Rock Jocks is about to redefine the genre of video game movies. While most studios interpret gaming on big screens as over the top film adaptations of popular franchises (think Prince of Persia…and then stop thinking about it, because it’s painful), this indie comedy focuses on gamers themselves–and that includes The Guild’s Felicia Day, YouTube star KevJumba and Twilight’s own Justin Chon. Directed by Paul Seetachitt, Rock Jocks follows the adventures of a motley crew of skilled shooters recruited to work in a low budget but highly classified government agency. Their secret job is to shoot down impending asteroids that could wipe out humanity as we know it. You know, that kind of job.
8Asians had the opportunity to catch up with Justin Chon on set a couple weeks ago, who told us directly about his character in Rock Jocks, working alongside KevJumba, life as an Asian American actor and being a part of the Twilight universe.
So tell me about your character?
I play Seth Park in the movie. I am a shooter in the movie, which is about a special division that was erectedd in the 60’s or something to shoot down asteroids that are potential threats to the Earth. There’s someone from the government that’s trying to shut us down from budget cuts. And I shoot down asteroids.
And your character seems like…an asshole?
I wouldn’t say asshole. I just have a little man’s complex. Like I’m super insecure. I am not the most very pleasant person. I instigate a lot. I give a lot of people hard times.
How’s it going so far?
Tomorrow is my last day, so [Rock Jocks] almost done for me and I’ve had a blast. I’ve got to work with Jason Mewes, who I’m a huge fan of and Gerry Bednob from The 40 Year Old Virgin who’s hilarious. The director [Paul] has given me a lot of freedom with the character so I’ve had a great time.
So what are you drawing on this character as Seth?
It’s hard to believe but I actually went through the script and made some real specific choices, but I don’t know if I’m drawing on any specific inspiration. I know where his viewpoint is on life and where he’s coming from. Like, Kevin’s character in the movie is a newer, younger version of [Seth]. He has higher scores than him and is technically better, but not mentally better. He’s new so he’s nervous and I prey on that.
[As Seth,] I was previously the youngest person to ever be recruited, so I have this jealous type of thing. I need to put Kevin down mentally for him to feel inferior, because I’m scared for my job. At the end of the day, the story I made for myself is that Seth was recruited from a video game tournament and that the only validation he’s gotten as a kid in life is that he’s really good at video games, which translates into a great shooter. What does that entail?
He’s probably spent hours and hours alone in his room playing video games. he doesn’t have much social skills. This is his livelihood… With this job, he’s somebody. He’s needed in the world. Without it, he’s a deadbeat couch potato. He definitely feels threatened by Kevin’s character. It’s just one of those things that sensitive and insecure people are the loudest and most degrading. They’re scared that that they might be discovered. It’s kind of like a mask or a shell, but I’m sure that when he goes home, he gets really lonely. And it’s sad that he doesn’t have a girlfriend.
Did you game at all yourself?
Not really for this role . I didn’t feel it was that important.
It was more about his emotions.
Yeah, a lot of this movie is talk heavy. I didn’t really feel it was that important. If i had to do something that was really skilled, like specific, then I would have worked on that.
What are you learning from working with KevJumba?
How much power one person can hold by utilizing social media, because you’re your own kind of brand, so to speak. You can have a really strong voice if you have a lot of people follow what you do. But I’m just starting to learn that, because before, I was like, “What? Internet? Oh, I’ll just study acting.”
How has Hollywood treated you as an Asian American actor?
It’s been great. It’s been super super hard work and I’ve had to fight a lot of stereotypes, but it’s really driven me to work really hard. I know that if I don’t give 200%, someone is right behind me and they’ll take my spot.
You were in the Twilight movies. What’s it like dealing with all the fans?
There is definitely a huge fan base for Twilight. I think it’s great and I didn’t know that was going to be the one kind of thing that would put me on the map, in terms of pop culture, but hey, whatever. Whatever it takes to make it and survive in this industry. [The Twilight series] has been great. I’ve got to make a lot of cool friends and work with a lot of great directors. So I’ve had fun. It’s been a fun ride and it’s coming to a close.
How did you get started as an actor?
Well, I was very fortunate because both of my parents have very artistic backgrounds. My mother studied piano and cello, while my dad was actually an actor in South Korea. He was like the Macaulay Culkin of South Korea in the late 60’s, so I grew up watching his black and white films. Growing up, there were no role models. I didn’t even think it was possible, so I went to USC, I started studying business and halfway through, I was like, “Fuck this. There’s no way I can do this.”
So I decided to give acting class a shot and didn’t audition during the first two years. Just studied. Learned acting. Then I graduated and loved it so much, I thought I’d give it a shot. And right off the bat, I booked a series of T-Mobile commercials and stuff just started picking up.
Do you have any words of encouragement for aspiring Asian American actors?
It is a craft. It is a job. No matter how fun you might think it is, it still takes a lot of hard work, so learn the craft. I always give the analogy of, would you try to play on the Lakers or the NBA without ever having played basketball in your life? No, it’s not going to happen. Same thing with acting: a lot of kids these days watch the Disney Channel and they see this singer/danger/actor/make-up model and it’s cool, some people are just talented and can do everything. It’s a possibility but most likely, you’re not that talented. You should tell yourself that time to time, so you work harder and learn how to act. Get real training and don’t think you can step onto the set and be amazing. It’s not going to happen.
I’m still studying. I’m always in class. If I’m not working, then I’m enrolled in some class. I’m constantly getting coached.
How do you prevent yourself from getting typecast into stereotypical, token roles?
I struggled with that a lot. I just try to be the best actor. If I get jobs, then I get jobs, which is great because I played so many different characters in my career. I’ve played a jock, a transvestite, a gamer dick, I’ve played a nerd, a smart-ass, a scared immigrant–really across the board, but I don’t worry about being typecast. I just have my career take its course.
I really feel like that’s a downfall when a lot of people are so scared of being typecast or taking a really stereotypical role. It’s like, hey listen. If you don’t take that stereotypical role, someone else will take it and they might do a really bad job.
So you should take it and make it really good.
At least humanize the character. Make a human instead of a stereotype. That’s the worst thing that could happen. The movie is going to be made no matter what, so at least do it in good taste. And just the fact that a lot more Asians are on television, I don’t really think it matters if the role is a nerd or whatever. At least they’re being exposed and once people acknowledge that Asians even exist, then we can start to change our perception.
But without them even seeing us on TV when they’re not used to seeing us at all, at least having a stereotype is better than being nonexistent. I really feel as an actor that it’s my job to be successful and be well known as a certain type of actor. I don’t care what that is. If that’s my job as an actor to have chops enough to break that stereotype…if I can’t convince people I can do something greater than that, then I shouldn’t be acting anymore.
Rock Jocks is set to open in theaters in 2012 but for the latest updates, you can follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook or even better, check back on 8Asians for our exclusive interview with KevJumba.