Actress Kat Ahn says that nearly 15 years after appearing in an episode of the popular NBC sitcom The Office, she believes she was “just there to be the joke,” adding that as an actor, “you’re told to shut up and be grateful.”
In an interview with the Washington Post, Ahn, who appeared in the 2006 episode of The Office, titled, “A Benihana Christmas,” said her appearance on the show reduced her to a punchline and created a cloud that followed her into her real life, post acting.
Ahn while she was working in an actual office — after appearing in The Office — a co-worker tried to draw on her arm with a marker in an apparent attempt to channel Michael Scott — played by Steve Carell — from the show.
When Ahn reacted in anger, her co-worker responded by saying that he was just making a harmless joke, in reference to her appearance on the show, in which Michael marks the arm of one of the two Asian women he brings to a Christmas party, so that he could tell them apart. In the episode, Ahn, who is Korean American, plays one of the two Asian women.
The joke in the episode was meant to be at Michael’s expense, Washington Post explains: “look at this pathetic man, newly single and so desperate for love that he would settle for a woman he can’t even identify.”
But Ahn says that now, nearly 15 years later, the excitement she once had surrounding her guest role in The Office has deflated, as she believes she was “just there to be the joke.”
“You’re told to shut up and be grateful,” Ahn said. “Actors have no power until they become a star.”
This was not the first time Ahn has scrutinized the “Benihana Christmas” episode of The Office. In January, the actress posted a video to TikTok, in which she referred to the show’s depiction of Asian women as “problematic.”
“The story line with myself and the other Asian American actress is that we were the uglier versions of the actresses at the Benihana,” Ahn says in the video. “Also that all Asian people look alike. We’re one big monolith, and we’re just one big, walking stereotype, without any personality or individuality, which is problematic.”