Asian stars are rising — Latest TV breakthroughs look like the real deal

Once relegated to playing houseboys, prostitutes and extras on “M*A*S*H,” Asian-American actors are now appearing on prime-time television not as exoticized versions of reality, but as real people. Sandra Oh, superb in “Sideways,” is a star in the new medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” which has kicked “Boston Legal” to the curb and taken the prime slot after “Desperate Housewives” on Sunday nights at ABC. Or turn on ABC’s other hit drama, “Lost,” and you’ll notice not one, but two Asian regulars. Korean-American actors Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim (no relation to each other — or me) portray a married Korean couple stranded on the creepy island with a crew of folks including a pregnant woman, an Iraqi hottie, a fat dude, an African-American father and his son, a dog and a hobbit (or at least a guy who played a hobbit in “Lord of the Rings”).

Bruce Lee — Urban Legend

Two decades before Jet Li and DMX joined forces for “Cradle 2 the Grave”–which opens Friday–Bruce Lee was kicking it with Jim Kelly in “Enter the Dragon.” Back then, pairing an Asian-American martial arts star (Lee was born in the United States and raised in Hong Kong) with a black karate champ-turned-actor was a novelty. These days, it’s good business to keep faith with the audience that first embraced martial arts films in the United States–African Americans.