The cast of YouTube reality show “K-Town” is crazy. For two seasons, they have taken hundreds upon hundreds of shoju shots, gotten into countless fist fights with one another and danced on every bar top in L.A. Straight up crazy.
“K-Town” was originally started on the LOUD YouTube Network to capture the lives of eight Asian Americans — Jasmine Chang, Violet Kim, Scarlet Chan, Christine Chang, Jowe Lee, Steve Kim, Young Lee, Joe Cha — living in the Koreatown of Los Angeles. The cast has pushed the stereotypes of what it means to be an Asian American by becoming famous for their nights of bar hopping, drunk fights and hookups.
Said to be “too crazy” to put on cable television — a shock since “True Blood” just renewed for a fifth season — the producers of “K-Town” instead took their show to the YouTube world and are now excited to be releasing their season 2 finale this Wednesday. Using YouTube has allowed the “K-Town” cast to develop a strong relationship with viewers from all around the world. By sitting down with cast members Jasmine Chang and Young Lee — we all regretted not bringing out flasks along to Skype with — I got some insight into their experiences auditioning for the show, what it was like growing up in K-Town and why their show couldn’t have worked anywhere else but YouTube.
How did you guys audition for the show? What was appealing to you about it?
Young: Okay, I’ll go first.
Jasmine: Ladies first.
Young: Well, I was working in Vegas, and I am a guy who just likes to tell everybody, “Yeah, one day I want to be a star!” There was this one guy who was like, “Young wants to do something like that, so he came to a bar,” and he’s like, “You’re going to want to check this out.” He showed me an email about this reality show or something. I read it, and I was like, “Oh shoot, I got to go to L.A. as soon as possible!” So I went there, we hit traffic, I was the last one to audition that day. Tyrese [Gibson, the show’s producer] was just walking out, and I was like, “Please, I’ll make it worth it,” and then here I am.
Jasmine: For me, I was actually out of town; I was in Hawaii. My phone was blowing up, and I thought it was an emergency so I was freaking out and called back, and my friends were like, “There is this reality show they are casting for, and you should totally do it!” I was like, “No, I don’t want to do it.” At first I was kind of hesitant, and they were like, “Are you serious? You’re the craziest one we know; you just have to do it for fun.” So I just did it for shits and giggles, and if I get it I get it, if I don’t it was fun. So I just came back from Hawaii and auditioned, and we’re here!
Young: When I first saw Jasmine here I was like, “Oh shoot, we have a white girl in the K-Town. And then she turned around, and I was like, “Oh shit, it’s an Asian.”
Did you guys know each other before the show started?
Jasmine: No. I’m originally born and raised in K-Town, and so the people who are in the cast, I knew of them or I saw them around town. It was funny when everyone got casted we finally met each other. I was like, “I know you!” And they were like, “Me too! I know you too!” But we weren’t directly like best friends. I knew Young as well. I knew there was this Asian dude trying to run Vegas, and then I met him.
Young: No, I walked there. I heard about Jasmine because right before “K-Town” started, the producers would kind of give us insight, and I remember talking with Eugene, and he was like “Yeah, there is this wild girl. She has like white hair.”
Jasmine: Yeah, it was silver, and it was kind of in a boy cut before. And they kept asking, “Do you play for the other team? Do you swing the other way?” And I was like, “No, I’m straight. I’m not a lezbo, but I love lesbians!” [laughs]
Throughout the series everyone is getting into fist fights and screaming at each other. Is it ever hard to go back and watch some of the episodes?
Jasmine: Yeah it is! But at the same time we live through it in real life, so it’s kind of like when you watch it you’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s what happened.” But we are so used to each other ‘cause we are so close by now that it’s not really a shocker. More like we got to watch it to refresh our minds.
Young: When I watch back in the episode and there is a lot of drinking involved, you always have a night of “What did I do last night?” This thing comes out on YouTube, what you did last night, in front of a 100 thousand people. The night you don’t want to remember, it’s out there. Yeah, it’s in public.
I feel like everyone has those drunken nights, and I’m always thankful I don’t have a camera crew following me around. How has your life changed since joining the show?
Young: I got married; that was big. It’s a little crazy. For me, it’s still kind of shocking because when I go out in L.A. and you see kids just asking you, “Oh, you’re ‘K-Town,’” and this whole L.A. Weekly thing — it just feels weird. I sort of feel like the person is teasing me. I’m like, “Wait a minute. Who sent you here? Is this a joke?”
Jasmine: Again, I’m originally from here. I grew up here, my family’s here, we have family friends and just people around the neighborhood and stuff. When they found out about it, they were kind of shocked. Even my grandma is like, “What channel is this going to be on?” Good. Can’t watch it! [laughs] Life has been insane just because you don’t really realize how many people have actually watched it. I actually just came back from Vegas for New Year’s and there were these random girls from India; they didn’t really know how to speak English, and they were like “K-Town”! And I was like, “No way! From India?” There were people from Australia that would come up to us. There was this white old couple from Wisconsin, and they came up to me and were like, “Are you from ‘K-Town’?” That was a shocker!
What have been some of your favorite show moments?
Jasmine: Oh my goodness there have been so many. Mine would have to be the wedding, because I don’t have a lot of friends who have gotten married. Seeing one of my really close friends get married and we got to be a part of the wedding. That really meant a lot to me. It was probably my favorite moment of 2012.
Young: They did a great job on that. My favorite moment I think would be on the last season when everyone just got together in the end, and we did the whole putting eyelashes on each other. It was just refreshing to see that last episode, and to me, it put a real big smile on my face saying, “It’s all worth it.” All the friendship around us just makes everything worth it.
Originally this show was proposed to be on cable, and then it went to YouTube instead because it was “too crazy.” What have been the advantages to keeping it on an online medium and connecting with your audience that way?
Young: A huge advantage is the international market. I’m actually from Guam, and I was raised there. Even when I go back to Guam, people are saying, you’re the guy from “K-Town”! It’s just so crazy, because it’s like 17 hours away from here!
Jasmine: I feel like YouTube is great because when you post a video, the responses you can get immediately. So we get to see the comments firsthand, which some are really mean! You’re like, “Really?” But then you realize the people who are commenting are like little kids, and you’re like, “Whatever. It’s not a big deal.” It’s funny. We actually sometimes go through the comments and laugh at them. We get feedback from our audience immediately, and another thing that’s great about it is, YouTube, you can track the demographics. I think all of that stuff is really interesting and one of our biggest advantages, and international.