Jack Soo was an American actor and singer, best known for his role as Detective Nick Yemana on the television sitcom Barney Miller. Soo was born as Goro Suzuki and grew up in Oakland, California, the son of a tailor father and dressmaker mother. He was cast in his most memorable role in 1975 on the ABC sitcom Barney Miller as the laid-back, but very wry, Detective Nick Yemana, who was responsible for making the dreadful coffee that, in one of the series’ running jokes, his fellow detectives had to drink every day.
Occasionally, his character played against stereotypes of Asian Americans by emphasizing Yemana’s solidly American background. Soo also refused to perform in roles that were demeaning to Asian Americans.
Nick Yemana was a beloved character on Barney Miller, known for his dry wit and deadpan humor. He was responsible for making the coffee in the precinct, which was notoriously bad, and often made jokes about it. Despite his gruff exterior, Yemana was a kind and compassionate person, always willing to lend an ear to his fellow detectives when they needed it. He was also a skilled detective, often using his knowledge of the streets to help solve cases.
Soo’s portrayal of Yemana was groundbreaking for its time, as it challenged stereotypes of Asian Americans in popular culture. Yemana was a fully realized character, with his own quirks and personality traits, rather than a one-dimensional caricature. Soo’s refusal to perform in roles that were demeaning to Asian Americans was also significant, as it demonstrated his commitment to promoting positive representation of Asian Americans in the media.
Unfortunately, Soo died during the series, and his character was not replaced. Yemana’s absence was felt deeply by fans of the show, who mourned the loss of one of its most beloved characters. Soo’s legacy, however, lives on through his portrayal of Nick Yemana, which remains a touchstone for positive representation of Asian Americans in popular culture.