The day I met the Cinnabon CEO

My Journey with Cinnabon (UPDATED)

This is the story of how the Cinnabon Monster I came to be. It’s a long one but stick around, I assure you it’s a good tale :)

As far as I know, I am the only actor in LA (if not the world) who aggressively markets himself with the delicious pastry product Cinnabon and have been doing so for almost four years. Many casting directors & friends in the entertainment industry and outside of it have known me as the Cinnabon Monster for me giving out Cinnabon gift cards to casting directors who have booked me, the Cinnabon postcards I send out, and most importantly, for simply talking about it all the time on social media.

But why do I love Cinnabon so much? Where did this obsession begin? Before we continue further with this entry, I want to direct ya’ll to a write-up I did on fellow actress friend Lynn Chen‘s beautiful Thick Dumpling Skin blog. It is imperative that you read this before continuing so travel on over to:

THE BIRTH OF THE CINNABON MONSTER.

Continue reading My Journey with Cinnabon (UPDATED)

The Case of White Actors Playing Historical POC

The news announcement from The Guardian that Joseph Fiennes would play Michael Jackson was perhaps one of the most bizarre casting announcements I’ve heard in quite some time. Combined reactions of utter confusion, shock, and intrigue washed over with me all at once as I wondered to myself if this was white people’s way of taking the #OscarsSoWhite controversy literally to themselves. After a few moments, I found myself wondering if the casting of Fiennes playing Jackson in his latter years could ACTUALLY make sense because Jackson did have a very pale skin and thus it would make more sense to do that than trying to find the right black actor who passes for white and/or applying realistic white makeup to look like the character.

Unless the makeup applied for the Wayan Brothers in White Chicks can actually be considered acceptable, the search to find the best actor for the job is the highest principal I believe in highly and ideally, it should not be restricted by race, gender, or sexuality. However, even when I say that, I am and always will be a fierce advocate for non-white characters to be played by actors who share the same ethnic background .

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So here we are again in this rodeo, this time with a white man playing Michael Jackson and earlier this week, Charlie Hunnam being cast as Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a Mexican American drug lord.

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And once again, I find myself in a bizarre position where I am not ENTIRELY offended by such casting as these actors are not black/brownfacing for the role. In the case of Hunnam, he actually looks like the real-life counterpart and played a similar role in his TV series Sons of Anarchy so it will provide comfort to the studio execs that the job can be done. And with Fiennes, the actor’s eccentricity could provide a great fit for Jackson in his later years. Like any work of art, I’ll have to see when these come out and judge for myself if the actors did a convincing job inhabiting their characters. Being in the entertainment industry for the past 5 years, I am well aware that the act of casting is a complicated mess of finding the right talent/look/voice/essence, convenience, star power/Twitter followers, accessibility with the targeted audience, established relations, and like 50 other factors.

But at the same time, I have a similar feeling with this as I do when I try to drink gluten-free beer: it COULD work but it just doesn’t taste right whatsoever.

The Curse (Blessing) of The “Dry Acting Year”

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As actors, every once in a while, we all reach the dry spells where it feels like the acting gods are against us. And as the overdramatic bunch that we are, we tend to look at these moments and cry out “This is such an awful year! Why me? Why are my less talented friends booking left and right? When will it be my turn??” There’s nothing necessarily wrong with feeling like this, even the best of us can’t help but feel concerned. And this year of 2015 certainly felt like that and so I began to post multiple inspirational examples of actor perseverance and just say to myself over and over again “I’m having such a tough year.” Around August though, with the help of a very talented and very wise acting friend named Landall Goolsby, I changed my perspective to be that of something else, something that transcended my momentary concerns. To explain what that is fully, I invite you all to take some time as I tell you this story I overheard from a customer at the Goorin hat shop I work at. Be patient, you’ll get a lot out of this. Trust me :)

Continue reading The Curse (Blessing) of The “Dry Acting Year”

The 5 Year Reflection Mark

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Although 5 years being in the entertainment business as an actor is absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, I’ve had my fair share of successes, rejections, close calls (those damn avails/pins), and being dead broke twice within that time period and thus working very interesting daytime jobs that I’ll always remember fondly despite whatever experiences I had there.

