From left, Ian Anthony Dale and Takashi Yamaguchi in “Accused.”

For Ian Anthony Dale, It All Led to This

The actor digs deeper than ever before in Fox’s “Accused” and exposes his Japanese American roots

From left, Ian Anthony Dale and Takashi Yamaguchi in “Accused.”

Elly Dassas/Fox

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Ian Anthony Dale is best known for his long-standing roles on prime-time television playing double-edged villains, hardened professional agents, and heartthrob physicians. But in his latest role on Fox’s Accused, he makes a poignant return home as Jiro, a grieving Japanese American man who becomes his disabled brother’s custodian. Angela Wong Carbone and Dale discuss how all of his previous engagements led him to this moment and how he is committed to paving the way forward for diverse voices.

Angela Wong Carbone: To start off, could you describe your project, Accused in your own words?
Ian Anthony Dale: Sure. Accused is based on the BBC’s BAFTA-winning crime anthology of the same name that was developed and adapted by Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa, and David Shore for Fox. Each episode opens in a courtroom on the defendant and the viewers know nothing about the crime or how they ended up on trial. You get to see (through a series of flashbacks from the defendant’s point of view) what happened that led to them being in that situation.

So it’s a real, fun, fresh way to experience the crime genre in a bit more of an elevated way on broadcast television. I’ve certainly enjoyed being a part of it and watching the season so far.

AWC: You have a long career of digging into characters over super long scopes and you are often an integral part of the projects that you’re on. This is very standalone, you’re only in one episode, and we’re only getting to see this singular aspect of Jiro’s experience. How did the project come on your radar and were you eager to take on a project like this because it was more concentrated and fast-paced?
IAD: The writer, Karl Taro Greenfeld, is half-Japanese. I’m half-Japanese, so there was an immediate connection there. And as I started to read the [script for the] episode, I realized it’s centered around a Japanese American family, had strong themes of family and what you might be willing to do in order to protect your family, and I thought…this is a gift.

In my 21 years doing this, rarely have I come across an opportunity where the story I get to be a part of is written by someone who shares my cultural identity and is writing from a point of view that I can relate to wholeheartedly because of our shared experiences.

But when I actually read the story and saw how beautiful it was and saw how just emotionally deep and revealing it all was, as an actor, I was like, “Oh my God.” I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this. Never before in my career have I gotten to sink my teeth into a character with quite this emotional depth as Jiro has in this episode.

I could go on and on about the excitement I felt when I first got this opportunity and that excitement only continued throughout the preparation to work on this and then the execution of the episode.

Ian Anthony Dale in “Accused.”

Steve Wilkie/FOX

AWC: I’m intrigued now that you’ve mentioned that the writer is also half-Japanese, because to me, the story was so entrenched in feelings of sacrifice, especially as first gen-ers.

My mother gave a lot when she came to America from Hong Kong. I know that your mother came here and relocated to Minnesota. I’m wondering if you worked in any kind of personal details with the writer, what that process was like, because I know preparation is very important to you. You have a quote: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” How did you prepare for this role?
IAD: As I was doing my research about Karl, I found out that he’s a novelist as well. One of the books he wrote is called Boy Alone. It’s based on his life growing up in the shadow of his autistic brother. This episode is loosely based on [that] relationship. And so as an actor, and I’m sure you can attest, anytime you get to read an entire 400-page novel that gives you a peek into the emotional life and psychology and experiences of that person is an absolute goldmine. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that fast in my life. [It] provided a really great foundation for me in this role.

I have an autistic nephew [with substantial support needs] and I have gotten to experience what caring for him [is like] and the sacrifices you make and the extremely selfless nature required in order to care for someone all through their adult life. I got to witness my brother and my sister-in-law do that. There was a lot of familiarity as I read the book. I was able to infuse my own personal feelings about family and wanting to protect my family and wanting to make sure they feel loved and nurtured and safe. I have a 5-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter. That is why I’m here on this earth, to safeguard them and to bring them into this world in a safe, positive way.

And then, the fact that I also got to bring my cultural heritage and history to it and all those feelings and emotions about living a selfless life of accountability and respect. It was as if my life had led me to this opportunity. I know it sounds cliché and silly, but I don’t know if I had gotten this opportunity 10 years ago, if I would’ve been ready to execute it in the manner that I did or the manner that I hoped to because we are only a collection of our experiences and we can only apply our own experiences. It ends up on screen and so I used it all as we do. I used everything. 

