGS out of at 25,000 a pop.
So when you see the, there’s a scene where at Ford island, and there’s a hangar and the zero dives down and he custard the interior, which is a fake plane, this and that, but that flier stunt flier flew down and then hit the deck to get off camera. So when you see those formations in the movie, there were literally squadrons.
It was like Frank Tallman [01:17:00] shot all the second unit stuff with the air, with the planes, but they had real planes that were using, it was not CGI computer generated. They were doing all that shit, you know,
Masami Moriya: goes, it goes back to Tom cruise. You watch him because he’s doing it. Not just because it’s some CGI thing doing it. Like they’re making the planes do it. And you can just feel that, that realism to
Clyde Kusatsu: absolutely. And are you already thinking of yourself, Tom? What are you doing? Holy shit. He is on that bike. That’s fast, you know, and he’s got a, he also knows that there’s a camera on him. He’s got all these different cameras and everything hit. it.
brings up a little point is if you got cameras this close and everything like that, you can’t be looking at the camera.
You have to be concentrated and focused on your character to allow the cameras to pick up all that. Everything else is going to be recreated in posts in the editing stage. You know? So it’s like, so at any rate, that’s why some of them still hold up and some of them don’t, you know, but, it was, an [01:18:00] interesting, moment historically, politically at the time, because it was a very controversial thing to do for Walter Mattson.
It was sensitive from both the white community and the Japanese American community and the Asian community in the seventies was very strong. This, this, this, this demonstration and everything. So, yeah, it, it, it, it, it was something that was an experience.
Masami Moriya: It’s, it’s a definitely a cultural standpoint. I know that some of the history behind it just being people didn’t like how some was accurate, but even just as a kid watching it, you just need some basic reference to remember it by get to learn part of this history. And I think, as I go through, yeah, I’m a huge Jeopardy’s American history Baptist, like to see that part B so pretty clear, you know, for me, it’s just Japanese Americans wrote it.
That’s where it comes from. And to see that story hit where I see other, I’ve seen Japanese, Japanese writers write about the camps and it’s just off is [01:19:00] like, you just don’t feel right. And I think that’s another part of authenticity and playing roles and having those, having those stories be told by, who, just, who they’re being told by just holding people accountable for that.
Clyde Kusatsu: Well, it’s like if I go back to like paradise road where, my character opens up scene where these women are dropped off by Stan Aggie’s character, who’s very precise, typical kind of elegant villain officer and Glenn close, and two other women they’re just left there. And the next thing you see is a hand going Powell and his, one of the women down and stress slaps another one and starts, and that’s my character.
He’s brutal by the Columbia steak and,The thing about it is, is that utilizing the research I did, of the hierarchy, the captain hits the Lieutenant, who is punches the Sergeant who kicks the private blah, blah, blah. And at the fact that those that were the [01:20:00] guards were not considered the cream of the military, not a fighting person, but just want to be able to do that stuff.
You know, there’s an element of class, resentment, anger, all, all there. So then when you see that character, then see through his eyes, he sees the Colonel, the captain kept bay, Ty captain, how they treat the women than what the women are doing, what he’s doing. All of a sudden, you see the change within him to the point where he wants to connect with Glen closest character by sharing that song from the village that he grew up with.
So that says so much about the humanity while everybody’s in well as a bloody jab. So this and that, this and that, this and that either you play to that type or you play to the complexities of a character, there is a reason why they act like that. But within [01:21:00] the behavior in how one, because even there’s one scene.
Was that an added scene where there’s a dog going off and it irritates the Sergeant, my character and I grab a rifle and I shoot him. And I said to Bruce, I killed a shoot, the fucking dog. You want me to do that too? And then went, no. Okay. All right. Because it shows you the full arc of a character and either you resist that or you go with it, but then you find those elements in a look, in the way it’s not just looking at, okay, there’s a Sergeant.
He’s looking. No, there’s a look that captured maybe the thought about what’s he seeing, and you can say that, oh, it’s penetrating. The women’s music is beginning to get in there. So then when he does do something bad, it was like Cate Blanchett, first film to where it’s like, I don’t want to do it. I have to take a quick glance.[01:22:00]
I’m going to have to do it to be punishing. But within that moment of separating that look, look, look, look, action. It says more than just boom. Hit you, fill out that moment and add that dimension to it, you know?
Masami Moriya: Yeah. You can say a lot without saying anything, right?
Clyde Kusatsu: Correct. Correct. Right.
Masami Moriya: I don’t want to keep you too long, but I do have a couple of, questions. I might, might be able to
Clyde Kusatsu: Well, go ahead. I got I’m in, I’m in lockdown, man. This is my last day.
Masami Moriya: Okay. You got some time? well, what’s been, what do you think was the most challenging thing throughout your career?
aside from the fact of making a living is in the career. what’s challenging is how to deal with one’s own, ego, one sense of,esteem. I mean, if you depend upon your esteem being provided by the audience applause, you wind up being fearful of the audience’s disapproval or,[01:23:00] the producers disapproval, or the directors disapproval, you didn’t come up to what they expected you to do.
