TIA Carrere says she’ll never forget how impressed she was when she saw James Hong as geneticist Hannibal Chew in "Blade Runner" — or how excited she was when she heard that he had been cast as her father in "Wayne’s World 2."
"I was very excited! (I said) ‘That is perfect!’ And his fight with Mike (Myers) was just genius," she said.
"It was an amazing, amazing scene. He was fantastic," Carrere recalled, during a phone conversation last week from her home in Southern California.
And so, when Willie K asked her to join him in presenting Hong with a lifetime achievement award at the Hawaii Theatre tonight, Carrere cleared her schedule and agreed to come home to Hawaii for the event.
"It’s going to be a long day, but to be able to honor an actor that I really enjoyed working with, and respect for his longevity in the business as well, is something that I’m very proud to be able to do," she said.
WILLIE K’S 50TH STATE FILM, MUSIC AND MARTIAL ARTS FESTIVAL
James Hong Film Fair: Willie K and Tia Carrere open the festival with special guest Po from "Kung Fu Panda" and "Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom." James Hong hosts the fair and conducts workshop-style presentations on acting and doing voice-overs.
When: 1:30 p.m. today
Where: Hawaii Theatre, 1130 Bethel St.
Cost: $15, $10 ages 12 and younger
Info: 528-0506 or www.hawaiitheatre.com
Willie K Music Festival with special presentation to James Hong: Willie K and Tia Carrere present James Hong with a lifetime achievement award for his career accomplishments and contributions to the film industry. Performances by Willie K, Bill Kaiwa and Lima Wela, and a special reunion performance by the Barefoot Natives.
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Hawaii Theatre
Cost: $35-$75 (all seats reserved)
WILLIE K MUSIC MARTIAL ARTS TOURNAMENT
Demonstrations of kajukenbo, karate, Chinese martial arts and tae kwon do follow a morning of competition. The results determine an official qualifier for the 2011 Martial Arts Championship Tournament at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif.
When: 9 a.m. tomorrow (doors open at 8)
Where: Pagoda Hotel, 1525 Rycroft St.
Carrere has proved willing to make the effort. Her schedule today begins early with visits to morning news shows. Next comes a pre-show run-through for the James Hong Film Fair at the Hawaii Theatre, and then the fair will begin.
She’ll return to the theater this evening to emcee the Willie K Music Festival.
"I want to do a good job emceeing," she said. "You have to be up, you have to be on top of it, you have to be quick — and if there’s lag time between the acts, you have to vamp."
CARRERE met Willie on the set of "You May Not Kiss the Bride" — she was playing a woman named Nani; he was the mayor of a Tahitian village. They stayed in touch afterward.
When Willie told her he was doing the festival and honoring Hong, she agreed to help out.
"When you think about (how things were) when James came up, it is quite an achievement to have a body of work like he has — and to have maintained his kindness and his generosity of spirit in a business like this, that at times has been quite thankless to the Asian or the ethnic performer," she said.
Carrere encountered some racial issues when she was breaking into the business in the ’80s. Her career got rolling with TV roles in "Airwolf" and then "General Hospital," but the soap wasn’t ready for an interracial relationship. The writers provided her with an Asian love interest, but it was clear early on that their options for writing a story line for her character were limited.
Carrere persevered, working in television and film until she began getting roles that were not defined by race or ethnicity.
"I like to say that I kicked the door open for some subsequent people that got into the business," she said, adding that "it’s staggering" to think that she’s been in the business 26 years.
"(The years) have gone by in flash," she added. "It’s like that old saying, ‘If you enjoy what you do, it’s not work,’ and I really feel blessed for having gone on this amazing adventure."
After a career that’s included high-profile television and film roles, and a Grammy Award-winning album, Carrere’s "adventure" is continuing. She recently landed a recurring role on "Warehouse 13" on Syfy, and is anticipating the release of her fourth Hawaiian music album in September.
She adds that with the ever-growing number of cable and online channels, opportunities are increasing for performers of all ethnicities. She describes her starring role in the international fantasy-adventure series "Relic Hunter" as "a great achievement" because her character, archaeologist Sydney Fox, was not defined by race or ethnicity.
"And now there’s ‘Nikita’" (on the CW Television Network), she said — "a TV series headed up by a Hawaiian Asian-American, Maggie Q — so we’re moving in the right direction."