Korean-American actress Arden Cho climbs Hollywood ladder with Partner Track

Arden Cho plays Ingrid Yun, an associate in a prestigious New York law firm, in the Netflix series Partner Track. PHOTO: NETFLIX

Ingrid Yun, an associate in a prestigious New York law firm, is gunning for a coveted partner position.

But she has two strikes against her: Yun is a woman in a company that is still an old boys' club and an Asian in a workplace that holds to racial stereotypes.

The new Netflix drama series Partner Track follows Ingrid's adventures in her career, her immigrant family and in romance as she tries to beat the odds.

She is played by Korean-American actress Arden Cho, best known for her roles in supernatural thriller series Teen Wolf (2011 to 2017) and medical drama Chicago Med (2015 to present).

The 37-year-old was in Singapore last month on a personal visit when she spoke to The Straits Times at the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Partner Track, adapted from the 2013 novel of the same name by Chinese-American lawyer-turned-writer Helen Wan, premieres on Aug 26.

Cho says that over the season, Ingrid has to overcome her fear of contradicting the white men in her office when they take credit for her work or brush her aside because they do not expect pushback from an Asian woman.

"Ingrid is on a big journey - she's been taught to hold her tongue and never rock the boat. Just work harder, don't complain. As an Asian woman, she's seen as the one who will be the last to leave the office. She does the work no one else wants to do," says Cho.

"I grew up that way and, now, in my 30s, I've learnt to stop and say, 'Hey, this isn't okay'," she says.

Ingrid's struggle to be seen as a person worthy of attention and respect by her boss, family and romantic partners makes her a relatable character - especially when it looks as if she has made a mess of things, says Cho, who was born in Texas to parents who immigrated from South Korea.

"She's trying to be the best lawyer, best daughter, best sister. She's really trying to do it all. And sometimes you do your best and it all blows up in your face," she says.

An Asian female character was featured prominently in the American legal comedy-drama series Ally McBeal (1997 to 2002).

Lawyer Ling Woo, played by Lucy Liu, was a dragon lady stereotype, coveted and fetishised by the white men in her firm.

Cho believes that the Ally McBeal style of portrayal, also seen in the sitcom Friends (1994 to 2004), is media representation that is unlikely to get green-lit in today's Hollywood.

"In the past, Asian women have been the mistress, the exotic woman who steals the boyfriend or husband. And even in Friends, Ross leaves and breaks Rachel's heart and comes back with an Asian girlfriend. Asian women then get hated by everyone," she says.

As a daughter of immigrants, Ingrid has always strove to excel.

Cho says the character's fixation on being made partner stems from an issue that afflicts so many in their 20s and 30s and is a problem she grapples with over the season.

"Making partner is all she knows and maybe it's the thing she has to focus on because everything else is too hard. She'd rather work non-stop. It's something she has control over," she says.

Born in Texas to parents who immigrated from South Korea, Cho said Ingrid's struggles make her a relatable character. PHOTO: AFP

That need for validation spills over to her love life too.

In the show, Ingrid dates several men, but falls for the ones who do not treat her well.

"A lot of women don't know their worth. They don't think they deserve better. And she's inexperienced in dating - she's come out of school and focused on her career," she says.

She is so dazzled by her job at a top-tier firm that she is unaware that she has other options.

"She's working at a cut-throat law firm, so she's going to date cutthroat lawyers."

Partner Track premieres on Netflix on Aug 26.

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