Clyde Kusatsu: All those things enters into as huge as a situation that you’re imposing on yourself. And I think I was very blessed to, be exposed or to finally hit a bottom. No, the thing that hit the bottom was the fact that 1994, my oldest boy. Was really acting out, getting in trouble with the cops, drugs, alcohol, and the whole thing.
And it was sort of like, why is this happening to the family? I’m going to do a network show, all American girl, big thing. And on the other hand, it seems like everything’s falling apart. but going committing to recovery started the whole journey of recovery, knowing that when you go to the parent conferences or the workshops or the group sessions, [01:24:00] that when they list the descriptions of the ism, you can identify with two or three.
If it’s on the board and you go, oh, it’s a little close. And then going, I think I have starts it. Right. And then the person you contact with, oh, not think you are, but you took the first step started. and then it turned out that I went, I got the therapist that I needed to get, who was one of the counselors at that first rehab that my son was at.
And the thing about it is, is that interestingly that her office in Burbank was five minutes away from the Disney studios where I was going to work. I needed, I could just. Call, and then just drive down that I was in the course of this, I think it was w in the course of the fourth episode, we’re shooting, I finally surrendered.
I came to the place to make the admission, [01:25:00] and she said in my dressing room was on the phone. What are you going to do? I said, I was just going to stop. So you all, you know, you could have maybe a beer or so just to ease yourself off as it now. And I did let the prop guy know, but he was in recovery too.
So it was like, oh, I get it. And that night was, Fridays was our performance days. We came to the rehearsal and we taped evening show, but before the afternoon rehearsal or afternoon show, I went to Amy Hill who played my mother. And I just said, Amy, I’m an alcoholic. And she went, congratulations. That’s terrific.
It was such this warmth of acceptance and,encouragement. And so on the outside, you do the performance, make everybody laugh. Then when you’re off camera, you go find a corner and just. Collapsed, but you still are professional. You do that. So after the evening for [01:26:00] show, we used to go to a place called, adults in Burbank where you, you know, you have some beers and you hang out and just wind down.
And I kind of tepidly walked in and I just straight went to the bar and just said, give me a Perrier. It was a green bottle. It was cold. It was bubbly. And it just so happened. There was a young actor named Tim , who was, was his first role on all American girl network. And I just started talking to him and it turned out he’s the son of an alcoholic.
So he understands his congratulations. You know, it’s all this kind of steps and everything like that. Long story short,when, in the course of going back and therapy and everything, it turned out, I went back to,island son back in 89 because all of a sudden, like I said, it was like this gift handed to me, right?
You want a series here? You are. We’re on CBS. You’re working with, you know, Richard Chamberlain, you’re his buddy,[01:27:00] but Richard was also on a spiritual journey himself. And he had as his spiritual advisor and healer, was, it was a woman named Nana. Sorry, old Hawaiian woman. Who’s written some books.
If somebody describes us, none of the various, a type of woman or go to the water, slightly tapped the water and the fish was started coming in type of thing. It was very spiritual. Hawaii is very spiritual, not a very, his daughter. Emma very was one of the top Sopranos in Honolulu and in the king. And I back in 66, played my mother in it. I mean, that’s why I’m talking about the six degrees of separation. Right.
Masami Moriya: Yeah.
Clyde Kusatsu: And it was like of M and M was going, Oh, congratulations. And this and that. And then one day Richard and his husband at the time said, we’d like to invite you to [01:28:00] a spiritual retreat Saturday. It’s going to be on the other side of the island near.
and I went, oh, okay, sure. Great. And you know, you have sessions, you talk, you meditate and listen. I would say, you know, I don’t know. And I’m one of the, I’m trying to go along with it. Inwardly. I think I’m resistant. Like, what is this stupid, but okay. And then said go out and hug a tree and went, oh, this is fucking stupid, stupid. So in a sense, I guess I surrendered and I wound up hugging a tree and then. After a bit, I looked up and all of a sudden I saw a bird that I’ve never seen before. It was like not a Cardinal, not a Sparrow or anything like that. It was like an exotic bird, just looking down at me and going, where the hell did that come from? And I went, okay, not that I had a great revelation or anything, but the point I’m talking about is [01:29:00] back then, because at that time, in a moment, I remember having a little bit too much to drink calling my buddy my best friend from college in New York and just crying is I don’t get it. I don’t basically, I didn’t deserve it.
Clyde Kusatsu: Why am I giving all this gifts? Of course you’re giving the gifts cause you, you can support your family and this and that, but inwardly am I really deserving of it, you know, can I really do it? And so in going back, that’s one of the things, when I say someone has been watching over you, it had, because they provided an entryway as little exposure to the spiritual world.
