Justin Chon talks Kdramas, Twilight, and being a Korean American actor with DramaFever
DramaFever was lucky enough to be able to sit down with the Korean American actor, Justin Chon, who you may know from 21 & Over, Crossing Over, and Twilight, to talk about his upcoming roles, what it's like to be an Asian American actor, and, of course, Kdramas.
1. On His Upcoming Roles:
This evening, Justin guest stars on a new episode of the hit television show, New Girl. He says it's been a pleasure working with Zooey Deschanel and that she is a complete sweetheart. Justin's excited to see how tonight's show turns out because his role as a young Chinese restaurant owner, who is in hot pursuit of Deschanel's character, has an interesting twist to it that pushes against conventional Asian American stereotypes in Hollywood. Check it out tonight to see for yourself!
Justin is also currently starring in a dramatic film called Revenge of the Green Dragons. The film is set through his perspective as a young gang member in the late 80's who is trying to get the best of both worlds without getting hurt, but the people who are the closest to him are hit the hardest as a result.
Justin has also teamed up with his friend Kevin Wu, aka KevJumba, to work on the first film he has ever written, directed, and starred in, Man-Up!. This independent comedy takes place in Hawaii and is about a guy (KevJumba) who gets his Mormon girlfriend pregnant and then decides to take advice from his stoner best friend (Justin Chon) about how to be a real man and father. It's sure to be a hilarious ride with this team! Justin says this film has been a challenge to work on as he juggles the role of both director and actor, but it's been really liberating to make an independent film according to his own rules.
2. On Twilight:
Justin is grateful for his experience acting in the hit movies in the Twilight Saga. He says that participating in those movies was a great exposure to the film industry. He learned a lot of lessons about fame and how it can affect people's lives. He says, "I'm glad I had that experience because now I know what I want and don't want. Fame and money, that's great, but I think that if you keep your intention on what really matters, which is the art and telling great moving stories that show the human condition, that's the most important thing. Doing the process of Twilight showed me the whole range of what's possible; what money does to people, and what fame does to people with the whole marketing machine. I kind of know what I want now, if I just keep following my intuition and do it for the right reasons."
3. On Kdramas:
Having grown up in a Korean American home in California, Justin was exposed to Kdramas from a young age. Some of his favorites are classics like All In, Sandglass, and Full House. His favorite actor is Lee Byung Hun because he sees Lee's great potential to cross over from the Korean film industry to the American film industry, as he has already demonstrated in his roles in Red 2 and G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
4. On Being an Asian American Actor:
Justin admitted that being an Asian American actor comes with its own set of special challenges. There are a limited number of roles open to Asian American actors in Hollywood, and many of those roles play into stereotypes, like the tech nerd or comedic relief. He says, "The only thing I can do personally is to do good work." Justin has made it his goal to push his way into as many roles not originally intended for Asians as possible, with Twilight being one of his success stories as the role was originally written for a Caucasian until he fought hard to get it. He hopes that in the future, more Asian Americans will have the opportunity to get roles that move beyond stereotypes. He would love to see more Asian American writers, directors, and producers bring their perspectives and voices to Hollywood.
Justin Chon was so fun to have in the office and we're excited to see how he expands and pushes the roles available for Asian American actors in the future. And let's not forget my favorite moment of the evening: a sneak goodbye back-hug from Justin, Kdrama style! Thanks Justin!