Actor Chris Pang spoke with us at BELLO about his career, his current projects, and what it is like working in the industry as an Asian man. After all, we have seen the rise in Hate Against Asians which must come to a stop. It has been a long road for people of color, different ethnicities, and more as they continue to fight for their true place in our society. Why people can’t accept everyone for who they are is beyond us but every day is a chance to help change this direction!
What made you start acting?
Through drawing and art, I discovered at a young age that I’m a creative and need some kind of an outlet. During school I carried a sketchbook with me to every class and spent most of my time drawing – none of the traditional university (that’s what we call college in Australia) courses and career paths appealed to much to me and I ended up doing a design course. I realized that I was focusing all my design projects toward filmmaking and though it seemed an impossibly far dream from my hometown in Melbourne in the corner of the world, once I realized you could get paid to play pretend all day, I had to do it.
What has been your favorite project as an actor, so far? Explain.
No surprises here: it’s still Crazy Rich Asians. It’s full filling on so many levels. I got to hang out with a bunch of similarly aged and minded people who I instantly formed a close bond with (read:fun). The movie was a huge success. But most importantly it represented the change I have wanted to see in media since I was a boy in Australia wondering where I fit in this world and why all my heroes from film and tv never looked like me.
Looking back, in what ways has acting helped you? What kind of lessons have you learned both in the industry and in life?
It’s given me purpose and helped me find myself. I harboured a lot of frustration as a youth. I both loved and hated that I was Asian- I was both proud and ashamed. I guess that duality came from being a part of two cultures. I absorbed HK film and saw my heroes lift me up but at the same time I lived in Australia; and that society and what I saw in western media beat me down. Being part of the industry has given me the opportunity to affect change and it’s what drives me to do what I do.
Are you currently working on any projects?
I’m literally in my trailer right now at Universal Studios in LA filming Forget Normal for Amazon Studios. Oh man, that sounded like a flex didn’t it. The series centers around three autistic people in one house who learn to deal with friendship, work, and love. It’s another example of diverse and authentic casting – we’ve cast actors who are on the spectrum to bring a lived experience to the characters. It should drop in the fall and I’m very proud of this one. I’m also writing and producing my own projects at the same time.
Share with us your thoughts on the hate going on in the world. Why do you think people are still so ignorant to the change that needs to be made?
The sad thing about the state of the world is that the hate and racism we’re witnessing isn’t recently developed- it has always been there in the darkness and is just having a light shone on it with recent movements. I think that rhetoric language by people in power have certainly given an outlet for people already on edge to act out against Asians in the midst of this pandemic. I think that people who have a bigoted mindset are being fuelled and emboldened by world events. But what I also see is communities coming together and fighting in unity against racism and hatred and this is beautiful.
As an Asian man yourself, what kind of message would you like to give to those out there who can’t seem to understand that acceptance is VITAL?
A lot of the reason injustice against Asians is dismissed comes back to the model minority myth. We’re seen as well doing and harmless, which in turn means we’re well off and trouble free. We’re not. But the people who don’t understand that will be unlikely to go out of their way to learn otherwise, so the message I would like to give to them is: at the end of the day we’re all just humans and each and every one of us deserves to be treated like one. No one wants to live in fear and insecurity- we want to be equal and love one another. Just help us be human.
In what ways are you involved with “Stop Asian Hate”? How can we get more involved in helping promote the change?
I’m trying to spread awareness through my platform. I’ve had conversations with people to try to educate. I’ve donated to causes. I’ve offered to help the community. I believe the key to change is education. Promote change by educating your brothers and sisters and your neighbors and friends. Call people out. Let them know we won’t be silent anymore.
When I say beauty, what comes to mind?
Read Question 4 again.
Growing up, was there a time where you (or someone close to you) experienced hate/discrimination? Share with us the story.
All the time. It’s the micro-aggressions that really wear you down. I haven’t had an overtly racist comment in my face for a while and I’m glad because I don’t deal with that very well. But the micro-aggressions. Don’t think we don’t notice. We see, feel and hear every single one. This story is kind of lighter; it’s fun. I used to get bullied every day at school because I was the only Asian kid there. Wow. That doesn’t sound fun at all haha okay anyway I used to get into fights all the time. I was 5. My dad heard about this and tells me to utter some magic words to them next time it happens, so I do. Next lunch time I’m surrounded and scared but I remember by dad’s words of wisdom. I puff my chest and say “You guys must be tired of living. I eat guys like you for breakfast.” It’s a quote from some movie. They laughed at me and dispersed. I’m still angry at my dad for this. He’s the original troll.
What do you believe your purpose is?
Work towards a world that 12 year old me wanted to live in where he was proud to be Asian.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully in another trailer somewhere filming something else and doing an interview about remembering the #stopasianhate campaign and how much better the world is now.
Talent CHRIS PANG @pangeerz
Photographer IAN PHILLIPS @ianphillipsartist
Stylist KIMBERLY GOODNIGHT @mediaplaypr
Groomer DYLAN MICHAEL @dylansworld
Interview ALEXANDRA BONNET @alexbonnetwrites