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DIVERSE TV PICKS: BANSHEE


DIVERSE TV PICKS BANSHEE via Swirl Nation Blog

You might tune in to the Cinemax crime drama Banshee for the high-octane fight scenes featuring its usually shirtless leading man, Antony Starr. But you should stay for Job, the cross-dressing hairstylist-turned-computer hacker played by actor Hoon Lee. Landing somewhere between fierce and fearsome, the character gives the dark series.  

Hoon Lee (born 1973 in Plymouth, Massachusetts) is an American actor who currently plays the role of Job on the Cinemax series Banshee and voices Hamato Yoshi / Splinter in the animated Nickelodeon series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and plays the role of the King in The King and I on Broadway.

Lee graduated from Harvard University in 1994. He appeared in 2001 in the Broadway production of Urinetown. He played many roles over the years until he was cast as Rosencrantz in a musical version of Hamlet. In 2008, Lee won a Theatre World Award for Distinguished Performance in Yellow Face.

In television, Lee got his first role as Dr. Mao in an episode of Sex and the City in 2003. He also made guest appearances in Law & Order, Fringe, Royal Pains, White Collar and other series. He also had small roles in movies such as Saving Face, We Own the Night and The Oranges.

In early 2012, Lee made a cameo in Premium Rush. In March 2012, he was cast as Job, a crossdressing computer hacker, in Banshee.

On June 18, 2015, it was announced that Lee will succeed Jose Llana in the role of the King of Siam in Lincoln Center's Tony-winning revival of The King and I. Lee formally joined the cast on September 29, 2015.

The Cinemax action series Banshee tells the story of Lucas Hood (Antony Starr), an ex-con and master thief who assumes the identity of the sheriff of Banshee, PA.  It’s the perfect cover for him to try to win back the love of his life (Ivana Milicevic) and hide out from the dangerous gangster (Ben Cross) that they both betrayed years earlier, while attempting not to get into too much more trouble.

During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, actor Hoon Lee – who plays the bad-ass transvestite computer hacker named Job (truly one of the best new characters on television), that assists Lucas in his criminal enterprises – talked about what attracted him to the very unique role, how the look for the character came about, doing action scenes in heels, Job’s great dialogue, his favorite episodes this season, and the courage in Job’s lifestyle and choices.  He also talked about voicing Splinter for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series.  Check out what he had to say after the jump.

