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:
My extremely personal account of why Cinnabon mattered to me so much got the attention of the company through the Twitter social media format and then it got forwarded to Kat Cole, the CEO. This was how she and I first got acquainted way back in May 28th, 2012 and since then, we’ve been following each other on Twitter and having various fun communications back and forth for the next year and a half. Throughout all this time, I would constantly talk about Cinnabon through all social media avenues, to the point that people will think of me and send me a picture of a Cinnabon product everytime they come across it at a mall, airport, Ralph’s, and etc. My postcards, business cards, and letterheads all contain the Cinnabon Monster drawing or some element of the pastry product in it.
When did this all exactly start? Before the interview even happened with Lynn, on May 8th, 2012 is when I designed my very first Cinnabon-inspired postcard to send out to casting folks, thanks to a peculiar being called Skylar who made that strange suggestion when she commented that if I talked about Cinnabon all the time, I should market myself with it as an actor. And so I did:
On November 5th, 2013, it evolved into this as I expanded my range (and different representation) when it comes to the type of people I play:
Around this same time in November, my amazing photographer friend Melly Lee wanted to capture my passion with this pastry beauty:
Suffice to say, this picture and her other Cinnabontastic pictures also got the attention of the company and Kat again. Because of Melly’s fabulous pictures, they became the ground for the current postcards and business cards I use now:
It wasn’t even a month later until the company that Melly also takes photography for, NextShark, was going to interview Kat Cole (this be the interview) when she came to LA for a business trip. Benny Luo, a friend and founder of that entrepreneur online magazine, asked if I wanted to come after the interview to meet Kat in person for the first time. I felt like I was a kid getting Christmas gifts.
Alas, I had a callback that day so I wasn’t able to go over but Benny was nice enough to connect Kat and me through our email accounts. I immediately wrote Kat an email saying that I was massively sad for missing the chance meeting but that she was a true inspiration to me and that I hope to meet her in person for real one day.
Jump forward to February 5th, 2014 and lo and behold, I get a reply to my email that I sent nearly two months prior saying that she would like to meet with me for coffee. I like to think I processed this with calm and composure but instead, I made a vivacious karate kick into the air when I got the email. “Holy crap, I am actually meeting with Kat one on one? Omgomgomgomgomgomg”, raged my brain.
During this time, I had no idea what to possibly expect except that I did all the freaking research I could and reviewed again her interviews with various news sources as well as her guest appearance on Undercover Boss. But I knew without a doubt that I had a dream and that was to be the national spokesperson for Cinnabon. But more important than that, I wanted to know about the extraordinary life Kat has led, to hear some things that weren’t said on all those interviews, and to just finally meet the person who I’ve been tweeting with for nearly 2 years.
We met 3 days later after the email at the bar lounge of Ace hotel in DTLA and I immediately embarrassed myself by not only introducing myself to Kat when I saw her but also introducing myself to two other people who were sitting in the bar but was not part of the group. I said I had an obsession with Cinnabon to them and the two women looked at me like I was a reptile with 5 eyes.
Once that awkwardness passed though, what I originally thought was going to be an hour long meeting (AT MOST) turned into a near 3 hour amazing personal sharing bonding time. I learned more about the business that Kat led, the rejected ideas Cinnabon has had, that a Cinnabon mochi idea is in the works, and also aspects of her personal life that had a lot in common with mine. Our philosophy in our work ethics, gratitude, and persistence were completely aligned and it felt like I was talking to a tremendously kind, powerful energy source that only amped up my inspiration within myself even further. When we talked about dreams and when I asked hers were and learned how involved she was in nearly almost everything, she turned it around and asked what my dreams were:
I couldn’t help but smirk because I was secretly hoping she would ask that.
And so I told her honestly what my dreams were. That 2014 was going to be the year of Cinnabon, that I had plans to create spec commercials and webisodes that centered around it. That I wanted to be the national spokesperson. Hey, might as well be brave and say what is true to my heart at this moment, no?
What commenced next felt like a dream. An exchange of amazing ideas back and forth and that she and the company would support me in whatever I had in mind (mind you, GOOD SENSIBLE ideas) and that we can take full advantage of their YouTube channel and upload our commercials and webisodes there. That she and the company would even be open to the idea of sponsoring the content we propose to create. It is here that it hit me fully that the terrain was wide open for us to paint as we wish, with the full support and love from the Cinnabon company. And with me being in LA surrounded by so many talented writers, directors, actors, composers, and whatnot, I had in my fingertips the ability to express Cinnabon the way I saw it that was synonymous to what Kat and the company thought as well.
