The Working APA Actor is a bi-monthly interview of Asian Pacific Islander American actors in the entertainment world, whether it be theater, film, television, the internet, or commercials. It is an inside look at these actors exploring their passion in their craft and how they balance their personal lives with their work. But more importantly, this column is dedicated to knowing these busy actors a little better as individuals.
Jimmy Wong needs no better introduction than this: he is one of the few artists who instead of posting a video expressing their outrage over Alexandra Wallace’s rant on Asians in the library, went the more creative route (perhaps THE most creative route) with his truly original and hilarious song known simply as the “Ching Chong song.” As such, YouTubers could also check out his amazing covers (my favorite being Britney Spear’s “Till the World Ends”) as well as his other original content . You all know him as an amazingly talented and extremely funny musician but did you know that he’s an actor as well? You didn’t, did you?
Well, move over Rover, and let Jimmy take over!
Tell us about yourself! What are you most passionate about in this world?
I’m most passionate about the artistic endeavors in my life. Music, acting, or anything else artistic are my main aspirations and inspirations in life. When I listen to a great song or see an awesome performance I always get shivers down my spine. It encourages me to go out and make something of my own!
When you’re not acting, what else do you like to do?
At the expense of sounding like a spoiled little kid, I love eating all kinds of food and sleeping. I find I work so much that the main things my body loves are those two essential parts of life. Other than that I really love watching movies, listening to music, hanging out with friends and geeking out over silly things.
When did you know for sure you wanted to be an actor? What inspired you to become an actor?
I decided to pursue acting in college after toying around with other ideas for my major for a year or so. It helped that my brother was already out in Los Angeles attending USC’s film program, so I wasn’t the only one in the family striking out at something risky. I’ve always had an appreciation for actors and what they’re able to do on stage and on camera. I still see myself as being very new and fresh to the art as a whole, even after those four years of school I’ve only dipped my toes into a huge ocean of what acting really is. It’s really the craziest art I’ve ever involved myself in, it’s something you have to completely find yourself in, and that’s only the first step.
Did this decision also coincide with you being a musician? Which came first, being a musician or actor? Or both?
Music came first. I studied classical piano as a child for about 8 years and then dropped it entering high school. Acting was something that I didn’t seriously pursue and study until college.
When you act, how do you get yourself into character? We want to know!
There are a few steps, and to be honest I’m still molding my process as well. You have to know the text beforehand, and for me that means really knowing it inside and out. Know what’s going on scene wise, who you are, where you’re coming from, why you’re doing the things you do, what you want and what you’ll do if you don’t get it. Then you have to know who your acting partners are in the scene and in real life. Ask the same questions for them.
When you’re actually in a scene, it’s all about learning how to detach yourself from what you’ve studied and know about the situation and finding the character. For me it takes a few rehearsals or takes to start sinking into character. Some people I know can become a character at the drop of a dime. I think that’s a process that becomes easier and more natural the more practice you get. I have to massage and ease myself into whatever it is I’m doing before I can be fully comfortable.
What has been your most memorable experience as an actor and/or musician?
I think watching my head blow off a rigged up dummy dressed like me has been the most surreal and awesome for my acting career. I won’t spoil what project that’s in though. Musically the entire Alexandra Wallace ordeal and response video has been my most memorable experience. Everything that’s arisen from that has really been a blessing, and I’m super happy things have turned out the way they are now.
When it comes to auditions, what has been your most awkward/fail one you have had so far?
I’m a no-shame kind of guy when it comes to the audition room so I haven’t been thoroughly embarrassed yet. In terms of Fail auditions, I’ve had plenty. Either you completely forget the script and blunder through half of it, or you deliver your most passionate scene and have to deal with the blank stares from the casting director immediately afterward. Too many to count.
Acting requires a tremendous lot of work, both physically and mentally. How do you keep yourself active and level-headed?
Sometimes I don’t! With my new schedule on YouTube it can be tough to make sure you’re at 100% every time you step into an audition room or a shooting situation. A few important things I’ve learned: always eat breakfast, drink lots of water, and stand up straight. Healthy body, healthy mind.
Does your community play any determining factor in your decisions as an actor (e.g. taking on roles that may be deemed “stereotypical”)?
When I first got here it was all about making a living, so I threw shame out the window. After I’ve been more financially [stable] and joining the union, I’ve fortunately not been faced with as many stereotypical roles or parts that I’ve had to make a decision about. What’s nice is that even if the role is particularly scummy or stereotypical in a particular way, it’s as much your fault for keeping it so as it is the writers. You’ve got the greatest arsenal of acting weaponry at your service, so find a way to own that role and make something greater out of it!
Who would you love to work with, whether directors, writers, musicians, or other actors?
It’s a mixed bag. They’ve all been my favorites at one point or another. For actors and directors. they’re in a profession where they have to work with other people all the time both in front and behind the camera. Sometimes you’ll run into unforgiving directors or a huge diva, but for the most part I’ve had pleasant experiences. To be honest, the guy or girl setting up the lights for the next scene is probably the coolest person around.
As for musicians, they can sometimes be great, and sometimes they can be just as stubborn as I am on my worst days. Ultimately it’s all about learning to share your personal art with someone else and making concessions so you can create the best product together. People can forget that and feel very protective of what they’ve done, for good reason, but it doesn’t tie into winning the “Works well with others” award.
Where do you see yourself in the future in terms of what you would like to accomplish?
Really just continued success in both fields. I’d love to elevate that success in acting to larger more significant roles and musically I’d like to reach a bigger audience and get to release an album.
Promote yourself! What new projects are you working on right now that you want people to know or keep an eye out for?
New movie coming out early 2012! John Dies at the End, directed by Don Coscarelli. I play a friend of the main character who gets caught up in a whirlwind of craziness and humor in this indie-horror-comedy flick based off the novel of the same name. Two new videos a week on my YouTube channel!
What advice would you like to give to aspiring actors and musicians?
Work hard. Keep doing what you love.
BONUS QUESTION #1: How long did it take you to learn how to play guitar, piano, drums, and all of those musical instruments?
Piano I’ve taken lessons for 8 years, as for the other instruments I’d say 4-5 for all of them. I’m still always practicing and studying for every instrument!
BONUS QUESTION #2: Top 5 favorite musicians/bands of all time. Go. And for #1, tell us why that band/musician got that spot.
- Radiohead – incredible band, incredible chemistry, and incredible music. They’ve evolved so much in their career and hearing the differences and similarities in each album always blows my mind. They continue to do what they do best and somehow manage to work together so well even with 5 very different personalities. A good role model for all aspiring musicians on how to make something that size work out.
- The Beatles
- Sufjan Stevens
- Jon Brion
- Broken Social Scene