I mean a path to spirituality and I get this and Richard’s dad, it turned out to be, was a fit within the pro program of alcoholics anonymous was a famous sponsor and his mother’s tarted Alanon[01:30:00] And then in retrospect, when I started the journey of recovery, I’m going, what? Oh my God. Yes. Okay. Thank you.
And really thank you because,you know, in a, you have to drop off all about the things about Japanese or anything like that. Not being an alcoholic. They are for crying out loud. Haitians are known, they can’t have death. Some of them are a good percentage of missing an enzyme. That’s able to process alcohol.
So that’s why they get red immediately. You know, they can’t hold it, but they, they do because it’s force of habit, not only habit, but it’s pure pressure bullying. You can’t get anywhere unless you get along nail nail pond, pound back in can live, stand up. So, in that sense, I would say quite for me, my career, my life has all been part of the [01:31:00] whole one has influenced the other.
If I didn’t find,if I didn’t fall, if I didn’t have a bottom and if I didn’t recover, who knows, if I’d be here talking to you right now, you know, I could be one. Oh Yeah, he used to be, but unfortunately, I don’t know. I don’t know what happened. Sort of like put it out, you know, didn’t keep up or there’s other people like who are all these younger people.
Jesus Christ did not make anything for me. No, I embraced that. I think it’s great. I think it’s, it’s it’s wonderful that, you know, Dustin, when was a good friend of mine, that he has another connection who his first job was on a Magnum PI that I was a guest star on and I took him under his wing, under my wing sorta like, and after we did that a few months later, he was doing, he was up for,able for our independent movie based on Romeo and Juliet, all Asia.[01:32:00]
And that would have been like minimum, minimum independent. And he said, you know, client, I got an offer to do a pilot, for the show. it’s called 21 jump street. And, I don’t know. I said, look, you can do the pilot be paid more than if you would on that movie, if the pilot goes, goes to series, well, at least, you know, you get maybe 10 to 13 episodes.
Well, it ran for fucking five years, right? I mean, however long it did and really knocked them up there in that. But then even he experienced because of some personal challenges, everything. With his then wife becoming paraplegic from an auto accident. And he wound up going on Australia doing some films, but then he wound up back in Vietnam, Londa producing, starring and directing films.
Now he’s been part he’s a part of warriors, right? And war warriors is as one of the top bad guys. He also directs on it all now. [01:33:00] So back at the time when, 94, we had to go find another rehab in orange county. he allowed us, my wife and I to use his dress, because if you were able to use the address, then it didn’t the costs of being in this recovery house.
Six months in house, residential three months, outpatient would have been astronomical. We wouldn’t have been able to afford it, but we were able to do that, but it was through his help, again, six degrees of separation, the gifts, you know? And so, it’s, it’s one of those things where you want to say, you could have your own podcast.
How are you supposed to do it? Get paid by money by these young actors, whatever. And that’s, that’s kind of, I think uncomfortable because what it is is like each person. Is on their own journey, you know? And, so it’s like someone said, have you, were you ever on fresh off the boat? [01:34:00] And Margaret was, he was in the, she was in that first season. And I said, no, I never got called in to do a part. However, I am in it because there’s an episode where the kids are at school doing a school play. And they’re saying, why are you doing school play? Because you’d never going to be an actor. There’s no way of making a living as an actor. And it ends they’re all in the living room and says, dad, I know Asia’s act, they’re watching a scene from All-American girl with me and Margaret in it. And so, I mean, I, I mean, so technically I was in that show for that episode, but I thought that made more sense in a way, because then it became representative the fact that there is possibility of having a career in this business. And there’s nothing wrong with having a dream like that. We gotta have a dream, you know, we gotta be able to do that.
And if you, and at least now these days, there’s a lot more,[01:35:00] encouragement for Asian or API. I think the best thing to say instead of Asian American is a people of API to get into the creative arts because there’s a lot. It’s a bigger world out. There is a bigger fear and now certain things are coming out, right?
That Titus Wong, this artists terrific artists, painter and everything like that. He was responsible in the thirties for getting the concept of Bambi and the background, the background of the whole film of Bambi because of his watercolor is almost Asian quality of the watercolor to be in the background of it.
And for the longest time, he was not continuously employed by Disney because he was just, you know, Asian thing. But he was finally recognized as being one of the legends of Disney by the company as a great, it was a great, documentary on PBS about Titus, which is very good, [01:36:00] you know, it’s, it’s it try to get it to watch and,
Masami Moriya: for sure.
Clyde Kusatsu: you know, and I think,SU the act there’s an, a woman writer it’s related for the SU family.
she’s part, she’s part Chinese, but mostly she’s blind in a way, because he’s got more of the Caucasian blood in there. I forget her name right now. at any rate I should, yeah, she was one of the people behind that Tituss, career and history. she writes and she’s written many, many novels always based in China or United States in China. but at any rate, you know, there’s, there’s tons of stories. And what, what, what, what helps sometimes is the preparation for a role, not specifically for a character, but in LA. I used to do groundwork kind of a thing. So I mean, okay. To producers is, when do you think, you know that there were Asians fighting for the [01:37:00] United States way back in the early 19th century, eight 17th century?
