At the Bar with Edward Hong
Meet the guy who makes the girls go ga-ga. Actor Edward Hong, known for his nerd chic look and witty musings on YouTube, was kind enough to converse with me over a couple of days. It was an honor to complete this interview with him today.
Tell us about you. Tell us all about you.
I am a man who wear my emotions on my sleeves. "Passionate" is one of the most defining characteristics that make up who I am as well as being one hell of a loudmouth. More often than not, it can surprise people at times since I tend to look like a very dorky geeky looking Asian dude and thus it comes with the baggage that particular look comes with. However that instantly disappears as soon as I talk, especially when you get me talking about race/gender matters, representation in the media, or Cinnabons.
I also have very little tolerance for bullshit and when I see that in people, I have no problem in either pointing it out, making a joke about it, or in worst case scenarios, make you look like a complete fool. That being said, I welcome people to do just that for me since I like to be clean with minimal crap in my system.
I have an undying love affair for all things Cinnabon. That sinful pastry will one day be the death of me, and when that day comes, I will be a very happy man. That same love also goes out to House music because no music can transform me into a dancing monster like House. Oh baby.
I've been all over the place...although I was born in Woodland Hills, California, I have moved to Binghampton, NY, then to Ann Arbor, MI (8 years), and then Seoul, South Korea (4 years), and THEN Williamsburg, VA for college (4 years) before I find myself here in Los Angeles pursuing an acting career. So where is home for me? I'm not quite sure but my fondest memories will always be in Ann Arbor, MI.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that in addition to being a witty poet, you’re an actor! How did you get into that and how old is your career thus far?
I got into acting when I saw auditions for "A Chorus Line" during freshmen year at my international high school in Seoul, South Korea. I thought it looked fun but I never knew how much fun it was nor did I know it became something I would crave constantly. I would continue this love throughout college at the College of William & Mary but I wasn't truly serious about it until I moved to Los Angeles in February 2010. I would honestly say that my career as a professional actor only kicked in April 2010 when I joined Beverly Hills Playhouse (where I still am now) and took all steps to making this career work. So I guess that makes it a little over two years?
How did you actually go about becoming a professional actor? Who are your influences and what’s your creative process when writing and directing?
How one goes about being a professional actor...hmm. That's a hard one since there are so many ways to go about it. For me, it started with finding a great acting class that I could better my craft as well as other aspects that go with it, including business/marketing tactics and the best attitude to have while on set. Once I found a marketing angle that was true to me, I was able to get headshots that best reflected that mentality and from there, getting a theatrical, commercial agent and a manager who needed a guy like me and also believed in me. From there, it's getting these auditions and one day, being prepared at the most opportune time to get some of the jobs that I have now.
My influences in terms of actors that I respect and admire:
Min-sik Choi (best known for his title performance in Oldboy) because he's a hardcore dedicated badass. Other actors/actresses I put in these category are Daniel Day-Lewis, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Don Cheadle, B.D. Wong, Tadanobu Asano, Eva Green, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
As for my creative process being an actor, I try to make it as simple as possible and understand what's happening in any given scene. What are the stakes, what is the moment before, basically analyzing the script/scene to its smallest details and know exactly what and who I'm talking about. From there, I rely on any personal connections I can have to the character or situation and bring my own unique take on it. If there are some instances that are beyond my experiences, I rely on imagination, the "what if", to take me there and still bring a personal connection to it. Obviously there is much more to this but I like to go with these simple sayings that the best actor is doing their job when they are a person in a place, and not an actor on a stage. An actor tries to cry, a real person tries not to. These simple things help keep me focused and on top of my game.
As for the same process being a writer and director, that you are going to have come back to me another time since I just had my first hands-on experience with that this month. I am still very new in that particular world.
Why acting? How has your family reacted to your decision?
The specific reason why I got into acting is due to me desperately trying to find a way to deal with the fact that I wear my emotions on my sleeves. When you have that much emotion inside of you, it's extremely unhealthy to bottle that up, especially as a kid. Acting (and later spoken poetry) would come to save my life and this would become the case when I had to deal with my own internal issues of doubt, anger, and self-hatred. It would later be personified in a poem called "I AM KOREAN AMERICAN".
I'm also a socially minded person at heart and I believe that acting is one crucial way to create a difference in the world. While I sometimes find myself being a hypocrite and auditioning/performing roles that betray my conscience, I would always make an effort to at least make a commentary about it and be completely aware of my own actions.
As for my family's stance on me being an actor, I would say it was extremely untypical of a stereotypical Asian family's reaction. They always wanted to make sure I pursued a path I was most passionate in and when I could show them that not only was I passionate in acting but I was actually making money from it (I thank this lil' Dunkin Donuts commercial and many other commercials), they came to support me 100% when it would be around 80% before. (My dad still has grand delusions that I will be a Supreme Court judge one day, however).