Collider:  When this character was presented to you, did you have any idea just how fabulous he would be?
HOON LEE:  I liked the character, right away.  There’s a lot happening with him and there’s just so many places to explore.  That’s not something you always find in a role.  If it’s something that you look at and it’s very easily understood, on the first pass, there’s a good chance it could be kind of flat.  So, when you look at a character and you’re like, “Wow, that’s really unexplored terrain for me and there’s a lot happening here and different angles to him,” and you’re not sure what his motives are, you’ve got a good shot at working towards something interesting.  
How was Job described on paper, when you got the character description?
LEE:  I got a couple different descriptions.  I think the one that really stuck out to me, at the beginning, was the one that said, “A beautiful Asian woman who we don’t realize is a man until he speaks.”  That was the bit that had me speaking to my agent and asking him, “They know what I look like, right?  I know some men who make really beautiful women, and that’s not me.”  But, they had a sense of the attitude they wanted from the character and the combination of fierce and strong, but also something really intriguing and different.  That’s what I fastened onto the most.  In the various descriptions that were floated to me, that’s really what started to emerge, more and more.  They wanted a character that really had a ferocity and a core of strength, to be coupled with this more feminine and technical presentation.   
How did the look for this character come about?
LEE:  The design team, as a whole, and Patia Prouty, specifically, who was our lead costume designer, have really co-authored this character.  We explored a lot of it together, over a period of time, and we’re still doing that.  I think we’ve got a much better read than when we first started, for what the character is going to be like, visually.   It was really exciting to be able to collaborate on that.  
Do you ever worry about hurting yourself while doing action scenes in the wardrobe and shoes?
LEE:  Oh, god, yes!  I have no idea how women do it!  I don’t know how they regularly walk around in heels, to be honest.  It’s such a precarious thing, but the team is always very safety first.  In general, there’s a lot of concern from the production side about your safety and well being, and it’s the actors who go, “No, we can do it!  Just go!”  They’re careful about how the fights are choreographed, so I would always have the opportunity to look out for my own safety, and that was great.  So, I never felt in danger.  It was really more of a question of a certain level of comfort in the outfit itself.  That’s something I’m working on.  Hopefully, we’ll all be better off, in future episodes.  
Did they want to see what you’d look like in wardrobe, at any point during the audition process?
LEE:  No, they never asked me for that.  Maybe other people feel differently than I do, but I always feel like, when you go into an audition, your best chance at success is to be as comfortable as you can be.  Some people I know, who went after this role, who were friends of mine, did present in drag or in make-up.  If that’s how they feel connected to the character, then that’s what works for them.  But, I know for myself that I often feel like I can’t second-guess the way that they are envisioning the character.  I don’t know what the character looks like to them, so if I take a guess at it, I could be 180 degrees in the wrong way.  So, it’s generally more helpful for me to just be confident and comfortable, going into the audition.  Hopefully, I’ll give them enough that they can imagine the rest.  
Is Job an easy character to get into the mind-set of, or does the wardrobe help?
LEE:  It’s really complimentary.  There’s a back-and-forth in the development of the character.  It really does start with the script.  I’m very, very thankful and grateful to the writers, Jonathan Tropper and David Schickler, and also the executive team, as a whole, with Greg [Yaitanes], Alan [Ball] and Peter [Macdissi], ‘cause they put something down on the page that was really exciting and interesting, and then they were open enough to allow me to have a conversation about that.  So, it really starts on the page, but I felt like the writers wrote a character that has a lot of runway.  As we started to develop looks, and tried endless hair and make-up tests, it started to inform the performance.  And as the performance started to become clearer in my mind, that started to lead to more concrete ideas for the presentation.  
Was there extra thought given to how Job would look, the first time viewers got to see him?
LEE:  Oh, yeah, definitely!  There’s a real drama to the character.  The character is a showman, or a showgirl, on several levels.  He’s very conscious about his appearance and his presentation.  It’s an extremely extroverted presentation.  It never felt like it was simply, “This is what I feel.”  As with drag queens, not to generalize, but there’s often a performance quality, which is often why they do it or how they get involved, a lot of the time.  So, there is a performance quality to Job and it’s part of his identity as a renegade and an outlier.  
Will viewers learn how Job got connected to Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) and Rabbit (Ben Cross)?
LEE:  I think so.  I can’t be sure because the storytelling aspect of it is something best left to the writers, directors and editors.  Being a new show, it’s something that is an evolving process for people.  I do think they have a very strong point of view on it, with when to use the flashbacks, and how much to reveal when.  I’d be leary about commenting with any certainty about what the end result will be, over the course of the season, but the central theme of Banshee, to a large extent, is that nothing is as it seems.  In a lot of ways, it is a very classic, modern American story.  The flashbacks will be informative because it’s a thematic of the show that you will learn new and surprising information about these characters that maybe is counter to what you think you know about them.  
You’ve had some great lines on this show.  Is all of that scripted, or do you ever improvise any of it?
LEE:  I’m biased, clearly, but I feel like Job has a lot of the good lines.  There’s a lot of great interaction with him and Sugar (Frankie Faison), in particular.  I wish I could take credit, but the writers are so good that it would be foolish of me.  Then they would actually make me improvise.  They’d be like, “You think you’re so smart?  You do it!”  They certainly are extremely accommodating and open to collaboration and conversation.  I think we’ve got a collection of smart actors that are able to help the scenes along.  It’s a very self-sacrificing bunch, as well.  You often take your cue from your leads, and Antony [Starr] is the first one to say, “You know what?  Maybe we should give this line to Job.  This doesn’t seem like something Lucas needs to say.”  I think that that’s all a great tribute to the fact that everybody is driving towards the best product possible.  I’m just hoping that the writers continue to enjoy writing for job ‘cause that’s what I feel, coming across the page.  They have a good time writing for him.  
Do you have a favorite episode from this season?
LEE:  It’s tough to say, really.  We had this great opportunity, which sometimes is considered a luxury, in that we had a lot of our scripts, early in the process, and the writers had a good handle on the full season, right from the beginning.  On the one hand, that was great for us because it gave us the opportunity to think in a larger arc.  Particularly with new material, a new show and new characters, it would have been very easy to get trapped in a moment-to-moment mentality.  But, on the other hand, as a result, I feel like each episode really slots in like a puzzle piece, so it’s hard to pick out one that I feel is my favorite.  Even the ones that I’m not in, I really enjoyed hearing about them and reading the scripts and dropping by and seeing what was happening because there are set-ups for the things that come later and pay-offs for the things that have come before.  I think that Episodes 9 and 10, which is our season finale, are just going to be really spectacular.  They’re going to answer a lot of questions, but it’s very much the pay-off for the season.  They were really amazingly fun to shoot, and it’s where a lot of the characters come together, some for the first time.  It was great to be able to work in that environment and feel like we were all coming together.  
If everybody manages to make it through the season in one piece, is this a character that you’re looking forward to getting to explore some more in Season 2?
LEE:  Oh, absolutely!  I hope it’s somebody that people feel resonates with them and that they can identify with, for different reasons.  I certainly feel that way.  I don’t consider myself, in real life, to be a mirror of Job, but Job is somebody that I think, in a lot of ways, is forging his own reality in the world, and that’s something that a lot of us struggle with.  There’s a courage to his lifestyle and his choices that I think a lot of us wish we could make.  That doesn’t necessarily have to do with his appearance, his gender-bending, or anything else.  He’s just saying, “This is who I am and I’m going to put that out there.”  To a certain extent, he’s also saying, “This is who I think I am today, and I’m going to put that out there.  Tomorrow it might be different.”  I find that quality really admirable.  He’s certainly just a blast to play.  But, I think it’s a character that’s going to polarize a lot of people, too.  At the end of the day, if someone looks at a character like Job and can say, “There’s something there that I really understand,” than that would be great.  That’s somewhat the point.  
What’s it been like to also voice Splinter on the Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles animated series?
LEE:  This past year was such a blessing, in so many ways.  I grew up with comic books and cartoons and action movies.  To find myself in the position to do work in these mediums, and to work with a character like Job that does feel unique and like someone I can make my own, is just an opportunity I couldn’t have even asked for.  It’s just pure luck, really.  When we went to Comic-Con with  Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles, the turn-out was so great that I was like, “Oh, okay, this is going to do all right.”  It just was so clear that people had grown up with these characters and loved them.  I did, too, but I wasn’t sure if people had outgrown it.  But, I’m glad we haven’t.  I’m glad we’re all immature together.