Clyde Kusatsu: They say, Yeah.
you’ve heard of a thing called the war of 18, 12, and Andrew Jackson and Shawn Laffite the pirate, the battle of new Orleans when John Laffite, the pirate had three ships in his Navy that has six to 700 Filipino sailors who had jumped ship from the gold, you know, from Acapulco because Philippines was part of Spain for 350 years, made their way up to Barataria bay.
It was called little Manila Mack in the late 17th century, early 18th century. So there were Filipinos fighting for, with Andrew Jackson against. There was a Chinese fellow who was kind of adopted by a Cooper ship captain, learn to speak English. By the time they got back was adopted by a couple in Vermont.
I believe I, and he wound up fighting them to civil war [01:38:00] on the union side, you know, like,
Masami Moriya: Yeah.
Clyde Kusatsu: but if you have those stories, you can say, don’t say that it’s never happened or it can never could happen. We’re example. So I’m historically it has happened.
Masami Moriya: Well, I think there’s a huge part of it is food definitely for strong Asian lead for myself. I mean, a history buff, just thinking about where have Asian-Americans been throughout all the centuries, even the Asian term, Asian-American, didn’t come out until 66. We there we’ve been here for so long and made it into the fabric of American history, but we’re not the stories don’t necessarily get passed down for whatever reason they don’t, they don’t make it into the history books.
Cause we’re not the ones writing it. We’re not the ones teaching it. a lot of times it was about survival and getting past it. And like we’re still hearing more things about the camps just because there was so much shame behind the camps. No one didn’t tell their parents. They didn’t tell their kids.
You know, I I’ve gone through so much history and like we don’t even know about half the stuff that you’ve gone through and to hear [01:39:00] all the stories, not only gives me the, a sense of placement within Asian American culture, but that there’s Asian Americans have been here for so long that we’ve, there’s nothing that we haven’t necessarily not done.
now in cinema history in itself, I don’t think we’re not taught enough about, cinema TV theatrical on how many agents have done, plays and works of art in this. Entertainment area because we’re, we don’t see them. And so I think there’s that. So conversation today is we need more representation on screen and like we’ve been on screen and on the stage for so many years, we just don’t have, you know, just like the, the not putting us in prominent roles were not getting their writers to write more roles for us, you know, but I think there’s like we don’t, you know, one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on, on our podcast today is because you’re one of the legacies you’ve been doing it for so long and left a legacy for us that we’re the next generation [01:40:00] now is looking at, you know, people were just doing it now where we’re not looking back to, to appreciate those who’ve left a mark like yourself.
Masami Moriya: So I think that’s a part of what we want to do is, is teach that history of, of this performance and, all the artists who have created what we have today. And so my last question to you is what legacy do you want to leave?
Clyde Kusatsu: Oh, that’s that’s that’s so that’s a very big one. Huh? That’s like a big. What do you
Masami Moriya: Well, yeah, well narrow it,
Clyde Kusatsu: like? it’s almost kind of in a way selfish. I’d rather if there’s a legacy, I probably be kind of a more along the lines of a selfless, one of service in providing a path, that there is possible, there are possibilities, but it’s not easy.
You just can’t assume because you’ve been disabused and forgotten for so [01:41:00] long that you’re entitled. No, I mean, you have to like anything else, you have to work hard, you have to train, you have to build up your skillset. You’d have to exercise that muscle so that you can demonstrate and make the connection between the creative, the intellect and the passion into one to be able to communicate.
and, and also educate yourself as you say, there’s, there’s a, a missing amount of knowledge. I mean, like back in the twenties, the silent film, Cecilia cower was one of the biggest box office stars in the silent era. And of course he played the, not the hero, but more of the repayments. That really thrilled.
Clyde Kusatsu: A lot of the women was like really big. there was a Anna May Wong. who’s also played a lot of exotic roles, but she had this presence that, that, [01:42:00] spanned also into the stage and everything even span the creative juices of,of, love her former lover who wrote a, a song about, these foolish things.
Remind me of you. these foolish things. Remind me of you a cigarette, you know, that kind of a thing. That’s like, whoa, that’s a really sensuous jazz song that was written inspired by Anna May Wong. And, there was that whole community, in there’s a story of, a white woman who went to heart mountain to be with her husband who wanted to be an actor, could never be an actor.
And,I forget her name right now, but, Steve, the passing me, but he won an Oscar for a short film based on still, still is she go, was her name.
Masami Moriya: Oh, yeah.
Clyde Kusatsu: right. There’s a story there that should be made into a project, right. That should be kind of written up. So this is two. Okay. So it may have to [01:43:00] deal with a white woman, but that’s how you get people interested. Right.
They get that other story taking place. Why would she go voluntarily into a camp? How was she perceived? Must have been good. It must have been part of it. She taught children. She had the artwork of the kids and everything like that. That’s a story we wouldn’t know about it. If you didn’t do the work to find out about it, you know, there’s a story that’s kind of connected with the four 42nd.
