By Jae-Ha Kim
November 21, 1986
(LOS ANGELES) A lot of people are fooled by his name. Patrick Francis Bishop sounds about as American as you can get. But the Eurasian star of “General Hospital” considers himself more Asian than Caucasian.
“I think it’s the same for most kids of mixed marriages,” Bishop said. “If a person’s half black and half white, society tends to think of him or her as black.”
Bishop, who’s half Japanese and half Irish, co-stars in “Women of Valor,” a made-for-television movie that will air at 8 p.m. Sunday on WBBM-Channel 2. It stars Kristy McNichol and Susan Sarandon.
“One of my strong hopes as an actor is to break the gap between the Asian and the Caucasian,” Bishop said. “I’d like to go beyond the stereotype of the bucktoothed, servile cook or houseboy. There’s just so much more than that.
“In the movie, I play Capt. Nakayama. He was born and raised in San Francisco but went to school in Japan. The war breaks out, he gets inducted into the Japanese army, and has to fight against America. Nakayama isn’t trusted by the other soldiers because he was raised in America, but the Americans don’t trust him, either, because he’s Japanese. He’s a man of honor and he’s strong. But he’s confused as to where his allegiance lies. He’s a good character to play.”
Bishop, 28, got a relatively late start in acting. Although he did some plays in school, he didn’t seriously think of pursuing acting as a career until he was 19. He studied with acting coaches and auditioned for every part he heard about.
Eventually, he did commercials for United Airlines and guest-starring roles on “Hawaiian Heat” and “Hawaii Five-O.” He landed minor parts in several feature films, the most memorable being Jack Lemmon’s “Buddy, Buddy” and Tom Selleck’s “Memories Are Forever.”
But until last year, when he joined “General Hospital” as Dr. Yank Se Chung, Bishop was best known to television viewers as Keoki, the bartender on “Magnum P.I.” When his character was sent off to prison, Bishop checked into the hospital.
“I’m happy with the changes my character’s going through on `General Hospital’ because he was kind of wishy-washy in the beginning,” Bishop said. “He has more of a sense of direction now. Yank has integrity and he has a variety of goals he’s working toward. The writers are trying to let him keep his ethnicity while showing that he’s still as American as the other actors.”
Bishop acknowledged that he has had better luck at getting parts than some of his full-blooded Asian colleagues because he looks like an airbrushed version of an Asian leading man.
“Asians know that I’m Eurasian, but most other people can’t tell if I’m full-blooded or not,” Bishop said. “It’s in the eyes of the beholder, I guess. I think that because I have some Caucasian characteristics – I’m tall, I have large eyes – it’s been harder for people to throw me into the busboy category, fortunately for me. That’s been a help to me in my career.
“Also, when I go to read for a role, people don’t know right away that I’ll have black hair and brown eyes because you can’t tell by my name what I am. I would love to play a part that was originally written for a white man, or a black man, and not necessarily a Chinese or Japanese man.”
Bishop has taken up the martial arts, partially because people expect him to know them but mainly because they help him concentrate. He swims, meditates, and sticks to his vegetarian diet.
Bishop said he must be mellowing because he was hyperactive as a child. His foster parents were in the military, so he lived all over Europe and the United States before they settled in Hawaii 16 years ago. While still in his teens, Bishop traveled on his own to India, Thailand, Australia, Malaysia and New Zealand.
“I went to a lot of third-world countries to learn,” Bishop said. “I didn’t just say, `OK, I’m going to travel.’ I was on a spiritual quest and I was searching to understand more about life.
“I almost died in India. I got very, very ill. I had tuberculosis, Bombay fever, hepatitis. . .you name it – I got it over there. I lived there for a year and I miraculously recovered with flying colors. That’s when I began to get into meditation and all. It was pretty unreal.”
Today, Bishop doesn’t have much time to travel and, if he gets sick, he has to nurse himself back to health so he won’t mess up the soap opera’s stringent shooting schedule.
“Like most actors, I want to do feature films,” Bishop said. “But a lot of great actors have come out of soaps. It’s a grueling experience, but it’s worth it. For myself, I hope to become like (Hong Kong-born actor) John Lone someday. And for my people, I hope that the exposure I’m getting will help other Asians get work in film and television. We’re an untapped resource.”