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.

Dreams

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Dreams. It’s the quintessential element that has gotten us to take the insane step to become an actor, without any certainty that we are going to succeed or fail miserably in the form of being dirt broke and being unable to pay for next month’s rent, car insurance, cell phone bill, and food (and that’s only the least of your worries). As we become more knowledgeable and seasoned within the entertainment industry, some of us slowly become more cynical of dreams and go along with the motion that we work hard, network hard, and eventually our career will be where we want to be.

But sometimes, it’s good to go back to the foundations and re-evaluate where you are and remember what it was like to dream again. To state your dreams out loud, no matter how impossible or far-fetched it may be. And remember that they can change constantly and by no means a rigid checkpoint that if you don’t accomplish them, you are anything less. But be proud of your dreams. Write them out. Say it out loud. It sounds simple but more often than not, it’s more difficult for folks than they realize because there may be someone in their life who told them that their dream was stupid, impractical, or impossible.

“You can’t ever be the main lead in a TV series, you’re not even that good looking..just being honest.”
“It’s hard to believe that an Asian guy can be believable as a romantic lead, no offense.”
“You, an actor? You’re just..plain looking”.

Because of such negative forces, our dreams more often than not become suppressed. This not only affects aspiring actors but veterans who start to become jaded after putting their years in. New or old, it’s time to shake that fear off and remember that ethereal feeling.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
– Harriet Tubman

But dreams are only truly useful as blueprints to change when one turns these dreams into action.

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
– Walt Disney

So with that being said, let me state my dream out loud. It may change by next year but right now, I know this burns true to me because I actually got emotional while sharing this out loud with my acting administration group”:

I want to be the main lead in a challenging hit TV show (that runs for at least 5 years) and keep doing such projects on film & TV till I die (OF OLD AGE). I want to win an Emmy for Best Actor in a TV series, comedy or drama. I want to create and produce projects that inspire people to be the best they can possibly be, to have no shame in their flaws, their vulnerabilities, and believe it and themselves to be beautiful. I want to live in a gorgeous, comfortable house with a grand landscape view overseeing a rolling grassy field, away from Los Angeles. Through my arts, I want to be paid to a great point that I can do all of this and more. While all that’s going on, I want to be a wonderful friend, husband, and father to the people that will become the center of my world, my rock, my anchor.

I have a good feeling this dream will stay with me for a while and I will work my ass off to make this all possible. Maybe some of them will be attained within 5 years. Others 10 years. And some even 20-30 years. But by writing this dream out loud, I remember where my journey wants to go and understand that it can change.

So what are your dreams? Please share your beautiful dreams with me and remember, nothing is too impossible to state out loud to the Universe. After that, how will you accomplish this dream? What are you doing to be the best actor and human being you can be to make this happen?

The Little Things

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Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one’ – C.S. Lewis

Not too long after I came back to Los Angeles after my 3+ weeks in Austin shooting HOT AIR, I immediately proceeded to have an epic 3-day belated birthday eating festival with the people that makes my world go round. They are the reasons that life is truly more than one’s acting career. Without them, anything I do here is meaningless. It is for that reason that I am the most grateful with having such beautiful people in my life that they have more weight than any auditions, bookings, or acting related stuff that while it’s great to have, they do not make up a large portion of the infinite beauty that is Life.

One Year Older, Potentially The Wiser

So today’s my birthday.

By this point, it’s been over 4 years since I’ve moved to Los Angeles in order to pursue my dream of being a unicorn  actor and with each passing year, I’m beginning to slowly but surely understand this maddening journey of what it takes to be a working actor in Los Angeles. But more importantly, I see myself evolving as a person and that is what this post is all about. Because while I value my career significantly, I cannot forgot about life, its simple things, and the fellow travelers that are with me as I go through this journey.

Photography credit: Matt Molloy
Photography credit: Matt Molloy

So I have a few things to say, most of these feelings prompted by the UCSB shooting which took place on May 25th, 2014:
Continue reading One Year Older, Potentially The Wiser