From left: “All-American Girl” cast members J.B. Quon, Amy Hill, Clyde Kusatsu and Margaret Cho; moderator Phil Yu of “Angry Asian Man.” (Photo by Jonathan Liu)
The 25th anniversary of the ABC sitcom “All-American Girl” was celebrated May 4 at the Regal L.A. Live as part of the 2019 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival’s Conference for Creative Content.
The first network sitcom to feature an Asian American family since Pat Morita’s short-lived “Mr. T and Tina” in 1976, “All-American Girl” ran for one season on ABC from 1994 to 1995. It wasn’t until 2015 that another Asian American sitcom, “Fresh Off the Boat,” aired on a broadcast network (ABC). That show has been renewed for a sixth season. For two seasons, a second Asian American sitcom, “Dr. Ken,” aired on ABC at the same time.
The reunion featured cast members Margaret Cho, who played Margaret Kim; Clyde Kusatsu, who played her father; Amy Hill, who played her grandma; and J.B. Quon, who played her little brother Eric. Phil Yu, creator of the “Angry Asian Man” website, served as moderator.
With the exception of Quon, who is now a creative designer at a major automotive company, all of the cast members are still in show business.
Cho, in her solo show “I’m the One that I Want,” revealed that she did not have creative control of her sitcom, even though it was based on her standup comedy, and was under such pressure to be thin that she became seriously ill. “All-American Girl” was alternately criticized for being too Asian or not Asian enough, and some Korean Americans were disappointed that Cho was the only Korean cast member.
Cho now has five Grammy nominations, one Emmy nomination for her work on “30 Rock,” and a number of awards for her advocacy for LGBTQ rights. She was also a regular on the series “Drop Dead Diva.”
The cast of “All-American Girl” in 1994. Margaret Cho (seated) with her TV family (from left), J.B. Quon, Amy Hill, B.D. Wong, Jodi Long and Clyde Kusatsu.
In addition to numerous film and TV roles, including Ken Jeong’s father-in-law on “Dr. Ken” and a Japanese finance minister on “Designated Survivor,” Kusatsu has served as a national vice president of SAG-AFTRA and president of the L.A. Local of SAG-AFTRA.
Hill is a regular on the reboot of “Magnum, P.I.” and recently had recurring roles on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Unreal,” among other shows. Her latest films include “The Unbidden” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
Unable to attend were Jodi Long, who played Cho’s mother, and B.D. Wong, who played Cho’s older brother Stuart. Long, who later played Steve Byrne’s mother in the TBS sitcom “Sullivan & Son,” is known for her one-woman show “Surfing My DNA.” Wong has had regular or recurring roles on “Law & Order: SVU,” “Mr. Robot” and “Gotham” and appeared in the two “Jurassic World” movies.
An episode of “All-American Girl,” “Grandma’s Boyfriend,” was shown. Sab Shimono played Hill’s love interest.
The panelists noted that the show was criticized at the time by members of the Asian American community for not meeting their expectations, but is now regarded as a trailblazer for Asian Americans in television.
“We opened the door,” Kusatsu said in a Facebook post. “Others followed through 20 years later.”