Posted | Comments Off
Social Encore: Hard work pays off for Chon
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Many girls who watch Twilight are either on “Team Jacob” or “Team Edward,” but actor Justin Chon — who played normal human Eric Yorkie in the famous movie series — was, needless to say, on “Team Bella”.
The 31-year old currently stars in the comedic theatrical blockbuster, “21 and Over.” Chon plays Jeff Chang, a medical school prospect who celebrates his 21st birthday the night before his big medical school interview with two of his high school friends.
Academically, Chon is not too far from his “21 and Over” character. The former University of Southern California student was on his way to a promising business career. Although after interning for a Silicon Valley company, Chon realized that being stuck in an office wasn’t his thing.
Chon’s father was a famous actor in South Korea, so acting has always been an interest of his. But when he decided to leave school to pursue it, he remembers telling himself it wasn’t a feasible and stable option since most Asian actors at the time were often given stereotypical roles. But he decided to give acting a try anyway.
Chon enrolled himself in a Santa Monica acting program and said he has come a long way.
“I remember in the beginning, I auditioned for almost everything,” he said. “From trying out for extra parts, to doing commercials and doing plays in L.A which are brutal … I’ve done it all.”
Even though he had to work a few side jobs in catering and telemarketing to help pay the bills at first, he said he has been fortunate these past 11 years. He loves acting because he is able to “get under the skin” of different characters as well as the viewing audience. From playing characters like a transvestite, to a South Korean teenager named Yong Kim in the movie “Crossing Over” with Harrison Ford, Chon attributes his success to proper acting skills and practice.
“Acting takes time and work. Just like a dancer putting hours and hours into movement in order to make it looks seamless, that’s what acting is,” said Chon. “You have to really try to be the best actor you can be and if you are really good at what you do, the money and success will come.”
With such a successful career, Chon said that he doesn’t credit luck but says that his obsessive-compulsive mindset when it comes to preparing for auditions is what pays off.
“I don’t think that anything happens by accident,” he said. “When I auditioned for ’21 and Over,’ I literally walked in the room, killed it and they were set on me and didn’t want to see anyone else.
“That is just testament of hard work.”
Chon said some people don’t take their craft seriously and acting is something that really depends on the effort you are willing to put in. He also credits the interpersonal relationships that he has built over the years with people who really had his best interests at heart.
“It’s really amazing, the people (who) have helped me,” Chon said. “For ‘Twilight,’ I auditioned seven times, and for ‘Crossing Over’ with Harrison Ford, they were unsure if I was a right fit but I had good people in my corner that were fighting for me.”
His fond memories in Hawaii started when he was in the third grade. Since he and his mother have birthdays in May, they would often spend their memorial holiday in Hawaii. Chon says that Hawaii is not just a great vacation spot but a place that helps him find peace.
“When I first went to Hawaii to shoot a movie, I realized how much Hawaii heals you,” said Chon.
He also noted that the Aloha spirit is alive and well on the island, as he shared a story about his chiropractor, Dr. Eliza Kim.
“After our first session, she called a week later and asked me how I was doing and if there were any problems,” he said. “That is rare in L.A. for someone to follow up like that.”
He added that he was referred to a massage therapist by a friend and was surprised at how much people in Hawaii really take the time to get to know you.
“My appointment was wasn’t just in and out,” Chon said. “We talked from like an hour and to make sure that I was ok. People just care and that’s what I love about Hawaii, that life comes first and foremost.”
Chon arrives in Honolulu in this week and hopes to indulge in our refreshing atmosphere and eat “ridiculously good food.”
“The beaches (in Hawaii) are amazing and world class,” he said. He hopes to catch some waves at Lanikai and Sunset Beach while in town this month.
“Hawaii waves are crazy, they can get big and powerful but I’m also excited for the food,” he said.
“Zippy’s chili, spam musubi, poke, and oden” are on his wish list for this trip, and said Gomatei and Pho Bistro are some of his favorite local spots.
Chon was recently in Hawaii to finish a movie called “Man Up,” a story about a guy who finds out his girlfriend is pregnant and turns to his best friend for help on raising a child. Chon said “Man Up” has been one his favorite films to work on so far because he bit off more than he could chew — but knows it helped broaden his horizons.
“To write, act and direct, that took a lot,” he said. “I was so emotional because I put so much of myself into that movie.”
Chon said acting has always been his bread and butter but being able to be behind the scenes allows him to use his creativity.
“I don’t get to re-write the parts as the actor,” he said. “I just do the scenes of whomever writes the scripts so you are limited.” said Chon.
Being behind the camera is “a lot harder,” according to Chon.
“You get to tell a story with reason. In terms of aesthetics and the message you want to get out it, it is your design and to me it’s been pretty empowering.”
This weekend, Chon will host a party sponsored by Volcano Electronic Cigarettes at Vice and Ginza nightclubs.
“I’m really excited hosting this party and I think that it will be a really good time,” he said.
Chon said that Volcano’s e-cigs are what helped him quit smoking and hopes to help others kick the bad habit. 800 Magma electronic cigarettes at the party, which starts at 10 p.m. Saturday, March 16.
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.