Banshee airs on Friday nights on Cinemax.

Interview by Christina Radish www.collider.com


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SWIRL FAMILY TRADITIONS: DOL OR DOLJANCHI


Dol or doljanchi is a Korean tradition that celebrates the first birthday of a baby. This ceremony blesses the child with a prosperous future and has taken on great significance in Korea. The birthday babies wear a hanbok and a traditional hat: a jobawi or gulle for baby girls and a bokgeon or hogeon for baby boys.

SWIRL FAMILY TRADITIONS: DOL OR DOLJANCHI via Swirl Nation Blog

In the past, the death rates for children were high and many children died before their first birthday, so it was an important milestone for the baby and parents. The whole village used to celebrate a baby's first birthday, sharing food and wishing for long life and fortune for the baby.

The highlight of the dol is a ritual where the child is placed in front of a table of foods and objects such as string, brushes, ink and money. The child is then urged to pick up an object from the table. It is believed the one selected will foretell the child's future. For example, if the child picks up a brush or book, he/she is destined to be smart. If he/she picks up money he/she will be wealthy; If he/she picks up food that means he/she will not be hungry. If the child picks up the thread, it is believed he/she will live a long life. The types of objects placed on the table for the baby to choose has evolved over time, as a reflection of society's evolving perception of successful occupations. However, many parents remain more traditional in their selection of objects to place on the table. This is followed by feasting, singing and playing with the toddler. Most often, guests will present gifts of money, clothes, or gold rings to the parents for the child at this time.

At home family members give thanks to Samshin (three gods who are believed to take care of the baby's life while growing up) by serving plain rice, seaweed soup, and rice cakes. For the party, parents prepare a special 'Dol' table, where food is stacked high to symbolize a life of prosperity for the baby. The table is set mainly with a rice cake of pretty rainbow layers, seaweed soup, and fruits. Miyeok guk (seaweed soup) is served on every birthday after the first birthday to remind people of what their mother went through to bring them into the world.

The celebration is usually held in buffet restaurants or wedding halls. Parents prepare some prizes for guests and upon entering the party, everyone gets a piece of paper on which a number is written. During the party guests who correctly answer a question about the baby win a prize. The host of the party, or an entertainer, also calls out a number randomly, and the person who has that number receives a prize.

