Tuesday, February 7, 2012

the reason i want to act (part 1)

this will be a new series in which i examine why i want to become an actor.  as i'm currently in LA, figuring out whether i will be moving here within the next few months or so, i figured it was a good time to reflect.  the reasons are many and i will try to expound on the most important reasons to me one by one, as a reminder to myself on why i'm doing this and why i should press on when the odds look like they're against me.

it was weird because today, as i was renting a car again to get around town (you really can't get around without one), the dude who was getting my information was like, "so what do you do for a living?" and for the first time without hesitation, i was like, "i'm an actor."  i talked to an up and coming known asian actor as i was here who commented on saying that statement without having anything to back it up feels kind of asinine, but i think shying away from it means that i don't believe in myself.  of course, the feeling of looking silly when saying that comes from viewing so many hoards of people with misguided bravado in this kind of town who overestimate what they're capable of, and don't have a good sense of self awareness.  i think i pride myself in knowing and constantly updating my assessment on my capabilities.

yesterday, i watched jeremy lin play against the utah jazz, scoring 28 points and dishing out 8 assists, with the knicks B team in play.  a great night no doubt, following up his previous night with 25/7/5.  my opinion of him is on the fence, i don't know how far he will actually go, but i do believe that this is the first time that i might have changed on my prior position on the guy.

before his "breakout" games (i put that in quotes because the jury is still out on whether he can consistently provide this kind of output), i was pretty annoyed at all the love jeremy lin was receiving by the asian american community.  it is a superb achievement making the NBA, and not a thing to belittle by any stretch of the imagination.  but the constant lin updates on social media were a bit nauseating, to say the least.  my main point of contention was that people were treating this as if he had "made" it, overemphasizing any little success that he enjoyed.  it was as if they were saying (this is my view, it may not be true for all) although you're warming the bench playing garbage time, this is the extent of what asians can do, you made it.

as i watched highlights of jeremy lin in the past few days, i could not help but think how infectious it was cheering for him despite my cynicism.  he is pushing the frontier of what society thinks of asian americans, and i praise him for his hard work and not giving up mentality, getting it done against stronger and faster guards by just making solid plays and not making stupid mistakes.  i'm no NBA scout, but maybe the reason why we don't see hyperfreak athletic asians in the NBA that can do all those crazy dwyane wade-esque moves is because those asians that have the potential to be those kinds of players never believed in themselves because of the limits society placed on them, and instead honed in on "safe" opportunities, opportunities that society told them they COULD excel in.

in my talk with the other actor, he iterated the same thing about asians in entertainment as well.  he expressed his belief that the reason that there aren't any great asian american actors right now is that maybe the best actor is out being a doctor or something, because he never had the confidence to pursue his dreams.  this is not saying anything against other professions or anything, and each person has their own path, but as an asian american, you can't help but feel that sometimes your choices are limited in terms of what you can achieve, because you don't see anyone like yourself doing the things that you want to do.

it was only in high school when i started to pursue my passion for performing, rawking on geetars and making scenes in public on a regular basis.  usually a quiet kid growing up, i forced myself to change in pursuit of a girl and become many times more expressive.  after that change, i discovered that i had a talent for becoming a character, becoming at times things that i was not, and at other times, having the ability to show people who i was at my core, the rawness underneath.  that i believe is my talent, being as real as possible, cutting away the bullshit.  that is not to say that i am constantly in truthful mode, because of social norms, i'd probably be viewed as insane if i did that (though i'm already viewed as such from some more uptight people).  but it created within me an ability to be a chameleon in a variety of circumstances, being able to take on very many personas depending on who the audience was.

but it took an ass kick out of the corporate world 4 years ago to make me think, "huh, maybe i will try this out."  and maybe it was because i did see some of my contemporaries making strides in the entertainment world that inspired me.  i know that early on in my process, i was inspired by the artist, priscilla ahn, someone who left for LA at the age of 18 instead of being safe, someone with a lot more courage than me.  maybe it was the william hungs of the world and that caricaturized asian on the "2 broke girls" show that convinced me that there needs to be someone who can change how society views asian americans.

before i wanted to become an actor, i DID envision myself as wanting to be one of those people that changed this view of "our kind."  when i grew up, asians were never really in the media as "normal Americans".  we were never represented in the stories of our time, and consequently our culture.  it was part of the reason that i feel like as an asian, we were on the outside and we don't fit into American culture.  it almost felt like since we didn't see ourselves in tv, movies, or anything in mainstream culture, what we felt and what we thought did not matter.  it almost gives reason to the statement that wesley yang makes when he says:

"Here is what I sometimes suspect my face signifies to other Americans: an invisible person, barely distinguishable from a mass of faces that resemble it. A conspicuous person standing apart from the crowd and yet devoid of any individuality. An icon of so much that the culture pretends to honor but that it in fact patronizes and exploits. Not just people “who are good at math” and play the violin, but a mass of stifled, repressed, abused, conformist quasi-robots who simply do not matter, socially or culturally."

when i see other asians in america, he's right, i don't see a human being with human thoughts and human emotions.  i have somewhat bought into this societies view of us, even though i see myself as totally counter to that stereotype.  i want to change this.

i hope to be someday as big an inspiration as jeremy one day.  as he inspires future NBA asian american stars, i hope to be one of many to inspire asians in america to be able to express themselves.


sjkduke03 said...

Doug, this is great. I always wondered the context from which your dreams came...this field does need more representation from us and we need to work towards it together. I wish there was more support for you and all those aspiring to make it out there. I look forward to reading more about your dreams and journey.

eCho said...

thanks for sharing douglas.

after reading this entry, i have decided that i will let you keep my wesley yang issue of new york mag. you are welcome.

EllenHwang said...

omg...why are you leaving the east coast?!