You obviously take your spoken word artistry seriously. What are your influences? How did you get into it?
My biggest influence is an extremely awesome poet named Beau Sia. He was the very first spoken poet I ever saw and he would be the man who got me to go F*** YEAH in having no fear expressing myself. From there, I would be inspired by the likes of Yellow Rage, Shihan, Mayda Del Valle, Sarah Kay, Ishle Park, and iLL-Literacy.
Earlier when I said acting saved my life, it would be spoken poetry specifically that did the job. Like how Lupe Fiasco would say in his song "Hip Hop Saved My Life", I give my thanks to spoken poetry for doing that same thing. It is also something that I need to get back to more and at the very least, I will dedicate to releasing a poem once a week for the hungry YouTube masses.
You already know what’s coming: the Blasian love video. Spill.
When I produced "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf" (the original choreopoem is so much better than that Tyler Perry shiet) back in college, I found myself noticing the fierce inner and outer beauty of African American women, especially those of the cast members, and loving it. Of course, I had to really make sure that this love for Black women was not for any gross objectifying reasons but for legit reasons beyond exotic fantasies. It had to be based on love, the kind with grounded reality, the kind that doesn't treat the woman in a light that is not true to her.
Okay that was a mouthful but that's basically where it got started. I have noticed that this kind of attraction is a rarity among East & South Asian men but it would seem that this is something that is noticeable within a lot of other men as well. Darkness seems to be a color that seems to be undesired by the mainstream and even in hip hop videos, if there are any black women to be seen, it's the caramel colored ones that get all the love. Now don't get me wrong, I certainly have a lot for the caramel colored black women (Alicia Keys!!) but darkness to me is something I see not as a lack of or anything negative and the Blasian poem would become the personified expression of just that.
You currently single, Eddy?
You really brought out the fandom on the Blasian Narrative. My little post on you (our 500th) shot straight to the top in 48 hours. Any message for your fans on the Narrative?
I'm actually quite stunned by this really. All I can say is that it's an amazing blessing that ya'll believe in me. It's sheer awesome beyond words.
Another video of yours which caught my attention was “A Love Letter to White People”. What can you tell us about that one?
This poem was a result of my constant interactions with white people who would often get bothered by what I would write and say about race matters. They would often think that I have an agenda against white people,which is hardly the case. I'll also put that I have a very fond attraction to red-haired white girls (but not as much as black women obviously) so for the folks who thought I hated all things white, I say that is truly not the case. I also realize that humor is the best way to put out honest messages because it is through humor that such messages can be easily swallowed or at least people will tolerate to listen to what you have to say.
Thus, a love letter seemed like the best way to go.
The reason I asked about that video was that you have quite the activist streak in you. Would you consider yourself an activist?
Activist is such a massive word and in itself is an undertaking that cannot be underestimated. Being an actor is taken only seriously when one actually hustles and put themselves out there. Same thing with any other profession. An activist, however, is someone who puts their lives out in the streets, who protests, who organizes/mobilizes, and doesn't sit around "liking" posts or statuses on Facebook or retweet things they find progressive on Twitter. True activists call folks like these "slacktivists."
I don't think I have the honor of calling myself an activist because I am guilty of being a "slacktivist" too many times. But if creating humorous YouTube videos allows me to educate/enlighten people, if I put out articles and any form of expression that has me being honest about what I think of the world and people around me, then I believe I have activist tendencies in my entertainment world. But I designate the true activists to those who are risking their lives out there and making some truly radical change in their commitment.
But for now, I think being an actor as well as starting out to be a writer/producer/director gives me the ability to tell stories that can affect change, if only for one person. If one person's world changes slightly because of what I put out, then that is a gift that is far more valuable than any monetary successes this career may or may not provide.
What projects are you currently working on? Any interesting collabs?
The last collaborative project I just finished worked on was co-producing/acting "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992" for the 20th anniversary of the LA riots at the Katselas Theatre Company. It was a dream of mine to bring it to Los Angeles on that historical time (it ran for two weeks from April 20th to 29th) and suffice to say, it was a dream that became a reality. We got a lot of love from LA Times and it was awe-inspiring to see how our show affected the audience members and the crew itself. Diversity in numbers does not mean anything by itself...it is how you impact people, to reach out to them, and speak to them (with them hopefully listening) that makes diversity truly count.
I just finished shooting my very first short film that I produced, wrote, and directed with the help of some truly amazing people. More details on that soon but suffice to say, it will be a great and amusing commentary on a rather annoying trend that we see far too often in mainstream Hollywood films and television shows.
Other than that and hustling in all things acting, I will continue to perform poetry at the HanSarangPoet YouTube page.
Edward, thank you SO much for stopping by.
No truly, 'tis a wonderful pleasure and honor...thank you for having me :D