There was a contingent, I think it was part of the 36 Texas division, and artillery company that was, ordered to the Philippines in 1941. And there were on a us ship, but they couldn’t reach the Philippines because Pearl Harbor had happened, the Philippines were stopped and their ship was sunk in the Dutch east Indies.
But on this ship, a part of the 36 division was a guy who was half Japanese. Hoppa half Japanese, half [01:44:00] Caucasian. And his buddies tried to protect him from the Japanese, knowing that, but the Japanese found out he was sent to Tokyo to try to do propaganda along with Tokyo rose and
Masami Moriya: I heard that.
Clyde Kusatsu: Yeah.
And,When I get home, I’ll make sure I’ll find the book and I’ll give you the source of that.
So, anyway, so there’s that the four 42nd was attached to different divisions as well. the 34th red bull division in Italy, then when they went to Southern France, they were attached to the 36. They were the ones who have rescued the lost battalion of the 36th infantry regiment of the 36 division. So there’s that connect right?
That one had that division had a Japanese American half Japanese. But anyway, after Hoppa, you know, heck you know, it’s like, I just saw a thing last night on Netflix. What is it called? It’s one of these romcom [01:45:00] things is love hard. Jimmy O yang and Darren Burnett and Jimmy cytosis plays the dad. And I looked at the thing and the reviews were like terrible.
Right? romcom got,
Masami Moriya: Hmm.
Clyde Kusatsu: I had to, I had to tweet out, are you kidding me? This is major. You got leads in a movie romantic movie with a white woman. Who’s the heroin. and the nerd, Jimmy O yang wins out, gets the girl it’s.
Masami Moriya: Oh, we knew it was going to
Clyde Kusatsu: No, but I think it worked, it really worked and were they weren’t trying to do Asian to make it work. They owned the family, owns a sports store in lake Placid, New York And Darren Barnett’s family, white, Caucasian, no white dad cook, Japanese mom, the Jimmy O yang thing, Japanese, you know, whatever, whatever the thing is.
So it’s like in it [01:46:00] of itself, it is showing a, assimilation, a part of the American scene without having to make a big thing. Except at the beginning of it, her girlfriend goes, oh, look at that. He’s Asian American. He’s good looking because Jimmy O yang catfish is, you know, doing the whole thing, putting Darren Barnett’s picture in it.
But I thought it’s just tossed away. It wasn’t like, Hey, you can’t do that. Cause he’s Asian. It didn’t put a negative connotation of that It was just like, oh yeah. Okay. He’s Asian. Oh yeah. Because you know, the younger, the younger generation, those lines are not as distinctly drawn anymore. You look up the way commercials, the landscape.
You’ve got a Caucasian mother, a black father and honey nut Cheerios. Right. Looking at the Cheerios or you have Asian father, Caucasian mother Hoppa kid. There’s a blendedness that may not happen in fly over [01:47:00] country, but it does, but that’s not the point. The point is, is getting people used to seeing that.
If you see it, there’s no big deal. You accept it. If you keep an exotic, then you keep the same, everybody away from each other, the separate and the whole thing.
Masami Moriya: Well, I’m putting people on screen on TV and movies and putting that those TVs into your, your home brings those people into your home and you see how they act and with their families. I think for me, it’s like television television. We’re sitting with them for six hours, 10 hours at a time movies, like 90 minutes.
So the longer we stay with the whole family and see how they live and we’re coming back week after week or binge watching them for the next three days, we get to see, you know, how they’re living in, what, how different or how similar they are to us. I think that’s a huge, huge factor of what representation means, but also just what it means to be Asian and Asian in America, do support on screen and be more [01:48:00] normalized.
Clyde Kusatsu: Well, you know, when we did,all American girl in 94, we’re doing the pilot and it. Everyone in the family, except for the young kid. And Margaret had like a slight accent, you know? And then I thought, ah, I don’t want to do that. I mean, I didn’t make it an accident, but I’d made it more like that stage diction, Margaret, you know what, that guy’s sort of wasn’t American knees, so, to speak.
And then when we got picked up, I just dropped it. I didn’t worry. I just did as, Clyde woods, Margaret, come on. What are you talking about? That kind of a thing. So there’s just a natural sound. And at one point, Amy said To me, didn’t you have an accent in the pilot,
Masami Moriya: To look for it now.
Clyde Kusatsu: but I just, I dropped it and you know what? Nobody knew nobody paid attention because I didn’t make a big deal out of it. It was not like, oh Yeah.
BD Wong didn’t have an accent, but it wasn’t like, you know, I think we should do this just for the sake of that, except, except doing that whole fucking political, excuse me.
Anyway, the whole political [01:49:00] righteousness kind of a thing. you just find creative ways of dipping it in, of giving them what they want, because it sounds different, but not what they, you think they think they need an added thing. I mean, a lot of people go, big romcoms, crazy Richard Asians. And I said, you know, something, it’s the first time the world was exposed to Asia.
