I couldn’t be luckier with my first interview since my summer break which is with international actor, Chen Tang.
Chen, a versatile actor, is fluent in both Mandarin and English which gives him greater exposure to US and Chinese TV & film markets – as you can see from his remarkable IMDb listing.
We’ve seen him in Fresh off the Boat, Grey’s Anatomy, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He’ll also be in the highly anticipated Disney live-action remake of Mulan (2020) and also as “Hong” in the Bruce Lee inspired, Warrior (2019).
I was delighted he agreed to a few Qs about his career and how his experiences have shaped him as an actor.
Vikki: What were your first steps into the acting?
Chen: I started out wanting to become a soldier after high school! But I was convinced by my mom to go into college instead since we were starting the Iraq War in 2006. So off I went to Miami, Florida for business (cus I didn’t know what I wanted to do), and I had to take a fine arts requirement and took acting. The teacher said I seemed pretty passionate about it, and I should audition for the school shows. I got in and fell in love. I knew I liked it since it didn’t feel like work. A couple of years later, I moved to NYC, and from there started working professionally. It was great fun.
Vikki: You were brought up in Japan with Chinese parents who immigrated to the States. How does this varied background enhance you as an actor?
Chen: I think it makes up the backbone of the way I work. I’ve been exposed to so much life from such a young age that it makes me believe in the malleability of the human mind and body. It’s kind of like if you happened to be dropped in a different circumstance (like, if you were dropped in the middle of Bolivia or something) and allowed yourself to be affected and changed… you would be a “different person”. Maybe still “you” but a different way of life. Does that make sense? I think because I’ve been moving around all over the world, and met so many different types of people from a young age, I’m more “open to being open”.
Vikki: Who were your inspirations on screen?
Chen: Bruce Lee for the action, Daniel Day Lewis for the acting, Spencer Tracy in the old school, and Rami Malek in the new school.
Vikki: From your wide range of work Fresh off the Boat, Grey’s Anatomy, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the upcoming Disney live-action version of Mulan (2020) – which piece of work are you most proud of and why?
Chen: I’m super proud of my work on our upcoming TV show, WARRIOR on Cinemax. It’s a great show about 19th century San Fransisco Chinatown gang wars in the vein of Peaky Blinders and Banshee, but with amazing kung fu! I join the second season of this wonderful show, and I’m a somewhat eccentric, march-to-the-beat-of-my-own-drum, happy go lucky, a child-like guy who also happens to be a ruthless, deadly hitman for the local tong gang LOL. It was just fun to be given so much free rein to create and do what I felt was right for my role, and have them give me the freedom to meet me halfway in the writing, stunts, everything.
Vikki: Speaking fluent Mandarin and English, has this greatly helped your reach as an actor?
Chen: Absolutely, I’m very connected culturally and linguistically to both sides of the Pacific. I think it opens up a ton of opportunities to connect with people in both cultures. I think there’s something to the idea that “when you learn another language you gain a new soul”. I’ve been able to understand and live and experience both the East and the West in that way.
Vikki: How does an actor have to adapt to the current way the audience consumes content i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime.
Chen: Honestly, for me, I think the work stays the same. Just do the work, the best we can. Live the life and truth of the character. I don’t think much changes for us actors. 😉
Vikki: Is stage work something you want to return to?
Chen: 1000% I’d love to be on Broadway or back to Off-Broadway someday.
Vikki: What advice would you give someone wanting to enter the industry?
Chen: Love it. Just love what you do… whatever that is, be it acting, writing, editing, costume design, whatever. Loving doesn’t always mean every day is easy or fun or interesting or rainbows and pink balloons… but I think it does mean that each day is with purpose, and it nourishes the soul. Life’s too short to not do what brings the soul joy.
Vikki: What else do you have coming up we can see you in?
Chen: As mentioned above, catch me in the upcoming season two of Cinemax’s WARRIOR!!! It’s epic (and epically under-the-radar). We just finished shooting it a few months ago in Cape Town, South Africa, and I gotta tell ya, it was one of the great experiences of my life. Unashamed plug: We got named one of Rolling Stone’s best shows of 2019! I mean… I’d have to agree 😉
IMDb: Chen Tang