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Falling For Grace

(formerly titled "Social Grace" and "East Broadway")

East Broadway  Gale Harold and Fay Ann Lee

Summary:

Grace Tang is an investment banker successful in the high-powered world of finance despite her modest Chinatown upbringing. However, she is still constantly seeking to climb the social ladder by joining the most elite committee in New York. When Grace finally gets an invitation to a party for The Opera of New York City's Junior Committee, she is determined to shine. At the chic affair filled with haute WASPs, Grace is mistakenly connected to the renowned "Shanghai Tang" boutique on Madison Avenue, so the committee members promise to vote Grace in. Before she can correct her mistaken identity, all eyes turn to handsome Andrew Barrington, Jr., the heir to the Barrington fortune. When the duo are introduced, he is completely taken by her unaffected style, while Grace is thrilled to be taking the most eligible bachelor in New York.

The independent film was shot in New York City during the month of August 2004. It is a romantic comedy about the cultural complications that occur when an Asian-American woman realizes her Cinderella fantasy by dating one of Manhattan's most eligible blue-blood bachelors.

Fay Ann Lee wrote the script for the movie and stars as Grace, a female Wall Street whiz with a Chinatown background. read an interview with Fay Ann Lee here. Margaret Cho costars as her friend and colleague. Gale Harold plays Lee's love interest, the wealthy socialite, in the high-profile interracial relationship. B.D. Wong was on board originally as director of the film, as well as playing another love interest for Grace.

Wong says, "It has the potential to be a very commercial mainstream comedy with an Asian American point of view that is honest and fresh. Growing up with the assumption that being Cinderella is what makes a girl happy is a loaded prospect when you're an Asian girl who gets to a juncture where it's not clear whether it's the guy or his world that she's fallen in love with." (Daily Variety, April 28, 2004)

The casting for featured extras included some rather interesting characters -- a factory manager, seamstresses, TV cameramen, control room technicians, construction workers, a burly Russian delivery guy, and eight great Charleston dancers.

The film is produced by Susan Batson, Carl Rumbaugh (also known for American Darlings), and Juan-Carlos Zapata.

Images from jimcox.net:

Fay Ann Lee Gale Harold
Margaret Cho Margaret Cho
Roger Rees Roger Rees
Stephanie March Stephanie March
Christine Baranski B.D. Wong

Images from filming:

East Broadway

East Broadway

East Broadway

East Broadway

East Broadway

Media:

NEW YORK, Feb. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Bigfoot Partners Film Fund Enters Indie Film World With SOCIAL GRACE

Film Marks Feature Directorial Debut of Acclaimed Actor B.D. Wong and Stars Fay Ann Lee, Gale Harold, Margaret Cho and Christine Baranski

Bigfoot Partners' initial foray into independent film financing, SOCIAL GRACE, wrapped principle photography in New York. The romantic comedy is the feature film directorial debut of acclaimed actor B.D. Wong and stars Wong along with screenwriter Fay Ann Lee, Gale Harold, Margaret Cho, Stephanie Wang, Roger Rees and Christine Baranski. Through Bigfoot Entertainment, Bigfoot Partners is the principal financier of SOCIAL GRACE and is also providing marketing and distribution support.

Bigfoot Partners, the investment arm of Bigfoot Entertainment, is the multi-million dollar financial fund formed by successful businessman and entrepreneur Michael Gleissner in August 2004 in order to support Asian-American filmmakers, and to showcase Asian culture for American and world audiences. Through Bigfoot Partners, Gleissner has made a bold entry into the independent film world by investing in film projects with budgets up to five-million dollars which tell unique stories, often from an Asian point of view.

"Asians are the largest ethnic minority in North America to have virtually no voice in feature films," said Gleissner, who is also Executive Producer of SOCIAL GRACE. "Our film fund offers a chance to bring many of these untold stories to the screen."

SOCIAL GRACE is a Cinderella-like story about a young Asian woman (Fay Ann Lee) who wants to break into the high society of upper-crust New York City. Mistaken for being from a family of great wealth, she is courted by the most eligible bachelor in Manhattan (Gale Harold).

"In the future we are also looking to invest in projects that have American characters in an Asian setting," said Jim Hoffman, President, Bigfoot Partners. "Westerners will experience Asian locations and culture vicariously through these movies in a way the rest of the world has done with American culture for a century," he added.

Following SOCIAL GRACE, Bigfoot Partners' next project is the drama THREE NEEDLES starring Lucy Liu, Chloe Sevigny, Stockard Channing, Sandra Oh, Shawn Ashmore and Olympia Dukakis.

LA Times Dec. 2004

When the Broadway musical "Pacific Overtures" came through San Francisco in the late '70s, it made an enormous impact on teenage Bradley Darryl Wong. "I was just starting to test the waters about being a performer," the actor remembers, "and almost everything on TV, in the movies or onstage then was thankless. There were no television shows or movies that glorified being Asian. They either made fun of it or kept Asian American people in the periphery."

But this show was different. "Pacific Overtures" was about Asians, starring Asian Americans such as Mako. "It was a celebration of the very thing that made them special," Wong says. "Afterward, I chased Mako down the street to get his autograph."

Nearly 30 years later, "Pacific Overtures" is back, playing at the Roundabout Theatre's Studio 54 on Broadway, and Wong is the one likely to be signing autographs. Now widely known as much for his TV and film work as for his Tony-winning performance in "M. Butterfly" in 1988, Wong plays the role created by Mako. As the Reciter, he narrates and illuminates the Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman tale of how Commodore Matthew Perry's arrival in 1853 helped launch Japan's change from the "floating kingdom" of Nippon to an industrialized nation.

