As a teen in the early 90s growing up in LA and OC Asian American communities, everyone knew about the murder of Stuart Tay by other high achieving teens. Rumors flew about the computer theft planned, about drama over a girl, about how he was beaten to death and buried. And this is pre-internet and cell phone, so word traveled fast. When I heard about the movie Better Luck Tomorrow and what it was about, I immediately thought of that Sunny Hills murder, of the shooting at my own high school, of parachute kids, and all the Asian gang violence that used to run rampant in those seemingly nice suburban neighborhoods back then. It didn’t surprise me to find out later that it was loosely based on that incident. The character that actually stood out the most to me was Virgil Hu played by Jason Tobin particularly because Virgil was trying so hard to be something that was clearly out of his league. To me, he seemed like a mascot of that time in high school, where kids were playing adult roles to break out of the mundane routine of endless sunshine, prosperity, and high expectations. That made Tobin perfect for the role of Eddy Tsai in the film CHINK, the first film ever made about an Asian American serial killer, where Tsai idolizes infamous serial killers in a manifestation of racial self-hate and counter-emasculation. Learn more about Tobin and his starring role in CHINK in just 8Questions.
What made you decide to pursue your current career?
I was drawn to movies and acting from a young age and when I left high school I decided to move to LA to become an actor. I enrolled at SMC with the intention of getting into a film school while I took acting classes on the side. But after two semesters my dad asked me what I was doing taking general ed classes like math, history and philosophy. I thought you wanted to be an actor? And just like that that I dropped out of college and focused on acting.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
There are so many but I would have to say Bruce Lee.
Where do you see the Asian Pacific Islander American community in 10 years?
I don’t know. But I think the AA presence in the mainstream media will continue to grow. But what I find exciting is the potential for AA artists to do get their work made cheaply and distributed online. We’re already seeing it with all the AA YouTube celebs.
What advice would you give the next generation of API aspiring to make it in entertainment?
Work hard. Play hard. Tell good stories. And study your craft.
What is your goal with the film CHINK?
My goal was to do my job to the best of my ability as an actor, learn from the professionals around me and from the experience while making friends and having a great time making a movie.
How do you feel people will respond to the intentionally offensive name?
I’m not even sure how I feel about it. But some people will really hate it that I’m sure of. There were people that picked arguments with me and the cast of Yellow and BLT when we’d do Q&As – AAs that were pissed at how we were representing them. So, I’m expecting it with CHINK. But I think some people will really get it.
What stereotypes will CHINK break and what new ones could it potentially create?
I think it’ll show what a sick sense of humor some of us have.
What is your favorite Asian comfort food?
Congee with pork and thousand year old egg.