I’ve seen fellow actors who started out in the same time & place as I did rise far above me, actors who barely put in any work book like a thunderstorm, and actors who I view as absolute masters struggle far more than I ever did, to the point that I question this industry we hustle so hard for and get very little results. Sometimes I wonder what the point of it all is and how long I have to work to get any form of validation that I’m even doing the right thing.

But despite these thoughts, I’m still very much in the game. And every success I achieve, whether it be referrals to be in a staged reading/short film/webseries, be the few to be specifically picked by casting for a role in a TV show, be in someone’s mind for 2 years for a role in a pilot presentation, be noted for my progress on an acting scene I worked my ass off in for class, or just be acting PERIOD…all of this, they are one step forward to continue doing what I love to do. It can be hard to see the silver linings when we are only looking for the shiniest and brightest ones when in reality, they are all around us.

Failure is totally acceptable. And necessary. And so is envy & jealousy, but only when I realize it exists within me and work to improve myself and learn to be genuinely happy for others and most importantly, for myself. But above it all, it is the journey that is most important. To truly appreciate my own path and those of my fellow travelers I see alongside me in wherever destination they go to and appreciate the people that support & love me in my greatest moments and my most pathetic ones.

So. Here’s to 5 more years and 5 more years after that and so on. Here’s to all of us who have persisted despite everything in the universe telling us to quit and still found a way to achieve success and even happiness.

When Is Colorblind Casting Appropriate?

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In the past week, there has been much controversy about ALOHA and the controversial casting of Emma Stone as Allison Ng as well as Tilda Swinton playing a Tibetan mystic. In light of these events and the many discussions (and heated arguments) I had with my peers, these are my concluding thoughts:

In an ideal world, I fully support colorblind casting. Emma Stone should have every right to play a quarter-Chinese, quarter-Hawaiian character. Same with Tilda Swinton being a Tibetan mystic. Or Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver playing Egyptians in EXODUS. Because as actors, we should be able to play whoever we want, as long as we work our butts off, do our diligent research, and play the character convincingly. Which also means that if a white actor wanted to take on the challenge of playing Martin Luther King Jr.? I say, bring it. But on that same token, I as an Asian actor (or any non-white actor) should have equal opportunity to play a white character. Or anyone we want, as long as we are the right actors for the job.

Unfortunately this is not the case.

The main issue at hand is that there are so many opportunities for white actors to play whoever they want. They can play Egyptians. They can play Asians. They can play anything and the script (and everyone involved in creating the film) will work towards their advantage. But the same generous opportunity is not given to non-white actors.  The playing field is so limited to non-white actors that when people get upset because a quarter-Chinese, quarter-Hawaiian character is given to an unquestionably white actress, it has merit because this would have been a great opportunity to cast an actor of ACTUAL mixed Asian descent. Or when Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver actually had to go out of their way and bronze themselves up to be seen as Egyptians? That would have been the perfect opportunity to cast an actual Egyptian/Middle Eastern/black actor to play the main leads. For these large studio & TV projects in America, it becomes a worrisome trend that we are constantly seeing characters of color get cast with white actors or their cultural origins wiped out completely.

On that note, people flip the conversation and ask that if people are upset when non-white characters are played by white actors, shouldn’t the same scrutiny be applied vice versa? To that, I say yes…and no. When it does happen, it happens RARELY. And when they do happen, a lot of these times, these traditionally white characters are not based on any non-white cultural origins nor are they essential to the story.  There are exceptions however. While I’m totally down with, for example, Idris Elba playing a Norse god in THOR, I would have issues if Thor himself was played by a non-white actor. Or if you were telling the origins of Captain America and he was played by an Asian dude? That wouldn’t make any sense either. The casting of the character needs to be organic with the story and origins that he or she comes from and same can be said when you are casting an ensemble for any TV show or film.

