With Web Series ‘Kat Loves LA,’ Asian Americans Create Their Own Opportunities

Wondering why diversity and inclusion in Hollywood has been such a hot topic as of late? Here’s where we are: In 2017, 18 percent of the year’s top 250 films were directed, written, produced, executive produced, edited and filmed by women. Between 2007 and 2016, women directors helmed just four percent — that’s 45 unique pics — of the top-grossing 1,000 films, according to a University of Southern California study. Of those 45, just three were Asian or Asian American women.

These numbers have given rise to calls for more kinds of faces and voices in front of and behind the camera. And for young content creators like Paget Kagy, who made her own web series, “Kat Loves LA,” through a crowdfunding campaign, they are a catalyst to do more, and do it now.

The series takes elements of Kagy’s own life as a fledgling actress to tell the story of a late-twenties Asian American woman, stuck in a funk, who auditions for bit roles by day and navigates a tricky dating scene by night. Made on a shoestring budget with a skeleton crew each wearing four or five hats, the eight-part series is available to view on YouTube.

For Kat, who flails to find footing in Hollywood audition rooms in which roles for girls who look like her are few and far in between, life seems filled with hurdles, from the big, looming 3-0 on the horizon to financial insecurity and disastrous romantic encounters. When sparks fly between Kat and Andrew, a Korean American adoptee with a contrasting perspective on life, she’s forced to confront what it means to be herself in a multicultural world.  

Kagy got the idea for the series in 2016. Stereotyping in particular within the Asian American community based on both men and women’s dating preferences, namely in regard to race, were stories she had both seen and experienced in her own circles, but never in media. “I wanted to create something that would showcase two Asian American leads, and what if they have certain prejudices about each other [despite] them both being Asian?” At the same time, she said, she wanted to present universally relatable characters who would appeal to mainstream audiences.

At that point, she’d grown sick of waiting for someone to give her an acting job. “I decided, I’m going to do a web series. It doesn’t matter what scale,” she said. “I just need to do it because I need to express myself. When someone’s not going to give you that voice, you have to create it yourself.”

Later that year, she had a script in progress when she met Matthew Um — who plays Andrew — in an acting class. He read what she’d written and hopped on board the project as co-producer and co-star. Um, too, had been interested in pursuing content creation.

Eventually, they pulled a team together, including a director in David Marciano, the actor best known for his role as Virgil on Showtime’s “Homeland.” Marciano had been looking for directing projects when, following an encounter at a commercial shoot, Kagy contacted him about her series. 

Once they got an Indiegogo campaign going, the support, much of it from friends, was immediate: Four days after launching, they’d met their first goal.

(Kat Loves LA)
(Kat Loves LA)

Still, working on a minimal budget and unable to hire even a production assistant, Kagy, Um and the rest of the staff each juggled multiple roles on set. “It was a lot of hard work and passion from everyone involved — that was the only way we got it done,” she said. “People who were willing to not be paid a whole lot, but just for the love of doing what they do, and putting in what they could. It was amazing in that way.”

Kagy is now at work on writing a second season of the series. Kenny Leu, another actor in the series, called Kagy a “smart content creator, period.” The Taiwanese American actor plays Ben Lee, another love interest for Kat. He pointed to the lack of Asian men as romance leads on TV. “Unless they’re indies or plays, you don’t see that many Asian guys in those roles,” he said. “It’s very frustrating.[‘Kat Loves LA’] is a very human standpoint, not afraid to tackle the nitty-gritty. Paget goes straight for the jugular.”

Feedback from viewers has reflected the team’s frustrations with representation. “People have said it’s refreshing to see Asian American males being portrayed in attractive leading roles,” Kagy said.

The entire experience has been an eye-opening one for Kagy, who’d always thought she would act first and then think about writing and creating down the line. “Now reflecting back on everything we’ve done, I don’t think I will want to just act. I will always want to create, specifically content that showcases Asian American talent. I see that’s how I can contribute most,” she said.

Um sees it the same way. “It’s not enough to be an actor who waits for a call anymore,” he said. “To get yourself out there, you have to create.”


Watch ‘Kat Loves LA’ on YouTube, and check out the series’ Facebook and Twitter. Find more information at katlovesla.com.