Speaking different ways of English, Singaporean, English, Kings, English, Hong Kong, amazing Australian, all these different blends of English without that Asiatic sound. I left that talking like this, you know, if I’m saying a ball, but rather it’s like, well, I tell you, Bruce, you know, we’d go there. Yes we do.
And it’s all that subtle thing that you audio, you hear and you see, and I think the only, probably the only kind of stereotypic kind of behavior was probably Jimmy O yang, outrageous character in crazy rich Asians. But I mean, it’s, it’s [01:50:00] one of those things. This is, well, what’s his name? The lead was like, hopper, doesn’t matter if that gets what’s cast, then your supporting cast is not going to be all opera.
You’re going to have to provide more roles for Asian-Americans and why do you have to get so I remember I was able to play almost every kind of ethnic Asian character in television and film. Then I think it started with the whole Vietnam situation where it’s a specific thing. And then he said, well, then it started to change.
We need more authentic, authentic became the code word for Chinese, for Chinese Japanese, for Japanese, blah, blah, blah, down the road. Now I remember getting creative. Instead of being, agitated and, and hostile. We’re off between shots in Australia and I’m sitting next to Bruce and Bruce is going well, you know, Clyde, I’ve got another project coming up as deals with the Vietnamese community.
It’s going to be [01:51:00] a kind of a movie like that, but I don’t think I’ll be able to catch you there because you’re not Vietnam. These are you. And I went, I’ll tell you something, Bruce, if we were doing, if you were doing a project based on, Haitians, does that mean you’re only gonna look for black Haitian actors or you’re gonna find a black actor who can study to become Haitian, the French Patois, the Creole sound you got that whole world universe of black actors available, or if you’re doing a Latin X or Hispanic, whatever, or say something from El Salvador, are you only going to limit yourself to El Salvadorian or look, you know, why is it with the Asian, all of a sudden it becomes specific, authentic type of thing either.
It was in the black community say in, I find it so interesting that people are like pissed off that,the [01:52:00] black actor who played Martin Luther king was a. But really, nobody really knows. Why, why, why are you getting that specific? You know, he’s the actor, what’s his name, older WinCo, or wholly GENCO.
He’s from the UK. And in fact, the actors of color in the UK have to be more facile and adaptive. They’re the ones that congrats, that’s the Southern accent or this and that because they study, they, that’s what they studied and learned to do. Now, when they’re able to reach and attain a level of, acting or maybe directing, they can do feel, stories about, say Nigeria or ivory coast or wherever their ancestors came from and bring to light those things.
it’s one of those, situations where you can, I can say also it didn’t matter. I mean, are you going to say that if you’re going to play a [01:53:00] German, then Peter O’Toole shouldn’t have played the German Nazi general in it because he’s he’s well, sure. Scottish or whatever, but they can adapt. There’s no problem with the white Plains, add another white.
Masami Moriya: Y yeah. And I agree with those, those sentiments, but I think what nowadays is, is that the authentic parts that we play, not only is it, let’s see the biggest example. Mung characters, someone who’s mung. We don’t have enough actors who are mung, who have, who keep doing it. Now, if we put someone else who is Japanese American into play in those roles, now they might be able to play their role.
But then the other problem is we’re not giving the opportunities for other monk actors to play that role that they could play and giving them, more credits in their, their roles. That’s one part of it. The other second part of it is that, I even seen within movies either, whether you’re a writer, you’re an actor or, or one of the directors, being able to might be [01:54:00] able to play the role and give more meat, a little bit more depth and nuance to the role than someone who is not Asian at all.
But someone who is Japanese American playing Japanese American roles are going to have a better understanding of what that characters. long story long background is like, you’re playing your character and feral demands and art. You had family who was in four 42nd. You kind of understand the way that thought process is.
Whereas someone who’s Chinese American playing that role, they have to learn what that thought process is, but they’ll never have the lived it. And so, you know, not being in play, I think that’s back in the day, I think would have been fine. Like I watch all American girl now. I’m like, this is just fun.
Don’t get too hard up into it that they know that only Margaret Cho is Korean here, but like just have fun with it. I love my grandmother watches it and she’s like, I love Amy Hill. I interviewed her Amy health tomorrow. But like, if it was like, Kim’s convenience is like the same thing where their own little convenience store and they’re [01:55:00] having a life in that side, but only one character is not Korean American.
Now those, the Korean-American actors now, they all played it, but they also brought other things to their role in, within the writing, whether it was, Jean, Jean telling the writers like, well, you don’t, you, you can’t, Kim, the first episode was where they had the, oh, everybody’s going to get sick off the food, but the writer had done, oh, the kimchi is where you’re going to get sick, but you can’t get sick off kimchi because it’s fermented.
