[Exclusive] Terrence Howard to launch audition program in Korea

By Yoon Min-sik
  • Published : Jan 2, 2019 - 15:29
  • Updated : Jan 2, 2019 - 15:29

Lucious Lyon of the popular drama series “Empire” will reincarnate in South Korea in April, when leading man Terrence Howard launches a TV audition program here to seek fresh acting talent.

Visiting his fiancee and ex-wife Mira Pak’s country for the first time, Howard met with The Korea Herald to share his plans for the spring.

“My wife was looking at me and saying, ‘My God. Half of the talent that you’ve seen in most of these shows don’t compare to the amount of heart and talent that I find in Korean actors and singers,’” Howard said. “But these people do not have the opportunity to have a place on the world stage, because of being disenfranchised.”

Terrence Howard picks out toys for his children, Qirin and Hero, in Seoul on Monday during his first visit to Korea. (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

The idea grew into a public audition in Korea to “look for what could be the next big world star,” Howard said, just as he did on “Empire” as the character Lyon, the founder and CEO of renowned record company Empire Entertainment.

“These people, these kids that I see, can act circles around 90 percent of the actors I see (in the US) and I just want to give them the opportunity. And I want to make my wife’s dream come true, which is to give her people an opportunity to stand on center stage and hold the stage like they’re supposed to,” he added.

Howard likened the talent here to the legendary Motown of the 1960s, when the music world got an influx of fledgling young artists. 

Terrence Howard picks out toys for his children, Qirin and Hero, in Seoul on Monday during his first visit to Korea. (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

“I want to bring them (the Korean artists) to America. Let’s make a new Hollywood,” he said. The actor said he ultimately aims to build a community of entertainers through the auditions, one comprising numerous actors and cinematographers who can “have their own work and have a worldwide network.”

The audition program will be open to anyone -- not only aspiring singers and actors, but those who are already professionals in the field.

As the plan is in its initial stages, he refrained from giving out details. The winners will get cash prizes, professional training from Howard’s team and opportunities in the US entertainment field.

Howard will revisit Korea in April and get his team ready to start shooting, and then hold online auditions. These will lead to TV auditions that will air later on.

Howard’s interest in Korea stems from Pak and the two boys they have together. Describing their first meeting, he was surprised by the fact that then-35-year-old Pak had to hurry back home to her father. 

But he soon learned to embrace the respectful and nurturing nature of the Korean culture. He said the community that he wishes to initiate through his new project will emphasize mutual respect among its members.

Terrence Howard and his fiancee and ex-wife Mira Pak pose in Myeong-dong, Seoul, Monday. (Courtesy of Mira Pak)

“I have learned as much as possible (about Korean culture) because my children are going to be Koreans for the rest of their lives. My wife, too,” he said. “There had been a lot of negative comments about (us) from the outside world, about her being Asian and me being black. I don’t want my children growing up in that world.”

He married Pak in 2013. The two later divorced but got re-engaged in December. Their two sons are Qirin, 3, and Hero, 2.

Despite being nominated for best actor at the Academy Awards for his role in the 2005 film “Hustle & Flow,” Howard is not the most prolific actor among his contemporaries. He attributed that to his ethnicity.

“African-American actors -- the same with Asian-American actors -- how many roles are written for them?” he asked.

After his first Oscar bid ended unsuccessfully -- Howard believes he should have beaten Philip Seymour Hoffman for the trophy -- he spoke out about discrimination in the entertainment industry.

“After my nomination, I watched Heath Ledger have 25 opportunities thrown at him. The same thing with Jake Gyllenhaal. Millions of opportunities for these white actors. But not for Asian-American or African actors,” he said.

Racial discrimination in Hollywood is an ongoing issue and one on which opinions abound, but the fact remains that there are fewer nonwhite roles than white ones.

It took the Marvel Cinematic Universe -- the most profitable film franchise in history -- 20 years and billions of dollars earned at the box office to create its first -- and only, to this day -- black superhero, Black Panther. “Whitewashing” again became the subject of controversy when the role of the Ancient One -- a character of Tibetan origin -- was given to the immensely talented but white Tilda Swinton instead of an equally talented nonwhite actor. Marvel’s rival, the DC movie universe, also remains predominantly white.

“I want to change that, so that the next young Terrence Howard, whether he is Korean or American, will not have to say ‘Man, if I’d have an opportunity I could’ve earned that.’

“I want to make sure that the next young artist doesn’t have to say ‘I should’ve won that Oscar,’ that they’ve had a hundred opportunities to create and win something better than the Oscars.”

By Jo He-rim and Yoon Min-sik