 

This tradition is special to me, as I have been fortunate enough to attend each of my three nephews’ Dol. As I’m based in LA and my nephews in NYC, any time I spend with them is special, but a Dol is quite a spectacular birthday celebration that I hope to experience when I have children.

SWIRL FAMILY TRADITIONS: DOL OR DOLJANCHI via Swirl Nation Blog




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SWIRL COCKTAILS: CLASSIC MOJITO


I was never one to completely acquire the taste of alcohol.  My 20’s was filled with experimental fruity drinks to mask the taste of booze.  I definitely went through my flavored shots faze, lemons drops, jolly ranchers and a few others that do not come with politically correct names, so I won’t mentioned them.  I worked as a cocktail waitress to pay the bills while I was in school, so I got degree-worthy knowledgeable of mixed drinks as well.

 

Six years ago, I found out I was allergic to alcohol after taking a series of allergy tests.  Looking back, there were always signs, but I ignored them like most 20 somethings do. I would get buzzed off of a few sips of a drink, I would get hives and the worst headaches that would linger for days.  Now, I’ll have an occasional mock-tail, all the flavor and calories of a drink without the alcohol.

 

Honestly, I never was much of a drinker, so mock- tails are a perfect little treat for me.  My go to mock-tail is a mojito.  The combination of sweet, tart and refreshing mint hits the spot for me!  The best part is you can add any muddled fruit to kick it up a notch.

 

Mojito comes from mojo, the Spanish word meaning to assemble or blend. Like many classic cocktails, the origins of the mojito are fuzzy, but legend claims it originated when Cuban plantation masters began adding highly alcoholic sugarcane distillate to slaves' energy-boosting sugar water. Over time, mint and lime were added. Fast forward a couple hundred years to the 20th century, and the easy-to-drink combination became the go-to cocktail at Havana's many bars and clubs, eventually making its way to the United States.

 

The difference between a perfect mojito and an average one is the quality of ingredients.  Since rum is not regulated by an international body, there's controversy over the perfect recipe for making quality levels of the spirit. It follows that rum-based cocktails, like the mojito, are often tainted by subpar alcohol made with synthetic sugars, added to sour mixes. When added to premium rum, fresh mojitos are lower-cal, healthier and tastier.

“The mojito must be all-natural. It must have a rustic flavor, no metallics that ruin the simple taste,” says Henderson. And this guy knows what he's talking about; Cuba Libre features a dozen signature mojitos and 98 types of rum to accompany its Cuban fare. “Fresh is always best. And mojitos are not meant to be strong and knock you on your butt.”

In the spirit of getting our future mojitos made correctly, we asked Henderson his best tips for making a classic mojito.  Here's how it's done:

Always start with white rum. Rum, which is made from molasses, sugarcane juice or cane syrup can be white (unaged), golden or brown (aged in various types of wooden barrels). Since aged rums change a classic mojito's flavor with woody character, start with white rum for the purest expression of sugarcane. Once you experiment with various fruit mojitos and learn your rum preference, then change out the white with a higher proof or aged rum for spins on the classic.

Use guarapo rather than simple syrup. Squeezing the green-colored juice from sugarcane stalks is the most authentic way to sweeten a mojito. Stalks can be purchased at some natural food stores, such as Whole Foods, peeled and extracted with a high-powered electric juicer. When making fresh guarapo is not possible, combine one part raw or unprocessed sugar with one part water on a stovetop until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool before mixing into the mojito.

Tear, rather than muddle, fresh mint leaves. When shaken with ice, torn mint releases its essential oils more easily, becoming more aromatic. Muddled leaves, on the other hand, retain much of the fresh flavor characteristic of the drink. The quality of mint also counts. Henderson recommends Israeli mint when possible, which contains more oils. Make sure mint leaves are not dry or browning.

Avoid bottled lime juice and sour mix. Limes are widely available most of the year and easily extracted for fresh juice, whereas bottled lime juices contain unnecessary preservatives. Choose limes that are somewhat firm and roll one to loosen juices before squeezing.

Ready to get your real mojito on?  Here is a classic recipe courtesy of Cuba Libre in Washington, D.C. and resident mixologist and bar manager, Vance Henderson.

 

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ ounces white rum

2 ½ ounces guarapo (sugarcane juice)

1 ¼ ounces fresh lime juice

6 mint leaves

1 splash soda

DIRECTIONS

Combine mint, lime and guarapo in a shaker. Add rum and ice. Shake vigorously and pour in a collins glass. Splash with club soda and garnish with a lime wedge.


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