Right. And so she’s like, well, you’re bringing that extra layer of cause she knows. And so when you bring in authentic character, Eric, then people who can bring that background, they give just that little layer of depth that might not have been there. If you had cast it a different kind of Asian cause they can’t add to that story.
So I think there is there’s these, that’s like the new conversation that we’re trying to build upon from what others, wherever decades have
Clyde Kusatsu: Well, here’s the little nugget that you might find. Interesting. I was talking to, off-camera with, Darren Barnett, you know, he’s [01:56:00] his mom’s Japanese and his dad, of course. And when he was cast it wasn’t originally, he wasn’t a resignation, it’s just a Mindy. Caitlin came up and he was talking to some crew member in Japanese and Mindy went, wait, do you speak Japanese is, Yeah. because, you don’t have to happy then being creative thing.
Right. Then, then Paxton became Hoppa with a multi cultural background and Asian background. And of course the main leads she’s east Asian Indian. So, you know, so it’s that kind of a thing. I tell you when talk about community, the biggest, barometer I used to get or learned was the older generation from the community, the different communities, I’d meet them and they’d say, oh, you know, I just have to say Clyde.
And whenever we saw you on, on camera, we knew that we’re not going to be ashamed. You know, they didn’t have to cringe because I [01:57:00] remember in the fifties watching stereotypic portrayals, but everybody watched because they saw themselves on screen for the first time. So. They weren’t as judgemental because the most important thing was seeing yourself on screen being reflected,
Masami Moriya: Yeah. Well even just with respect at the very least. Yeah.
Clyde Kusatsu: no, now it’s become,too woke, I guess that’s the word sort of like, oh, come on, please.
You know, if you call woke, I mean, I’ve been basically, advocating for that since I was in high school, since I was in college, a theater major. and at some point it was a point of pride that I never had to in those years prior to getting to LA had to do like a flower drum song or whatever. And the biggest thing was in my early years in, in Hollywood, was that okay?
So, how the Westwood one will have their, their, show on Chinatown or whatever, and other shows would have it. I never would be [01:58:00] cast in these great, you know, ensemble with all Asians, even for some reason. However, I would wind up getting cast as the detective on Cagney and Lacey or this and that, just to, you know, that they’re looking to, it’s almost like.
I was the anti stereotype in a way that I was able to do something that wasn’t stereotypic, that didn’t fit in that box, that maybe I was a little too unique on the other, another hand, it’s sort of like the woman saying, well, you look Japanese, but you’re not that, you know, the whole Matt manner of being the whole way I occupy the space is a different psyche is a different site guys to give off, you know?
So it’s,it it’s a constant to me it’s a constant continuous education and learning process of the whole thing. There’s many more, I mean, in many respects, if I was doing a military says, so where are the Asian, fueled officers? Do you know how many [01:59:00] generals there are and admirals that are Chinese American, Korean American and Japanese Americans that are four-star generals, three-star generals.
And I guess guys Shinseki started off at west point and he wound up being army chief of staff
Masami Moriya: well,
Clyde Kusatsu: chief of staff. I forget, but you know, Vietnam vet and everything like that. then I think he wound up being, in Obama’s administration, head of the VA secretary of the VA.
Masami Moriya: Hm.
Clyde Kusatsu: I mean for Asians to get fuel, feel great officer situations like that, generals and everything, you know, before, and was like, maybe if he was the Hawaii national guard, you wind up being a Brigadier.
But now there’s a totally, ignored portion of, what roles Asians play. So even the head of cyber command is a guy named Nakasone whose mom is Holly and his dad is Japanese, but Nakasone is one of the head guys in cyber, cyber warfare, [02:00:00] you know? And so you got to see that reflected in backstage, if you’re doing procedurals and stuff like that,
Masami Moriya: Yeah,
Clyde Kusatsu: know, and this, that kind of, this, the kind of advocacy you say to a writer, Hey, you ever think about that?
What do you mean to make them work and say, yeah. Oh yeah. Oh, okay. Because then they could say in the writer’s room, well,
you know, there’s this UN here, this is general, this is an Admiral blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Oh yeah.
Oh, but you got to get it in the ground floor And then the writer’s room or with,
the creators, this and that, and find your time to be able to, I think another thing you develop is you just hit, hit, hit me, is that you learn how to.
Sell yourself or present yourself in a much more compelling way, because sometimes if you get into that room, you have maybe two minutes to [02:01:00] make an impression. It’s not just about stuff. Just about doing the lines in the scene. It’s about how you come into the room, how you greet people. I take the time to make eye contact and sometimes they go, no, I don’t show cancer.
Okay, fine. But at least you got a little bit more seconds in that room. Now I remember, I had done three seminal episodes. It’s in the book called the 50 best episodes of all in the family. And three of them that I did are in that. So I remember a couple of years ago, auditioning for Norman who was 97 or whatever.
And this other guy named Tolan is exec producer. And when I walked in the room, I said, Hey, hi. I said, normally I just have to thank you for allowing me to be part of the, you know, I played Reverend Chong in three of the episodes and this and this and this and this and this and his partner went, Jesus Christ, what are you 10 at the time?
