Riding Shotgun: 'The Streets' Brings New Eyes To The Gangs Of New York City's Chinatown
Through a series of online episodes, 'The Streets' aims to tell the real stories of Chinatown gangs in the Big Apple.
VIBE recently spent an afternoon with rising actor Richie Ng, one of the stars of the new online drama series, The Streets. He acts, yes, but he isn't your average, run-of-the-mill thespian. As a teen, he spent the majority of his adolescence behind bars, and has never set foot in an acting school. These might sound like roadblocks to most, but the charismatic New Yorker has never let anything stand in the way of his dreams.
Richie is a presence wherever he goes.
He can't really help it, but when he steps into a room, everyone takes notice. The upcoming actor doesn't even need to open his mouth to catch the attention of overs. There's an aura that follows him, and it does all the talking for him when need be. So when I left him waiting in his Beamer for more than five minutes on Saturday (Sept 26), I don't know why, but I felt like I did something wrong.
"Were you waiting long?, I asked as I analyzed the Merlot colored leather interior of his car. "Yeah," he replies sternly before mashing the gas for Chinatown. He's one of the most compelling characters starring in The Streets, which actually features former gang members from New York City's fabled Chinatown.
When you really break it down, there are actually three Chinatowns in the Big Apple. For most, it's just the one located next to Little Italy in downtown Manhattan. However, two other thriving Chinese communities exist in Sunset Park, Brooklyn -- and largest of them all in Flushing, Queens. The Streets combines similar stories from each place told by people who actually lived the Asian gang life -- so often misinterpreted in Hollywood movies.
We have about an hour to eat at the hustling and bustling Manhattan Dim Sum restaurant, Golden Unicorn. In the lobby, over a dozen groups waiting for their number to be called so they can be seated at a table in the main dining hall walk around impatiently. "I'm not about that life, not in Chinatown at least," Richie says with a laugh as he zooms past a group of suits and straight into the elevator. They look puzzled, but Richie is hungry and we're pressed for time.
"One hand washes the other but it takes two to wash the face," Richie quips as I notice him stuffing cash into the hands of the servers who took care of us. Thirty minutes later and full of Chinese dumplings, we're now speeding across the Brooklyn Bridge into Bushwick. Old Kid Productions, the producers of The Streets, have arranged a private screening of episode 1 at the IMAGE Gallery. When we get there, a majority of the cast and crew are already waiting for us. Of course when Richie walks up, the place starts to light up.
The first episode starts with a pretty heavy scene. We see one of the main characters, Benny Chung, as a child. But this isn't an ordinary situation for a young boy. Tied up in a chair is his biological father, who has been severely beaten. Several older Chinese gangsters are surrounding him as they instruct young Benny to shoot his own dad -- under the pretense that he is nothing but evil. As the dialogue continues, the boy is left with no choice but to obey his new family's orders.
Cut to the present day where we see Benny as a twenty-something-year-old, trying to live a normal life. It appears as if he's trying to put the crime life behind him to provide his younger brother with a opportunities that he missed out on. Benny has a normal office job now, and has to deal with being put into the stereotypical Asian work-horse role at the company. But as we'll see, leaving the lifestyle and breaking a blood oath doesn't come easy.
Five minutes into the first episode, and we finally see Richie's character on the screen. I also know this immediately because I can see the huge grin on his face from the corner of my eye. His character appears face-to-face with Benny in a local Chinatown park -- both parties have their crews with them and things are heated. Benny is apart of the American-born-Chinese thugs and Richie is with the F.O.B.s -- the Chinese born clique. And, both parties feel they deserve to call the shots around here.
After squabbling and arguing back and forth, there's nearly a shootout, but it's quickly diffused when Richie finds out the hard way that the younger A.B.C. crew (American Born Chinese) won't back down as easily as expected. As the debut episode comes to an end, we find out that there's about to be Big Trouble In Little Chinatown. Will Richie make it? Does Benny kill him?
Watch the inaugural episode below and stay tuned for more from season 1 at Old Kid's official Youtube channel.