By Dawn Lee Tu
Please see part 1 of my interview with Daniel Henney, of CBS’s Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, in which Henney discusses his connection with the character he plays, and shares his thoughts on opportunities for Asian American actors.
Now that you’ve had a chance to do both, do you prefer TV or film projects better? Why?
I like both, to be honest with you. When I have time, I like film but the problem is that (film) generally takes you away from your family and home for two to three months at a time. It’s hard. One of things I’ve liked about working on (CMBB) is that you get to shoot in Los Angeles. I get to sleep in my own bed every night, spend time with my friends, take my dog for a walk, and sometimes she gets to come to the set with me, which is great. When I’m on a movie, I’m sort of off the grid for a while which is tough sometimes. God forbid something happens to your family and it’s hard to get home. Sometimes it’s hard to communicate because it’s different time zones. Movies are fun and sometimes there is a romantic element to film, but TV is not a bad gig.
I’ve noticed you’ve been involved in small fashion projects such as your sunglasses line and your tote bag. Are those passion projects of yours? Will you be doing more of those kinds of projects?
I definitely hope so. It’s been something we’ve been playing around with, mostly in Asia. We’re trying to get some traction in China as well as Korea but it’s a delicate market over there. But once it picks up, once you get something that’s great, it generally does quite well. Living in Korea for years and years, I’ve had a lot of ideas come to my mind, (such as) help improve the Asian male fashion sense with denim or footwear. So as my career progresses hopefully I’ll be able to create a bigger platform, have more reach, and do more things.
Many of your fans are eagerly waiting for you to appear in more leading roles. Are you still interested in landing a leading role or are you more looking for interesting and challenging roles?
It’s more fun to do interesting, challenging. I don’t get a lot of those because I’m seen as more as a leading guy, especially in Asia. So even here in the States it’s been more of that lately, it’s been more of a leading guy kind of thing. I do gravitate towards trying things. I just had a role come in to me, I don’t know if I’m going to do it. It’s playing some sort of robot in a post-apocalyptic world. How cool would that be? I’m trying stuff like that out. So hopefully I get to do some of that stuff in the future, like I’m not complaining where I’m at, I’m very happy where I’m at right now.
You’re known as an actor and model but people don’t know that personal side of you. So what would you do if you weren’t doing those things?
I was always the kid who didn’t know what he wanted to do at career day at school. I’d sit there and they’d try to make me choose something, anything. But I love being outdoors and working with my hands. I think I’d probably be in Michigan, probably doing something really strange like building furniture or like something really simple, in a really quiet place. I love to do that kind of stuff. I also have an affinity for animals. I wanted to be a veterinarian for a long time, an animal doctor. That was something I wanted to pursue so maybe something in that world. I don’t know. It’s hard to imagine that to be honest with you.
…because your career is going really well right now?
And it’s also because you get to try a lot of different things when you do this (acting and modeling). It’s not like it’s a singular thing, like you said, I get to try fashion things, I went to a fashion show in New York last week, doing TV here, I mean I’m very, very lucky to have a chance to work in Korea and do television there. I have other pet projects over there, like developing movies. There’s a lot of different things going on just in doing this.
Fans have said that one of the most surprising things they learn about you when they meet you is how down to earth you are. This is surprising to hear because it makes me wonder, what do people assume about you? Are there assumptions about you where it’s quite the contrary and you say, “Hey, I’m not like that?”
I guess it kind of works in my favor. People think that I’m constantly wearing a suit, like I’m that romantic comedy guy. That’s why I don’t get recognized as much in L.A. because I’m in a baseball cap or a beanie and glasses. People are used to seeing me on TV as like Agent Zero or Mr. Robin or all these characters they know me as. I’m very seldom in a suit. I don’t know, I think people are always surprised when I speak Korean. They’ll tell me: You don’t speak Korean. I’m like oh, thanks for telling me! Like no, actually I do, because the last thing you saw me as was Kim Sam Soon like twelve years ago and that’s when I couldn’t speak Korean. There are a lot of things that happen like that. People have their idea of who you are, depending on the last thing they saw you in.
I know you’re working on a Korean show called Goodbye Mr. Black, or at least I think I know, that is set to start airing this month. Is that still happening?
Nah, that was just a rumor. I’m sorry. (The rumor) just happened. It just took off and people thought I was doing it. I will be doing something in the future in Korea, I don’t know what, but not that one. That one was going to be too demanding travel-wise to take on right now. It would have been absolutely impossible. I would need to clone myself. Maybe I could do it then, I don’t know. We’re (currently) shooting in Malaysia and Thailand – we’re shooting all over the world – so I couldn’t fit it in.
What else can fans look forward to? 8Asians readers will want to know if you’re going to do any stateside fan meetings in the near future?
I was considering a stateside fan meeting here in L.A. We want to have a good turnout so I don’t know. If we get some fans talking about it, getting some people signing on, getting one hundred to two hundred people to come, then we can do something but the last thing you want to do is rent out a facility and you have like six people there. Has to be something that’s organized so that’s definitely on my mind but I’m potentially jumping on a film in the States next month and also looking at a Korean drama, a small role in a Korean drama. Oh yeah I’m sure they would (come out). That’s up to us to organize it. If we saw enough excitement about it online we’d consider doing it but it takes a lot. I got to bring people in from Korea and organize a team, then create sort of a day, what we’re going to do, some events and things, there’s a lot more to it than just meeting at a restaurant, hanging out and taking pictures. We want to make it fun for everyone. So that’s something definitely that has to be organized. So if we could get a couple hundred people who can definitely commit to being there than we can set something up to make it worth everyone’s while.
Anything else you’d like to add or say to 8Asians readers?
Thank you for the support. I look forward to the show, and I’m going to do my best to make it great for you.
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders airs on CBS on Wednesdays at 10:00, 9:00 Central.
photos: © Kharen Hill and Robert Voets / ABC STUDIOS
About the author: Dawn Lee Tu does a lot of things including teaching and writing and is sometimes known for being quite knowledgeable about short hair, ice cream, and Asian American things. You can find her on Twitter at @dawnleetu