Newly married, Justin Chon opens up about his role in Revenge of the Green Dragons and Seoul Searching, as well as his experience as an actor of ethnicity. Justin also speaks frankly with Composure about the entertainment industry and how independent filmmaking and the Internet are shaping the way audiences consume content.
CM: So good to have you here. How long have you been married?
JC: I very recently got married, in October [of last year]. This is the first time I’m photographed with my wife. She used to be a model, so she’s way more professional than I am. We met in Hong Kong through a friend and it has just been a whirlwind. I’m a lucky man.
CM: Hong Kong’s the city of romance.
JC: Or the city of beef noodle soup.
CM: Now you’re speaking my language. So, I want to jump right in. You have an entertainment history in your family. Your mom was a pianist.
JC: Yeah, and my dad was a child actor. He acted from the ages of 10-26 and he went into the marines, and after that he met my mom and my mom’s parents didn’t approve of it [acting]. So he quit and moved to the US.
CM: You are the generation that actually followed through.
JC: Hopefully, but in the US it’s pretty difficult being an ethnic actor. But that’s okay. It’s a very standard thing. The opportunities aren’t as plentiful as it would be. But on the flip side, these days everyone wants some diversity in projects and China is opening up. It goes both ways these days, but the standard thing is that roles are limited. There are stock characters that I always go out for that are pretty drab. There’s the tech assistant or the funny best friend and if there’s a reason for it I think it’s really great but if it’s just to make him a character than it’s really boring.
CM: How are you going to break that mold and transcend typical roles? It seems like you have been doing that. Revenge of the Green Dragons for example – you play a really gritty character.
JC: Yeah, and again, I was an Asian gangster and that can also be a stereotype. I’m doing a lot of experimental independent films these days and I need to do some commercial stuff too so I can also make a living. But the things that really excite me are the really cool and edgy independent films. These days, with digital, it’s wide open.
CM: You make your own content on YouTube.
JC: YouTube’s not a business for me as it is for some other people – it’s for me to put stuff out there. I like doing short films on YouTube and also some comedic stuff. I also directed a movie called Man Up that is going to be released digitally – it was just bought by Lake shore Entertainment. It will be released this summer.
CM: There’s this change in media with the Internet becoming a new platform where people can release short films, documentaries, and feature films. Things are getting made for less money and you have much more access to great audiences. Is that going to change how the entire industry works?
JC: Studios are very tent-pole concentrated. It’s how they make their money. A lot of times these days with huge tent-pole movies like Spider-Man or Fast and Furious, it doesn't make sense for them to make these kind of quirky independent stories because there’s not as big of a market for them. This is great because with digital medium, these independent filmmakers are given the opportunity to put stuff out there and you can build an audience and it can catch fire. Even in the music industry, creators blew up because they put music videos and music online.
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