Prepare your taste buds

May Hong (left) as Margot và Garcia as Jake in Netflix"sTales of the City (Phokhổng lồ credit: Alison Cohen Rosa/Netflix)


In honor of Pride Month 2019, Netflix revived Tales of the City. Armistead Maupin’s original series of novels chronicling the lives of an LGBTQ community in San Franciscowere published from 1978 khổng lồ năm trước, and made inlớn a TV miniseries in 1993, as well as later series in 1998 and 2001. The Netflix revival kicks off with significant changes, especially lớn the demographic of the cast. We’re bachồng in San Francisteo, and key players Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis) và Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney) have reunited once again, but this time around there’s a more diverse group of neighbors joining them at the now-iconic address 28 Barbary Lane.

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Despite the gender & sexual diversity of the protagonists in the original series, racial diversity was lacking (both Anmãng cầu Madrigal & Mary Ann Singleton are white)—all of the characters of color in Netflix’s Tales of the City are new additions khổng lồ the original cast, with Charlie Barnett (Russian Doll) as Ben Marshall, nonbinary actor Garcia as Jake Rodriguez, & Ashley Park và Christopher Larkin as siblings Ani & Jonathan Raven Winter, respectively. One of the most notable is break-out actor May Hong, who plays Margot, an Asian American lesbian in a relationship with Jake, a Latinx trans man.

The multifaceted Hong has modeled for Thủ đô New York Fashion Week & Vogue, appeared in HBO’s High Maintenance và NBC’s New Amsterdam, and taken up visual art. She joined me to lớn discuss the importance of accurate representation of Asian queer people, the value of characters who debunk racist stereotypes, and the real-life politics that shape Tales of the City—including that confrontational dinner-buổi tiệc ngọt scene.


In Tales of the City, you play Margot, a brave sầu & thoughtful character who refuses to lớn apologize for her queerness but finds her identity as a lesbian called into lớn question when her partner transitions. How bởi you identify with Margot? Were there any particular moments that aligned with your experiences?

Margot is definitely another version of . Sometimes things bled together so much that I started to feel lượt thích I was just fully her, . I was actually given quite a lot of freedom in terms of choosing her outfits, & even ended up wearing some of my own clothing for some of the scenes. That started to really blur the lines.

Tales of the City is notable in that so many of the queer characters are played by queer actors. I imagine that at times it could be difficult to lớn portray difficult conversations and experiences—logically you know you’re playing a character, but at times things may feel a little cđại bại lớn trang chủ. How did you navigate that?

Taking care of my mental health was a huge part of my journey. I think that community & general lifestyle changes are important, but none of that can be fully achieved or reflected upon without taking the time lớn catch up with yourself. I’m an avid supporter of talk therapy, & I think everyone should consider it. A lot of us come from cultures in which focusing on mental health is not exactly the norm, and possibly even seen as frivolous. I want to lớn take this space lớn remind everyone that the bravest thing you can bởi vì is ask for help. I am still learning every day. Everyone is obsessed with self-care lately, and while a bath & a face mask are wonderful, we need khổng lồ be mindful of the difference between self-care & indulgence. I believe that true self-love sầu is doing the hard work of understanding more about yourself so that you can bring your best self to lớn the rest of the world.

Often when we see Asian American women onscreen, they’re hypersexualized và fetishized, but Margot felt fully fleshed out and developed as a sexually liberated, compassionate individual. Why vày you think she’s significant, especially in comparison to other queer characters we’ve sầu seen on the screen?

It’s extremely rare lớn see Gaysians on screen! I’m so honored lớn be part of something that an accurate depiction of not just San Francisteo, but the world. I personally felt that the most beautiful và important part about Margot is that she is defined by a multitude of things around her. I was thrilled khổng lồ see that an Asian American character was specifically written into lớn the show khổng lồ be a complex and compassionate person part of a loving chosen family. I felt that in this revival of Tales of the City after a decades-long hiatus, the most important message was that everyone is loved & accepted for who they are, right now, right here.

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May Hong (left) as Margot và Garcia as Jake in Tales of the City (Photo lớn credit: Alison Cohen Rosa/Netflix)


Margot’s role in Body Politic, the show’s queer, burlesque bar, was a highlight for me as a viewer. She is very much in her element in each of the scenes, at one point taking lớn the stage khổng lồ the cheers of her community and friends. How was it for you lớn play these scenes, especially given the complexity of the discourse surrounding burlesque?

That scene was hilarious for me. I prepared for it with the incredible choreographer Celia Rowlson-Hall. I am not a dancer, if that wasn’t painfully clear. Watching it afterward really made me cringe! But I recently received a message from someone thanking me for that scene in particular, & they said they loved how beautiful & “naive” it was, & that definitely allowed me khổng lồ reframe it. I did feel naive, I did feel that I was learning publicly, but I also beautiful.

Throughout the series, especially at Body Politic, there’s a thread about whether or not something lượt thích burlesque can be feminist. We see this most from Mary Ann, who often comes across as one of the most naive sầu characters on the show. What would you say to lớn viewers who still struggle to underst& the impact of places lượt thích Body Politic, especially for marginalized và queer people?

I think we all need to take a breath và think about what works for us. We all decide who we are & what we need to feel free. I don’t actually see Mary Ann’s perspective sầu as inherently antifeminist. It’s so much more personal than an argument about the waves of feminism, & everyone should vì chưng what they want as privately or publicly as they need to lớn. Do whatever it takes to lớn harmonize your mind with your toàn thân.

Let’s talk about Jake và Margot’s relationship. It’s a complex one, especially given the current conversations surrounding trans rights và some lesbians feeling pushed out of the LGBTQ community. How bởi vì you feel that the show navigated this complicated topic?

This is a story that hasn’t ever been told onscreen at this scale, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely nervous. Margot and Jake’s relationship is so nuanced, & there is no right or wrong answer—just the truth, as Anmãng cầu Madrigal famously says. As we worked through their growing pains throughout the season, I found myself zooming out rather than zooming in. It’s actually just a universal story of changes taking place in a relationship that push the characters khổng lồ examine their priorities. Despite , Margot and Jake truly vì chưng love sầu và care for one another, và I definitely feel that the way they redefine their relationship is seen more in the LGBTQ+ community than in heteronormative sầu . It’s beautiful khổng lồ see them prioritize themselves, & then to lớn prioritize their community afterward, rather than disconnecting và moving on.

In a very intentional way, Tales of the City really speaks to the people of this generation. The show doesn’t seem interested in portraying one kind of queerness as the “right” one, but instead simply presents conversations about how different queer communities are defined now as opposed to lớn 10 or 20 or 50 years ago. The scene that comes to mind is the dinner party.

The intergenerational scenes in the show, particularly that dinner-các buổi party scene in episode 4, gave sầu me chills when I read them. raise the awareness of all those who came before us and paved the way for a show lượt thích Tales of the City khổng lồ even exist. The 50th anniversary of Stonewall is significant, but it’s also not the single defining moment of the movement. It feels khổng lồ me that we all need lớn be reminded of the strength and persistence of multitudes of people, và I think Tales gives everyone an opportunity to lớn step inlớn the shoes of queer people in all of life, past & present.

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