“Pearl” aired in November, 1978, and was shot earlier that year. I was preparing to leave Hawaii in September for an acting job at The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. This was my last TV job in Hawaii, and one of the last jobs of any kind. A little ironic, somehow, a show about Pearl Harbor.
I was cast as an RCA motorcycle messenger, and at one point soon after the attack I rode my motorcycle, with a sidecar, up to a military checkpoint in the countryside around Pearl Harbor, ignorant of the attack. Costumes had dressed me in a period riding outfit, kind of a jumpsuit, and boots and gloves, and a close-fitting leather helmet of the period, and goggles. I looked exactly like a Japanese “kamikaze” pilot, and that scene, of course, involved a hassle at the checkpoint. I felt it was, at the least, gratuitous, but, in those days on sets and in scripts, and in society, really, there wasn’t really a strong movement against Asian stereotyping, and I didn’t know who I could talk to or if there was even such a person or position on set, and, anyway, I had fun riding that motorcycle so, even though I felt a little uncomfortable, I just moved on.
I think, though, that that role on that episode caused me to concentrate more on doing theatre over the next ten or fifteen years, rather than commercial work, caused me to kind of “look down” on TV and film and commercials and think of them as lesser than theatre. I don’t know that that’s true, but I didn’t do much commercial work over that next period of time so maybe there’s something to it. So there’s that irony I mentioned earlier: a show about Pearl Harbor maybe blowing a little hole in my career.