When I eventually left the meeting, I still felt like I was in a dream. But no, this is what it must feel like to finally make that dream I’ve been having for years (since that horrendous day in middle school when a Cinnabon classic roll literally changed my life for the better) into reality.
The journey, however, did not stop there. Oh boy, no it didn’t.
I did not realize how much bigger the Cinnabon dream was until almost two years later on the night of December 8th, 2015 when an actress friend forwarded me a breakdown for a studio indie feature film that needed an actor to play The Cinnabon Guy.
I could not believe my eyes for a few minutes as my brain went to a paralyzed halt and I sat there, staring at the breakdown. “Holy shit, this is real. There’s actually a role for the Cinnabon Guy and it’s with some rather dope ass people. Holy shit.” I immediately emailed my agent and manager and asked if they knew about that role. But I went a step further and researched a way to contact the casting director, producers, and director to let them know about my existence. I sent out multiple postcards to their production addresses with the passionate intent that I had to be seen for this role. 8 days later, I got the audition on the morning of December 16th, 2015…to be seen later that afternoon (which by the time I got the email, I had three hours). Not a lot of time, but boy, was I primed and trained to kill it regardless.
When I came into the room, the casting room was empty and I was the only person to be seen. The CD told me that he saw everybody else for the role the day before but at the insistence of my agent and manager, he was willing to see me before they went off for winter vacation. In the sheer excitement that coursed through my mind and body, I remember the first take being as ecstatic as a crack monkey and the second take being much more subdued but still with attitude. I left the room, feeling confident how I did but knowing enough that the rest is beyond my control.
It would be 2 days later on December 18th, 2015 that I got the email from my Sovereign agent with the subject title: Karma. I read it and all of a sudden, I remembered that feeling of booking my very first national commercial over 5 years ago, that feeling of sheer giddy excitement and huge disbelief. It was a pleasure to remember and evoke that feeling once again. I had a good amount of time before the shoot as it was after all right before the winter holidays so I took it as a very wonderful early Christmas present.
The time of the Cinnabon shoot came and that date of February 2nd, 2016 will now always be remembered as the day I shot my Cinnabon Guy role. I later learned when I looked at the revised scene that the two Cinnabon speaking employees in the original script were melted into one and I would be the one taking the helm. Shit was getting real as it looks like I would indeed be the Cinnabon Guy, not just Cinnabon #1. When I got to set, I realized that the three postcards I sent to the two producers and casting director actually worked as one of the producers told me how he received the postcards sent to him and his wife (who was the other producer) and immediately paid attention to the timing of the postcard, the blatant Cinnabon nature of it, and the fact that an actor had the idea to send it off in the first place. They contacted the Cinnabon company to ask if they ever heard of me and the company had my back saying that they loved me and that if I haven’t auditioned for the part yet, I should, and if I’ve already auditioned and did a good job, they should seriously consider casting me. They then contacted the casting director to see if I could audition and the casting director told them that he just auditioned me and actually did a pretty good job. It became a no brainer to them that with all the stars aligned, that I should be offered the role.
Daniel told me all of that and I’m just listening to him with googly eyes. Googly eyes continued when a few of the Cinnabon representatives that were there on set knew who I was as Kat Cole told them I would be filming that day. It felt like a wonderful welcome by all these people, even though I didn’t have a main part in this film nor was I a celebrity by any mean.
But my favorite part of it all? While on set, I got to meet Michael Golamco, the writer of the film…and the writer of the Cowboy vs. Samurai, the first Asian American play I ever read back in college and the first full length play I ever directed in 2009, my senior year at College of W&M. If my experience on set wasn’t already wonderful enough, this heightened the experience more so, to the point that I felt like I was in a magical dream with Cinnabon puffy clouds as my cushion support.
Without giving anything away of what my scene entailed, it was a tremendous amount of fun and I got to do what I do best: be loud, obnoxious, and have one hell of an attitude. And to do it with my fellow actors who were on top of their comedic game? Icing on top.
Speaking of icing, by the time we wrapped with our scene, I got a lovely Cinnabon ring and a pack of 6 large classic Cinnabons as a thank you. Goodness, the love everywhere was just overwhelming.
So where do I go from here? I got a feeling the journey is just about to get started 😀