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, 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.
Wow, that’s quite a steamy (borderline NSFW) introduction to this installment of The Working APA Actor. That lucky man in the middle is Adrian Zaw and if there is something that can be said about this man, it’s that he keeps himself busy being seen even if you may have never seen him in prominent feature films or television series (yet). There is something to be said when actors can take full advantage of the Internet and Adrian does just that by working hard to put himself out there through impressive viral short films that can catch the attention of entertainment industry folks. The most evident one is The Resistance, a web series that started in 2008. Thanks to the amount of attention it was receiving and the publicity work pushed out by its team, the series was able to air on the SyFy Channel on October 4th, 2010.
Tell us about yourself! What are you most passionate about in this world?
I’m an actor, TV host and producer, but I only produce because I have to, I TV host because I need to, and I act because I want to love to and find harmony in my life when I’m in the zone while playing a character. When it comes down to it, I’m really passionate about making good movies. Ever since I was a young kid I’ve had an obsession of being a part of my favorite movies I saw, entranced in the story telling. Although I’m not a movie guru, it’s a huge part of who I am and what I am.
Check out the rest of the interview after the jump!
When you’re not acting, what else do you like to do?
Sleep and Dream a lot, since the key word is “like.” But when I’m awake I find joys in living out the lives of the action heroes I play on the screen. Whether it’s motorcycles, jumping out of airplanes, bungee jumping, and the best of all being an expert marksmen with firearms. But all and all it just comes right back to making films, movies and videos. I’ve developed this habit of recording anything I do that’s worth while whether is adrenaline pumping activities or even during car accidents video blogged with a smile (viewable on YouTube). I think living in the YouTube generation I’ve felt as if if its not documented by some sort of recording then it really didn’t happen so to speak. Perhaps, its this idea of being forever young to my future self with an idea that one day I can look back and say, “Wow, I was pretty young dumb and full of ca-ca- charisma.”
When did you know for sure you wanted to be an actor? What inspired you to become an actor?
It’s a simple story, and it starts off in 7th grade when we had “Career Day” at my middle school where all sorts of professionals came to my school to share their professions. Included was an actor, and he ranted about free food on set at the crafts table. That sold me. Food, all day, for free! 10 years later I was 23 sitting on set eating junk food out of the crafts table while waiting for catering to serve a warm meal, I had this flash back of my middle school “Career Day” and gave myself a pat on the back, “Mission Accomplished.” Just like the saying, “The key to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” My heart felt fulfilled, until reality hit and the hard part of being an actor was staying an actor. The disheartening reality of being an Asian American Actor in the industry was a life lived on cups of noodles while fasting to feast.
When you act, how do you get yourself into character? We want to know! 😀
I meditate. And there’s so many various forms of meditating, my version takes place right before you fall into deep sleep when your mind is most active. Although I’ve gone through formal training, what works best for me personally is to close my eyes, and imagine how cool I’d look playing my character. Then I’d read the script no less than 10 times to discover more ways to look awesome on screen.
What has been your most memorable experience as an actor?
The most memorable experience as an actor was not just being an actor but man an Asian American Actor man, in a desexualizing industry of such types portraying a scene where I was being washed down by three gorgeous ladies in the shower with soap. I’m referring to a scene in the recent SyFy Channel Show titled “The Resistance Series” directed by Adrian Picardi. In one of the trailers called “Greed” we forget that I’m Asian American, desexualized, and become captivated on the awesomeness of the scene. But in reality of course I was surrounded by lights, cameras, and people, including one of the actresses’ husband, a girl I was dating at the time (which ended shortly of course.) and a distracting concern of going overtime on filming the scene that the only time I got to enjoy the experience was of course watching back when the final product finally came out.
When it comes to auditions, what has been your most awkward/fail one you have had so far?
Recently…Every single one of them. I think I’ve been out of the whole auditioning routine that it’s a hard route to go back on. Ever since I discovered I could play the roles that will set me apart as long as I learned how to produce them, I’ve been making my own roles that I never had to audition for anything that I played. After all, I know myself the best and at age 23 I figured why not position myself in non-stereotypical roles that will showcase my talents and set me apart from others. Well, that worked, but getting paid top dollar for playing those roles are a different matter all together.
Acting requires a tremendous lot of work, both physically and mentally. How do you keep yourself active and level-headed?
It is a lot of work, mentally and physically. It’s a roller coaster ride of sky rocketing confidence followed by death plunges into depression and self hatred. To tell you the truth, there is hardly a level-headed state of balance, but more of an consistent change upward or downward. But the best thing in the end, on those really really bad days is to calm down, relax and stay positive. The key to that is to think about everything you can and should be thankful for in this world. From the littlest things of food to eat, shelter, to the unforgettable things like having unconditional love and support by your side. Your friends, family, and love ones are your balance beams in the end, so never forget to pay your respects.
Does your Asian community play any determining factor in your decisions as an actor? (ie. taking on roles that may be deemed “stereotypical”)
The Asian community is a very complex one that’s quite difficult to generalize. For example, they have been limiting to the extent that I’m not the right kind of Asian. Such as not Japanese enough, Chinese, or Korean enough to play a majority of the roles cast to begin with. However, the community as a whole does provide inspiration to the idea that as Asian Americans we are under represented in film and that in the end we should just be playing less Asian and more American roles to really seamlessly integrate with the media. I am proud when I see Asian American’s playing characters instead of Asians.
Who would you love to work with, whether directors, writers, or other actors?
I would LOVE to work on any Christopher Nolan’s movies and it would be amazing to play opposite of Ken Watanabe. Of course in my ideal world where the quota for Asians on screen is not limited to 1 per project.
Where do you see yourself in the future in terms of what you would like to accomplish?
I would like to take it to the next step. Let’s back track; it started with playing non-stereotypical roles on the Emmy Award Winning Broadband Series titled Satacracy 88 which received the 2nd Emmy given to an Online Series. Then it moved on to playing a non-stereotypical character on the Resistance series which became the first ever show to be picked up by a Network with their airing on the SyFy Channel. I guess the next steps are just to gradually grow to bigger and better and keep that progression strong. And I feel like it’s never going to happy by auditioning and waiting for that opportunity to land and/or find me. But to obtain and secure it through a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
Promote yourself! What new projects are you working on right now that you want people to know or keep an eye out for?
Well, since The Resistance’s success came into fruition I wanted to repeat the same formula of success for a greater project. The process of synergy and working with people to create great movies. I’m currently working on developing a new series with up and coming director Nick Acosta on a show involving super powers, non-stereotypical characters, and awesome action drama story lines. To first have an opportunity to get people involved that I haven’t worked with yet but would like to, and secondly to fulfill my geek-side ambitions of being a super hero. Since the show Heroes was cancelled and I can never be on the show, I figured the next best thing is to just make one yourself.
What advice would you like to give to aspiring actors?
Be more than an actor if you want to really secure your ambitions of playing the roles you want to see yourself play. Take a step back and look at the long cattle calls, and audition lines that make you feel inadequate and walk the other way. Pave your own path, cause you know yourself the best, don’t wait for others to tell you what you are and limit who you can be.
BONUS QUESTION #1: What’s your top five favorite bands/musicians?
Marie Digby, because she’s melted my heart like the million plus others on YouTube.
BONUS QUESTION #2: If you could be a cartoon/anime character, who would you be?