SAN FRANCISCO — A screening of “You Don’t Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story,” co-presented by the Asian Art Museum, will take place Thursday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m. at the Tenderloin Museum, 398 Eddy St. in San Francisco.
“You Don’t Know Jack” tells the fascinating story of a pioneering American entertainer Jack Soo (1917-1979), an Oakland native who became the first Asian American to be cast in a lead role in a regular television series, “Valentine’s Day” (1963), and later co-starred in the popular sitcom “Barney Miller” from 1975 to 1978.
Featuring rare footage and interviews with Soo’s co-stars and friends, including “Barney Miller” regulars Max Gail and Steve Landesberg, actors George Takei and Nancy Kwan, comedian Gary Austin, and producer Hal Kanter, the film traces Soo’s career from his early beginnings as a nightclub singer and comedian to his breakthrough role as Sammy Fong in Rogers and Hammerstein’s Broadway play “Flower Drum Song” and the subsequent film version.
The documentary also explores why Soo, a former internee who was actually born Goro Suzuki, was forced to change his name in the post-World War II era in order to perform in clubs in the Midwest. Because of his experiences throughout his career in films and television, Soo refused to play roles that were demeaning to Asian Americans and often spoke out against negative ethnic portrayals.
Directed by Jeff Adachi, whose award-winning film “The Slanted Screen” premiered at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival in 2006, “You Don’t Know Jack” reveals how Soo’s work laid the groundwork for a new generation of Asian American actors and comedians. Adachi’s latest film, “America Needs a Racial Facial,” premiered at CAAMFest in San Francisco on March 12.
Adachi will be in attendance and participate in Q&A. Refreshments will be provided by the Asian Art Museum.
Adachi is the elected public defender of San Francisco and a pension reform advocate. He received his B.A. from UC Berkeley in 1981 and his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1985. He has tried over 150 jury trials and handled 3,000 criminal matters during his career. The state’s only elected public defender, he runs an office of nearly 100 attorneys and 60 staff members, which has a $30 million budget.
According to estimates, the office represents over 23,000 people each year who are charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses. The office is known for several innovative criminal justice programs, including Drug Court, Clean Slate expungement services, and a full-service juvenile division.
Adachi was featured in the 2002 PBS documentary “Presumed Guilty,” a film about the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, its difficult cases and complex defense strategies. He has received several accolades for his tenure as public defender on a local and national level.
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