For Archie Kao, B.A. Speech Communication '92, it was neither a childhood fantasy nor an intense desire to pose in the limelight that drew him to Los Angeles. He was merely looking for a change of scenery from the only home he had known in Virginia.
After a foray as a congressional aide on Capitol Hill and beginning a master's program at George Mason, he shocked friends and family by packing his bags and moving west without a concrete notion of what he planned to do. Camping out on the sofa of a relative, "with a B.A. and no money, I joined the ranks of the creatively unemployed," he says.
Over the years, Kao has taken modeling jobs for prominent companies, such as Minolta, Doritos, Nike, and Polaroid, to supplement his income. In fact, for the last three years, his image could be found at George Mason Career Fairs in the Enterprise Rent-a-Car booth, where he is pictured riding a bike. However, for Kao, modeling was merely a way to help pay the bills. He decided to focus more on acting because it presents an intellectual challenge, allowing him to explore the world from different perspectives.
"Acting is living," he says. "It is really the examination of how we deal with conflict, whether it be about love, or regret, or loss, or jealousy. I have learned a great deal about human nature, I believe, as an actor."
Kao's most highly publicized role to date has been his part on The Lost Galaxy, where he played the straight-laced Blue Power Ranger, Kai Chen. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers franchise began in 1993 as a television series and, since then, has expanded to include everything from action figures to home videos. The series has entered its sixth season on the Fox Network and remains the number one kids show worldwide.
The extreme popularity of the show has caused Kao and the other actors to endure "typical Hollywood" reactions from awestruck fans. Squealing teenage girls have had to be peeled off his limousine. Kao was even chased across the Universal Studios theme park by a group of fans. However, being "spotted" in odd locations, such as a small bar in Northern Virginia by a middle-aged man and in an airport by a child who nearly hyperventilated, is taken in stride by the levelheaded Kao.
Perhaps the perk he has enjoyed the most from his Power Ranger role has been the opportunity to work with children. The Lost Galaxy Rangers were involved with a fund-raiser for D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) that benefited thousands of inner-city youth, and during the show's season, the actors were actively involved with the Make-a-Wish and Star Light Foundations.
Now that his Power Ranger stint is over (the series can be seen in syndication weekday afternoons on the Fox network), Kao has been appearing on adult dramas, such as Once and Again (ABC), The Player (ABC), Fire Co. 132 (Fox), and The Wayans Brothers (WB). He is also interested in learning more about behind-the-scenes aspects of the industry, such as directing and producing. "I like acting, and unlike many of my peers, I actually like the business aspect of it as well. I'd really love to move into film production, which would enable me to do what I love to do most of all--tell stories the way I want to tell them," he says.
Kao warns that showbiz is definitely not as glamorous as it may seem. He remembers shooting scenes in temperatures so cold that the makeup artist had to cake foundation on the actors' lips to conceal their purple hue. There have been days when he had to rise close to dawn for work, only to find that his scenes were not being shot that day.
"The reason that I
am still here is simple," he says. "I love what I do. The ups and downs
are all part of the ride. I believe if you follow your passion, then that
can be reward in itself."