Wong, 42, glides about the stage, taking on various personas, singing and generally guiding the audience through the show's musical introduction to Japanese history. Continually changing costumes as well as characters, he's rarely offstage. During the break between a recent matinee and evening performance, he looks around at his sparsely decorated dressing room and says, "I'm rarely here."

That's because he's simultaneously also directing his first feature film, "Social Grace," and filming NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" several mornings a week in New Jersey. But even given his tight schedule, he couldn't say no. "I've never had the opportunity before to do this musical, and I'm very lucky to have this experience now. On your hands and feet you can probably count the major wonderful, no-question-about-it plays any Asian American actor would want to be in. There just aren't that many, sadly enough."

Weidman calls Wong "the preeminent Asian American actor in the theater," a distinction that began with his breakthrough role as Song Liling in David Henry Hwang's "M. Butterfly."

Although he was to receive the Tony Award for his performance, a Broadway debut, Wong concedes he was not initially interested in doing the play. "I thought I was content doing bit parts on television shows in Los Angeles. Besides, if I wanted to audition for it, I had to fly myself to New York, and I didn't have the money to do that. But I had never read anything like it. I was only three- quarters of the way through it when I called my parents to borrow the money."

After several auditions, he won the part of the male Chinese spy who convinced a French diplomat that he was a female opera singer. He also took on the name then of B.D. to help conceal the show's conceit.

Things were a little anticlimactic after "M. Butterfly." "It was a very specific, odd, eccentric part," Wong says. "I floundered a bit, not sure if I was a character actor or what I was. And the work I was getting didn't really help me to define that."

His television and film roles didn't help much either. He has guest starred on several TV shows and appeared in more than 20 films, including "Jurassic Park" and "Father of the Bride," but he says it's only in recent years that he moved beyond what he considers "caricature or character work." His recurring role of prison chaplain Ray Mukada on HBO's "Oz" began in 1997, and, since 2001, he's inhabited Dr. George Huang, the forensic psychiatrist on "Law & Order: SVU."

"Even if people in the audience don't know his work from 'M. Butterfly' and other theater pieces," Weidman observes, "they'll see him and say, 'That's the guy from "Law & Order." ' "

They may also recognize him as college lecturer, gay parent or author, for Wong has become quite prominent off-camera. In the mid- '90s, he began traversing college campuses, talking about his life as an Asian American who chose a career path in the arts and, he says, "about how I experienced a lot of self-esteem and identity challenges because I was uncomfortable with who I was.

"Prior to 'M. Butterfly,' I was doing a number on myself in show biz, trying to shoehorn myself into a formulaic mold. I would have turned my back on an entire community of people because I wanted to be an actor. I say to college kids all the time: 'If you could have given me $150,000 and the promise it could be done, I would have said, "Make my face look like Matthew Broderick's.' "

Not anymore. He isn't sure of the moment things changed -- "it wasn't like it went on and off like a switch," he says. "But 'M. Butterfly' was the first time that I thought, 'Wow, you could really celebrate what you are in this play, be respected and do your best work ever.' And there was no shame attached to it whatsoever."

Partner, father, author

More recently, he's also come out about being gay, also an identity issue for him. "When I began this career, I never talked about being gay. I left that out. Both caused me to wish I was something else until I figured it out and reached a point where I could actually understand what's great about these things."

Wong's private life became even more public when he wrote a well- received book about the emotional and medical dramas surrounding the decision that he and longtime partner Richie Jackson made to become parents. "Following Foo: The Electronic Adventures of the Chestnut Man," published in 2003, grew out of -- and incorporates -- many of the e-mails he sent friends and colleagues about the premature births of twin sons, the ensuing death of one and the illnesses that plagued the surviving twin, Jackson Foo Wong.

Born in May 2000, the twins were conceived using Wong's sperm and the eggs of Jackson's sister Sue, then carried by a surrogate, Wong explained in his book. Recently, however, the men separated and, asked if they share custody of Jackson Foo, Wong replies, "There's no real word for whatever it is that we're doing. Richie is my son's co-parent. He's the other father of my son. We thought we were reinventing the family, and then we reinvented that reinvention."

His son is clearly integrated into Wong's life. "Jackson comes first," says Neal Baer, executive producer of "Law & Order: SVU." "B.D. arranges his schedule around Jackson's birthday party and school events. He even sold me lots of rolls of gift wrap last year for his son's school."

Four-year-old Jackson has been to the "Law & Order" set, as well as rehearsals for "Pacific Overtures," and Wong says he's already looking to a few years from now when his son will be old enough to do his homework backstage. "It's kind of a fantasy of mine," the actor muses. "Not that he'd be enamored of the theater or anything like that but that he'd be able to be with me. I miss him terribly when I'm doing a play."

Who needs sleep?

To accommodate his "Pacific Overtures" rehearsals, "Law & Order" edited him out of three episodes -- but that only briefly reduced his commitments. Not only is he now performing in the musical eight times a week but he's wrapping up "Social Grace."

A romantic comedy about an Asian American woman's romance with New York's most eligible, wealthy bachelor -- think JFK Jr., Wong suggests -- "Social Grace" was often being re-shot during the same period "Pacific Overtures" was in previews. Rushing back and forth between shooting on Madison Avenue and performing a few miles away at the 54th Street theater, Wong says, "I'd be in the cab, asking myself, 'Well, what am I obsessing about at this very moment?' Later I'd find myself lying in bed, pingponging back and forth between the two things."

Since mid-November, Wong has been juggling all three commitments again. For "Law & Order," a driver picks him up at 6:30 a.m. some days, he says. He tries to sleep or answer phone calls during the ride out to North Bergen, N.J. "It becomes a little crazy and you have to really eat your Wheaties," Wong says, "but I can't say I have any complaints. I'm not able to sleep in, but that's the price I pay to be able to do this play."



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