You know, sort of like I don’t present. Right. [02:02:00] And so I didn’t get cast, but that didn’t matter because I got 10 minutes, whereas everybody was going for three minutes. And when you walk up people going, it’s like another, I didn’t, I didn’t another audition for a thing called REM. It became a NBC series. And the exec producer, can see anyway, he, he did a thing called lone star, but the, I knew his work.
It was good. Jason, Jason Stewart, not Jason sewer, Jason British actor, who was in the first season of star Trek. the first one, that’s the new one. at any rate I just wanted to,I was prepared for both scenes when I go to an audition. Sometimes my pages like scribbles with red and yellow and marks and everything like that.
And I walked in and there was some Cannes sitting there reading people magazine, right. His scripts, there’s pristine, nothing [02:03:00] pristine. And I went fine. That’s your choice. And then, so I came time and I, I went in and I said, Hey, how long you’re famous for your show? They only lasted one episode because it did the research, you know, just to start off the conversation and what we ended up doing the first scene.
And then of course, if you do it a certain way, Maybe slowly so that it’s editorial. If there’s interest, I’ll say, Hey, try that again, but can you tighten it all up again? So what you’re giving yourself as a second round, pass it, that to do it. And then after doing that, this said, well, he’s, he can do it.
Then Jason went, Hey, let’s do the other scene. And I had prepared that. So I was there for 20 minutes, right? Unbeknownst to me, the deal was already being made with BD because he was in law and order SVU to be an NBC show. However, that wasn’t the point. The point was [02:04:00] I had that extra time to demonstrate my skillset.
And even if I didn’t do it, I was demonstrating my skillset and my work as an actor. And as we’re going through the parking lot, a Hispanic actor came rushing up to misses. That was killer, man. That was so funny. I said, what was people going in there every, just to every three minutes? And you’re there for 20 minutes, man. Equal were like getting freaked out. What really? Yeah. As if okay. That’s cause that’s what the, that’s the feedback you can get sometimes, you know? So it’s, it’s, it’s how you look. It’s how you do the job is not without the expat expectations of booking it. If you go in without the expectations of book. If you didn’t get it, you didn’t get it.
There’s a reason things happen. So even though people say, well, they went in another way. Yeah.
they did. Did they go another way? I mean, there was recently I did a selfie audition for a good doctor [02:05:00] and they went another way. But my agent said, I want to, I want to just forward you, the memo that the casting person sent me and they usually don’t respond this way.
We use, please say he did a fantastic job. And unfortunately we couldn’t go his way, but thank him for doing, coming in and being able to do this. It was really great. So I’m going, didn’t get it. But that’s what the feedback is good. That means you are functioning in a good way. You’re doing your job. You know, I think, that’s what, I think it’s about the craft being the craftsperson.
So if you’re talking about legend or whatever, you know, it’s sort of like, I guess it’s like being the craftsperson, who you have to be the craftsman, the journeyman actor before you become the artists. And then the art is being able to replicate and knowing the [02:06:00] tools of craftsmanship to be able to, add to what would normally be a chair would be a different chair.
You know, Richard chair, I dunno.
Masami Moriya: Well, I think you’ve, you’ve given so many life lessons just even whether it’s acting or not, but just these analogies of being able to take things further, and really just pull down the ego don’t, don’t expect, expect everything, you know, and, and do you do education? We do the art, do the craft and practice it and, and, and enjoy it and, and keep, keep doing what you, what you love doing.
even as an, you know, as I’m not an actor now I know I’ve tried to start starting to do some modeling, but, you know, I think, I think that’s one of the reason why I don’t act, because I know there’s so much education, there’s so much, there’s so much that I’m like, I want the people who really do it.
Masami Moriya: Can you go do it? I will be accurate during the nonprofit writing worlds and, helping tell those stories. But I think there’s even for me as a writer, it’s like, it’s just, I heard a lot of, doing the craft. I feel a lot of great lessons here, Clyde. [02:07:00] So, I think he’s a great way to end this episode and it went on for so long, but, we’re going to get a couple, a couple of episodes out of this podcast.
but Clyde, thank you so much for, joining me on this
Clyde Kusatsu: Oh, David, thank you very much. It’s my, my pleasure. Thank you very much for the invite.
Masami Moriya: No, this is fantastic. Well, I’m glad we got to kill some time for your quarantine and, and do that. I’m smelling something burning on my stove. I’m like that doesn’t sound good,
Clyde Kusatsu: Okay.
Masami Moriya: then gets some stuff, but I really, really appreciate it. speaking with you today and
Clyde Kusatsu: Oh, you’re very welcome.
Masami Moriya: of these great stories.
Clyde Kusatsu: All right, man.
Masami Moriya: Thank you so much. All
Clyde Kusatsu: Bye. Hello,
Masami Moriya: Aloha. All right. Let’s I’m going to hold on a minute.