“I’m related to Bruce Lee! My grandma is from the same village in Canton and he used to call her aunty!” says Chris Pang in greeting.
Text by: Barbara Turner
What was your first acting job?
It took me a second to work myself up but I built up enough courage to walk into a casting office and asked for the business owner. I wanted to speak to them about lowering their monthly phone bill because I was an annoying telephone salesman at the time! Haha! But then they asked if I could do an Asian accent and I ended up doing one of the voices on English dub of the new Jackie Chan film at the time – New Police Story. They also bought some phones off me so that was a good day.
When did you first decide that you wanted to be an actor?
Being an artist in any capacity is just such a scary and seemingly impossible career choice that I don’t think I really decided to be an actor until after I was a major role in Tomorrow When The War Began, which was the highest grossing Australian film of 2010. That’s when a switch flipped in my head and I decided to embrace an artist life and accept that I would probably be poor for a while. I dug into my savings at the time to buy an Xbox to fill my time while waiting by the phone for auditions. I’m pretty good at Xbox now.
What do you most relate to about the personality of your character in Crazy Rich Asians?
It’s definitely having insane amounts of money to buy lambos and flying in private jets. Haha no to be real Colin Khoo is one of the few characters in the Crazy Rich Asians world that isn’t consumed by the politics and materialism of his wealth. He’s of that world but not necessarily part of it. Colin also has a hidden darkness about him that only his closest friends are privy to and he’s close enough to Nick (Henry Golding) to be real and level with him. Colin is not larger than life, he’s a real person and feel like I know him.
What was your biggest challenge in taking on this role?
Honestly the whole journey has been such an honor and a dream I think the hardest part was not breaking my confidentiality agreement because I just wanted to tell the whole world!
Tell us about the best moment you had during the filming of Crazy Rich Asians.
Working with such a talented group of people is obviously the highlight but the best moment was when I found myself on a pontoon in the middle of the ocean off the beach of Langkawi in Malasyia with Henry Golding drinking beer for our scene and realising: this is my job.
Is there an actor you aspire to work with in the future?
I’d love to keep working with legends like Michelle Yeoh, but right now Tom Hardy.
What would we be surprised to learn about you?
I’m related to Bruce Lee! My grandma is from the same village in Canton and he used to call her aunty!
When you have time away from working, what does a perfect day look like to you?
Going on a long beautiful cruise on my motorbike during the day and then coming home to have a beer and spend the rest of the night playing Xbox with some mates.
What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?
I wouldn’t take any credit for the message, change and importance of Crazy Rich Asians, but to be a part of the project has to be my biggest accomplishment. I feel like this film is going to be an integral part of changing the landscape of Hollywood and I’m so proud to be included!
Expain the excitement of being part of an all-Asian cast in a Hollywood movie.
I found myself craving representation and inclusion growing up as an ethnic minority outside of my home country and seeing a film in my image and represnting my culture in the cinema in 2000 effected me deeply – that was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Now 18 years later Crazy Rich Asians comes along not only featuring the full Asian cast in a modern day story but also representing them in a sexy, fun way. There is no way to explain how much that means to me and for representation, and for bringing this project to such a high international level I cannot thank Jon Chu, Kevin Kwan, Nina Jacobson and the rest of the filmmakers enough.
The world premiere for CRA was last week at the Chinese Theatre in LA and to see that venue filled with people to support was an emotional screening for me – this film really is something special.
What is the greatest challenge of an Asian actor in Hollywood?
Getting a job. Haha! I actually left Australia because there wasn’t enough work and the career wasn’t sustainable for me. But the conversation surrounding diversity is so prominent today that the landscape is slowly changing. Asians are everywhere in real life and this isn’t represented on screen. I feel as an actor and filmmaker I have the responsibility to affect change where I can.
Have you ever travelled to Malaysia from you nearby country of Australia?
I actually went home to Australia before filming CRA, which was all shot in Malaysia and Singapore, so yes I have! And honestly I would travel from anywhere to Malaysia – I had such a good time there in KL. For Marco Polo I was in Johor Baru in 2015 but I didn’t get too much time to do much else besides filming. My time in KL and Langwaki was much more fun!
What advice would you give young Asian actors who are seeking careers in Hollywood?
Believe in yourself and don’t let anyone tell you not to do it or that you can’t – never give up. Also don’t do it…! Lol
Want to know more about Chris Pang? Read Asian heart-throb Chris Pang to star in Charlie’s Angels reboot
Photographer: Jalen Turner
Stylist: Ty Headlee
Grooming: [email protected]
USA Correspondent Photographer Marie Claire Malaysia : Mitchell Nguyen McCormack