AWC: It’s clear you did. It takes a lot of strength to really dig deep like that. Many elements of the episode had personal roots: [Jiro's work in] sports [and your baseball career], your shared heritage. I’ve heard you talk about learning Japanese. Are you still studying?
IAD: I mean, I don't even know what free time is anymore, to be quite honest. Learning Japanese requires a lot of free time, so, yeah [laughs].

From left, Julia Chan and Ian Anthony Dale in “Accused.”

Steve Wilkie/FOX

AWC: Yeah, I get that! [laughs] It seems like you’ve covered so much ground in your career. You’ve played doctors, you’ve played otherworldly villains, now [we’ve seen you as] Jiro. Are you looking at other opportunities to do more personal stories that incorporate more of your own background? What’s next for you?
IAD: I emailed Howard shortly after I finished the episode and I said, I don’t know how I will ever be satisfied with what comes next because the experience of getting to play Jiro and be part of this episode was so satisfying in terms of what I got to put into it and what I took away from it. A lot of that had to do with the writing and the execution of it. In a perfect world, I would love to take this experience and continue to pursue projects and roles that have a great sense of meaning for me.

That’s something I am trying to do with my company, 20K, where we’re developing television stories about the Asian American experience that reflect all facets of what it’s like to go through this world looking like you and I do. Whether it be something that I develop at my company or an opportunity that comes my way as a result of someone seeing this episode, I’m just hopeful there will be more opportunities for me to take. It’s sort of torturous to go through some of the things you go through in order to try to execute a character like this.

At the same time, it’s extremely rewarding and fulfilling. I’ve talked about how the experience of this episode has reminded me just how important protecting your family is. It’s given me such an enormous understanding about what my brother and my sister-in-law have experienced in raising their son. It’s made me a better person, more focused on what’s most important in my life. Gosh, if we could get an opportunity to only do work that satisfies in that way. That’s the dream, right? But I also gotta put food on the table, you know?

Throughout my career, I’ve always said, I just wanna work every day and have the respect of my peers and whatever form that comes in I’m happy to accept it. The bulk of my career [has] been in broadcast television. But I’m hoping participating in a show like Accused and this particular episode I’ll have more opportunities moving forward to do more elevated fare.

AWC: Definitely. I think the company [20K] is an amazing place to be. I’ve watched quite a few of your interviews, and this feels like a great next move, stepping into your own, developing things and having a hand in the other side of the process.
IAD: I will say development is extremely challenging and as our industry continues to contract and there’s less product being bought, it’s only becoming harder and harder. But one of the great takeaways that we have as a company and how we're able to look at the glass half full: I started the company with the hope of promoting Asian American voices and Asian American stories.

Often we’ll bring a project into the studio or network with an underrepresented voice with a really fantastic story to tell. And while the studio or network might not buy that particular project, many times they’ve taken the writer that we’ve brought in and found them another opportunity for work. So it’s the little victories that you have to acknowledge and fuel you to keep pursuing this. The goal ultimately is that we normalize, for the rest of the country, the experiences of people that are perhaps not like us. It’s gonna be a career-long journey and I’m hopeful based on the way I’ve seen things change over the last 21 years.

From left, Julia Chan and Ian Anthony Dale in “Accused.”

Steve Wilkie/FOX

AWC: In the episode there’s a lot of talk of nourishment and how family nourishes you. There’s a particular call out to a bento box being this one particular item that Jiro’s brother longs for. I’m wondering what your bento box item is. What is that one thing that nourishes you?
IAD: I don’t think anything in my life is more nourishing than when I can lay on a pillow with my daughter Gia or my son Roman and be face-to-face inches away from one another, lost in each other’s eyes. I typically caress their faces or do something very warm and loving. If they ever return that gesture, it's over for me. That is the most nourishing, fulfilling, wonderful, warm feeling one could ever have. I get to experience that almost nightly.

AWC: You’re a lucky guy!
IAD: Yeah! That’s my bento box.

Stream Episode 11 “Jiro’s Story” of Accused on the FOX app now.

Published on April 11, 2023

Words by Angela Wong Carbone

Angela Wong Carbone (she/her) is a decorated actor and writer. Her writing has been recognized by AT&T Hello Lab, Hillman Grad’s mentorship program, The Gotham, Slamdance and others. Raised in New York by an immigrant Chinese mother and Italian American father, Wong Carbone’s personal curiosity toward identity saturates her writing and she has contributed to Eileen Kelly’s Killer and a Sweet Thang and Lulu Gioiello’s Far Near. As an actor, Wong Carbone has starred in NBC’s Chicago Med, AppleTV+’s WeCrashed and IFC Films’ Resurrection. In 2020, she was selected for the 19th annual ABC Talent Showcase. Wong Carbone holds a degree in architecture from Cornell University and makes a mean lasagna.