As part of Asian Pacific Heritage Month, PBS' "American Playhouse" is presenting the drama "Hot Summer Winds," a one-hour adaptation of two stories from Hisaye Yamamoto's
anthology "Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories."
Sab Shimono stars in "Hot Summer Winds" as Teruo (Tex), a simple, traditional Japanese father and husband living in the Salinas Valley in the 1930s who grows frustrated and angry when his family grows apart from him.
The actor talked with Susan King.
"Hot Summer Winds" is based on a series of short stories by Japanese-American author Hisaye Yamamoto. Were you familiar with her stories?
To tell you the truth, I wasn't until I got the project. She writes really nice. She leaves things hanging where the reader fills in the blanks. She lets you sort of explore where you want to go with a character.
The dialogue (in the drama) is very minimal, so as the actor I filled in the blanks with reactions with my body and eyes.
Does having a minimal amount of dialogue make it difficult for an actor to create a character?
Depending how it is written, it is a gift for an actor because he can do anything he wants. I didn't have to remember that many lines for one thing (laughs) and it is the type of acting where you play a moment.
Is Teruo an angry man?
He's a man who can't express himself verbally. He probably comes from a family that keeps to itself. I think the way I played it he was clinging (to his Japanese roots).
I think he is sort of like my father. He was in the Japanese ghetto in Sacramento and never moved out. In his culture, the man was always the boss. And all of a sudden, people were asking the question "Why?" It was very difficult for my father.
Did you research the lifestyles of the Japanese-American farmers in the 1930s?
Well, in a way I was familiar with it. I used to spend my summer vacations at my uncle's place, which was a chicken ranch in Petaluma. We had a Japanese bath outside and the same isolated situation. We had the whole family working, pitching in. We ate cheap food like tripe.
Did you live in the Japanese relocation camps during World War II?
I was in a camp.
Was it difficult for you then to make "Come See the Paradise," Alan Parker's movie about the camps?
For me, it wasn't difficult. I was very, very exhilarated in that the story was finally being told on the big screen. It's an important story that all Americans should be aware of so it won't happen to any of us again.
"American Playhouse's" "Hot Summer Winds" airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Channel 28 and Friday at 9 p.m. on Channel 15.