I thrive on TV/Film roles where things can turn from serious to funny or from pensive to awkward. For me, balancing an emotional tightrope of twists and turns is not just a matter of good acting or “being in the moment” – it’s almost second nature.
You see, I grew up in an Asian American household where juggling cultures helped me keep my sanity.
I needed to have perspective, dry wit, intelligence and a healthy sense of humor – the same qualities that have made me a dramatic actor with a comedic flair.
From my point of view, all life is a dramedy. It’s a rich blend of life and death, light and dark, serious and funny, and everything in between. Likewise, traditional Japanese and mainstream American cultures do not easily co-exist, but somehow they do through me. As I like to put it, I’m a banana – yellow on the outside, white on the inside.
That probably best describes my life growing up. On the outside, I look Japanese, and my parents raised me with traditional Asian values of obligation, responsibility, discipline, and seriousness. However, as a small town boy, my passions were reading comic books and playing in the marching band. My two worlds would collide in interesting ways. For example, my dad would cheer for me at my pee-wee football games then tell me how I needed to have better grades than my peers; and my mom would help us decorate eggs for Easter and then take us to a Buddhist Sunday service that afternoon. Our dining room table was also an odd blend because my mom insisted on making rice for every meal – even if it was KFC.
I’d like to think that I have perfected the balance of being mainstream and ethnic, but I’m human, and I’ve learned that perfection is overrated. My hope is by walking that tightrope of opposites, I reveal raw, powerful, compelling, and sometimes humorous truths in everything that I do.
That’s why as a SAG-AFTRA actor, I embrace every opportunity to bring my unique perspective to roles, whether I’m playing the senstive scientist on Focus Features’ “Dallas Buyers Club” or improvising a moment with Tina Fey in Paramount’s ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.’