Rosalind Chao on the trailblazing Western “Thousand Pieces of Gold”

Rosalind Chao Thousand Pieces of Gold Rosalind Chao in "Thousand Pieces of Gold." (Kino Lorber)

Welcome back to More of a Comment, Really…, a weekly interview podcast hosted by Clint Worthington! Every episode will feature interviews with actors, filmmakers, producers, and more, giving you the skinny on the latest films and TV.

Since we’ve been stuck inside for so long, I’ve longed for the open plains of the Western. Luckily, Kino Lorber’s got our back; this year marks the twentieth anniversary of Nancy Kelly‘s sumptuous film Thousand Pieces of Gold, which they’re celebrating with a remarkable 4K restoration, courtesy of IndieCollect, which you can find on their virtual screening service Kino Marquee. Critically acclaimed at the time but eventually lost to the annals of history, there’s no better time to revisit it.

Based on the novel of the same name by Ruthanne Lum McCunn, Kelly’s Western tells the story of Lalu, played by Rosalind Chao long before she’d make waves with films like The Joy Luck Club and her extended stint on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. She’s a young Chinese woman in the 19th-century whose impoverished parents sell her to a Chinese man (Michael Paul Chan) who runs a brothel in a small Idaho mining town. Far from accepting her fate as a prostitute, though, Lalu finds ways to assert agency and free will in a world that is especially hostile to people like her.

Rosalind Chao Thousand Pieces of Gold
Nancy Kelly and Rosalind Chao on the set of “Thousand Pieces of Gold”. (Bob Marshak)

It’s wild to watch this in 2020, in a world more openly aware of the misdeeds perpetrated against women, and especially women of color, and see the ways Kelly’s sensitive lens handles the deep, theatrical nuances of Lalu’s story. It’s an especially wonderful early star turn for Chao, demonstrating remarkable strength and vulnerability as a woman forced to make something of herself. I’ve been a fan of Chao for years, and when it came time to cover Kino Lorber’s restoration of this film, I leapt at the chance to talk to her.

Now, for those who don’t know, I co-host a Twitch livestream series for Consequence of Sound called COVID-EODROME, which you can find on COS’s Twitch channel. A week or two back, my colleague Scout Tafoya and I were lucky enough to talk to the cast and crew of Thousand Pieces of Gold — in addition to Chao, we spoke to her co-star Chris Cooper, director Nancy Kelly and editor/producer partner Kenji Yamamoto. 

But on top of that, I got the chance to speak to the lovely Rosalind Chao one-on-one for this show. Together we discuss her work on Thousand Pieces of Gold, the immense struggles she had as a young actress early in her career, and the ways her work has blossomed since then. And yes, we spare a little time to talk about Star Trek, too. Take a listen. 

(More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Cards Against Humanity for sponsoring this episode!)

Rosalind Chao Thousand Pieces of Gold Trailer:

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