So to reiterate, colorblind casting as an idea should be an amazing and beautiful thing in an ideal world. But we don’t live in that ideal world. Instead, we live in a rather complicated world where opportunities are more available to one group of people over others, mirred with centuries of racism, ignorance, prejudice, hate crimes, and oppression. There’s nothing quite immediate we can do about that but at the very least, we can make a change in telling stories about people that we normally don’t hear about everyday and to actually cast folks that are part of that world. That if the argument is about “we need to make money”, you can take a chance and cast that actor who isn’t white (and if you’re still concerned, you can cast white bankable actors to surround the said ‘unknown’ non-white actor playing the lead). We are so influenced by what we see and hear, to the point that it reflects the decisions and opinions we make of others so if we can’t effectively change the world overnight, we can at least portray making a start.

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An Asian American Actor’s Thoughts on #OscarsSoWhite

It’s been four days since the nominees were announced for the 2015 Oscars, and the dust has yet to settle on the controversy as it has been observed that every nominated actor in the Lead and Supporting categories — 20 actors in all — is white. As an Asian American actor, I can’t help but notice this as it is yet another reminder how much more work we have to go. Continue reading An Asian American Actor’s Thoughts on #OscarsSoWhite

Most Popular Actor Questions (Part I)

These questions are directly from the most frequent actor questions that were gathered in the Facebook group page CASTING DIRECTORS FOR ACTORS, which was founded by casting director Jeremy Gordon and monitored by him and myself. Considering I have no doubt there will be more questions in the future, this is only part 1 out of many more entries to come. So without further adieu:
Continue reading Most Popular Actor Questions (Part I)

To Give Up Or Not To Give Up?

It is inevitable that in every actor who writes a blog, they write an entry about giving up. Because how could they not? The possibility that this career will never work out is all too real, especially as the actor grows older and sees their non-actor friends having stable jobs, stable relationships, and a stable life that they once mocked them for as being boring and straight-edged. “Perhaps I made the wrong choice in being an actor?” we ask ourselves. I know all of what I’m saying is dedicated for actors, but I also know that it can be extremely applicable to everyone pursuing their dreams and the struggles that comes with it.

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Continue reading To Give Up Or Not To Give Up?

Reaching Out To Commercial Directors

A new experiment in my acting administration (this pertains to the commercial world primarily) I wish to share with you all:

1. First, write a specific, detailed postcard to each and every one of the creative directors in the production company for the national commercial I shot 2 weeks back. Mention at top that I worked with one of their fellow director mates. (Real live update as I write this: learning that one of the directors is behind the brilliant madness of the TURN DOWN FOR WHAT music video is making me smile like an idiot).

2. Next, to write a specific, detailed postcard to all the directors for every single production company I’ve ever worked with. Mention which director I worked with at top. So far, that makes it 11 commercials. 11 production companies. With 10-20 directors in each company. I’ll start with the latest ones and then go back to 2011. 110 – 220 postcards? Oh boy.

3. Once all that madness is done, I’ll induce more madness upon myself by writing a specific, detailed postcard to every single major production companies that I’ve never been involved with and the directors that work with them. This will probably take months.

4. Consult with a doctor about my inevitable arthritis that formed as a result from all of this.

*NOTE – This may be recommended for those who’ve worked in commercials (and/or have major TV and film credits) already, have a commercial agent, and not for those who are brand spanking new to the entertainment industry.

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REASON – An actor friend who has induced similar madness upon himself inspired me to do this. “Why just reach out to casting directors when you can go one step beyond?”, he asked to my head.

POSSIBLE OUTCOME – Said acting friend has told me it has resulted in straight to callbacks with directors letting him know they got his postcard and thought his work was good. So, hey, it doesn’t hurt for me to do that too since many of these directors also work in major TV shows and films. At the very least, there will be 500+ postcards floating around in these production companies with an Asian dude staring at a floating Cinnabon.

ALTERNATIVE ROUTE – Services like Amazingmail are available for you to use and ideal for those who don’t want to suffer impending arthritis. It’s a print to send service allowing you to personalize each card. They print it and send it on your behalf so hey, that’s cool! For me though, I like the personal touch with a pen and paper to express my message. Different strokes for different folks.