Your new movie Comfort
- in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell us about your
character in it?
Comfort is a
grounded feel-good foodie romance between two 20 something’s figuring
out this life thing. I play the character of Jasmine who is a stubborn,
smart, vivacious gal straight out of college, and the daughter of a hot
sauce business mogul.
What did you draw upon to bring your
character to life, and how much Julie Zhan can we find in Jasmine?
surprisingly more Julie Zhan in it than most people think haha. I usually
play quirkier, crazier characters, but Jasmine is very much a (more
normal, grounded) side of me that I don’t get to play as often. I love
acting because we get to explore different facets of ourselves within each
character, and what I learned from Jasmine is to be more confident and
certain. But she’s still got her cute, charming side.
what extent could you identify with Comfort's
overall theme actually?
I resonate so much with Comfort!
And I think most people relate to these very universal themes, set within
unique circumstances. The film touches on concepts of following your heart
and dreams, figuring out who you are, parent-child relationships, our (my)
obsession with food, and how lovely it is to be so open and human with
What got you involved with the
project in the first place?
Chris Dinh, Comfort’s very
talented leading man, called me up one day, told me to come help read a
script out loud, and then I jumped in his jeep and we went on a road trip
to find Will. I fell in love with the script, they said “thank you,
don’t call us, we’ll call you…” hahaha just kidding. They were
very nice but the project was still very much in the infant stages of
development, but I was lucky enough to get to officially audition a few
months later. And the rest was history J
Do talk about your director
William Lu, and what was your collaboration with him like?
is such a lovely director—very very collaborative, respectful and
welcoming of our input, and gave me so much freedom to play and throw in
some weird improv (Chris and I are a handful). I was a really lucky girl.
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
Will and the crew definitely spoiled us! Comfort
singlehandedly made me
realize what I love about acting the most: the collaborative environment
of a group of wonderful, talented people coming together with the common
goal of creating the best version of this film, and that’s what our
cast-crew-set-atmosphere felt like. It was family. My dad (Hot Sauce King
Dad) Kelvin Han Yee even cooked dinner for Will, Chris, and me during one
of our rehearsals, and food really truly is the way to my heart.
future projects you'd like to talk about?
scheming the next few projects for my YouTube channel, ShutUpAndDance and
am also collaborating with some fantastic YouTubers like Whitney Avalon (Princess Rap
Battles). My next feature film, The Reign, is currently up
for IndieWire’s Project of the Year (please vote on their site!). I have
a show at the Electric Lodge coming up April 27-29, and I’ll be doing
some college tours and film festival rounds throughout April, so catch me
around the US.
What got you
into acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on
My mom caught in re-enacting a scene from
“Hey Arnold” when I was a wee little thing, and I remember writing in
my 5th grade assignment that when I grew up, I’d be an actress, so I
always knew. Acting and dance are my favourite things in the world. It’s
my avenue through which I best connect to others, and I love telling
stories, promoting empathy and understanding, and challenging the limits
of my freedom of expression. I did plays throughout high school and
college, but Asian genes = business major and engineering minor. I’ve
since been full-time training and working as an actor in LA.
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to Comfort?
had been involved in a few other features and shorts and several TV shows,
but Comfort was my
first leading role in a feature.
being an actress, you're also a dancer and dance choreographer, right? So
do talk about that aspect of your career, and how does it compare to
Dance will always be my first love. I
actually came out to LA torn between pursuing acting and dance, and found
clarity in knowing that I wanted acting to be my career and dance to be my
fun passion. I make sure I allocate enough time every week/month to still
train in dance, go to jam sessions, and create/be a part of dance
projects. I also perform dance at college tours.
Any other talents of yours you'd like
The 3 things I’m best at in life: acting,
dance, and encouraging people J
How would you describe yourself as an actress,
and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?
The exciting and challenging thing about acting is there is no one
process. Every single character is different, and requires me to think
outside the box. I’ve accumulated a toolbox of general techniques
(Meisner, substitution, imagination work, physicalization, etc etc) that I
can apply to any of my roles as a starting point, but from there, I have
to see how similar/different I am from the character, do a lot of
research, and then just play. Fail, try, fail, try, play until I feel the
character in my body… wow… is this what actors sound like?
(and indeed actors) who inspire you?
Oh my gosh…Gene
Kelly!!!!! Viola Davis, Adam Driver, Taraji P. Henson, Julie Andrews,
Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling, Cate Blanchett, Eddie
Redmayne, and of course, Jackie Chan J
La La Land! Her, Amelie, Singing In The
King Express, Drunken Master, everything Jackie Chan, Howl’s Moving
Castle, everything Miyazaki!
... and of course, films you really deplore?
can feel directors blacklisting me now haha. I’ll just say really
cheesy, over-the-top comedy and anything with bad acting…
website, Facebook, whatever else?
Anything else you're
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
a hamster named Ponyo. I can write backwards. And Chris Dinh friendzoned
for the interview!