Tell me a little about yourself.
I have always been a performer. From the tender age of five years I started taking guitar lessons, first at the Yamaha School of Music and then at the prestigious Royal Conservatory. These humble and, somewhat pedestrian, beginnings culminated in me receiving my ARCT in guitar performance and music theory. This pedagogical prowess was the catalyst which then catapulted me into the world of recording, touring and composing. Alongside my musical endeavours, I was a professional circus acrobat specializing in Aerial Straps, Double Trapeze and Corde Lisse. In this arena I had the opportunity to perform internationally in myriad shows, tours and corporate events working for a litany of troupes, companies and agencies, the most noteworthy being: Zero Gravity Circus and the infamous Cirque Du Soleil. In a fairly recent venture, I have started to piece together what can only be considered a clothing line. Persona Couture celebrates Old School Rock n’ Roll and Punk sensibility, while paying homage to New School Hip Hop attitudes and rebellions. “Necessity is the Mother of invention” and my designs are born out of that axiom. Though my clothing draws influences from the likes of Philipp Plein, John Varvatos, Pierre Balmain and Alexander McQueen, Persona Couture is unapologetically Peter Loung. Lastly, as to the true reason you have afforded me the privilege of this interview, I am an actor based out of Toronto, Canada.
Photo by Jennifer Cooke
Why do you want to be an actor?
In his infamous address, John F. Kennedy boldly told a nation “we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” My decision to be an actor is based on that assertion, though a tad masochistic and perhaps a bit vain, it is just that, because it is hard, because, to me, the possible rewards far outweigh the sacrifices needed for success and because I am a performer. I am fully cognizant of the risks involved in my career choice, the statistical rhetoric surrounding the industry and the circular hyperbole entrenched within a life-choice deemed “off-the-beaten-path,” but I don’t care. Performance is “in my blood” and it is the one thing in my life which I can say with absolute certainty that I know to be “true.”
How did you start and how was your first experience in the industry?
From a very infantile age I was playing concert venues and recital halls on the guitar and later on transitioned to dancing and flipping in music videos, however, with regards to “acting,” my first true experience was for the feature film “54,” then titled “Studio 54”. Though credited as a dancer, it was this film in which I had my first line. I remember being awestruck by the sheer magnitude of the production and the moving parts therein, thinking to myself, “what a fantastic industry this is”. My scene was shot in The Guvernment, an infamous nightclub and concert venue in Toronto, Canada. The two leads of the movie, Ryan Phillippe and Neve Campbell, were both playing that day and I would be lying to myself if I said that I was not nervous. In fact, I must have repeated my one line in my head at least a thousand times, just to make sure I remembered it when the cameras rolled. After I wrapped, I vividly recollect a feeling of euphoria and accomplishment washing over my psyche, emboldening my soul with purpose. For better or for worse the acting bug had bitten me and there was no turning back.
Which scene are you working on today? Any exciting new projects?
Scene study is an important and intrinsic aspect to acting and to my method on the whole, however my philosophy on the topic is far from the norm. With that said, I am constantly training and honing my craft through more esoteric means. The study of scene is far-reaching, with a litany of methodologies and approaches however, for me, scene study is not just confined to the hallowed halls of educational institutions or professional workshops, but is all around us. In my humble opinion, acting is the observation, narration and commentary on the human condition and, as such, there is no greater teacher then life-experience. With that said, there are a few fundamental skills which need to be givens: memory work, a basic understanding of focal lengths, stillness, hitting marks etc., are all of utmost importance and are intrinsic to the craft. However, delving further into the abstract nature of acting, we discover that there is a certain gravitas which surrounds outstanding performances and, more to the point, there is an abstruse separation between “good” actors and “great” ones which has very little to do with their understanding of technicality, and more to do with their sympathy towards the human condition. Moreover, I am constantly analyzing human interaction with regards to pathos, psychology, spirituality and presence. As per new projects, I am currently the lead on a television series entitled Rising Suns, which should be landing on a streaming service shortly, along with that I am also attached to a couple feature films heralding me in the leading role!
What do you feel is more important for an actor, talent or training?
My gymnastics coach used to tell me that talent is important in the inception, but once your talent runs out all that is left is hard-work and training. With regards to acting, I believe this axiom holds not only truth, but wisdom. Talent is a term entrenched in mystery and obfuscation and, as such, is very difficult to quantify, however there is an unconscious understanding of what constitutes to a “talented” individual. There have been certain people throughout history who have transcended their given art forms paving a new paradigm and philosophy. Furthermore, it is these select individuals who “set the bar” for those coming up behind them. Despite that, their talent is only one half of the equation. As postulated prior, acting is the understanding and discourse of the human condition and the only way to fully comprehend or formulate any intelligent commentary on the subject is to inundate yourself in the study thereof. So training, in my humble opinion, is of equal importance to talent and are two parts of one whole. So to answer the question, I do not feel that one is more important than the other, rather they are in a symbiotic dance, a dichotomy akin to the sun and the moon or to man and woman; one cannot exist, let alone strive, without the other.
What steps do you take to fully understand the importance of your character to the story?
Let me preface my answer to this question by first asserting that character and story, in my humble opinion, are synonymous. To extrapolate on that statement, the story is never the circumstances presented to the character, but is the characters’ responses to the circumstances. So with that said, I have a “checklist” of things that I do when developing a character based on philosophy, life-experience, spirituality, sexuality, education and physical attributes. Moreover, I try to create a three dimensional, honest person who is on the same journey of discovery as the audience. As per personifying the importance of the character, I shy away from contemplating about importance entirely. Within the construct of acting there is a pas de deux of give and take between actors, this duet can only be successfully accomplished if each actor sets aside their personal egos to react honestly and in real-time to the scenario presented. So to give credence to the question posed, I have my set “method” when creating characters, but do not deem them more important than anyone else’s.
What is one professional goal you have for yourself?
Being as volatile and precarious as the acting industry is, it is often a difficult task to set concrete goals for oneself. However, with that said, a long-standing aspiration of mine is to shed the shackles of monetary restraint. I would like to take on jobs not because of financial need, but because the character speaks to me on a personal, spiritual or psychological level. Moreover, there is always a voice in my head saying “think of the money” instead of think of the craft. I wish to silence that voice and quell the storm of bills and pending payments to truly and wholly focus on the beauty of the method. Though this is not an acting specific goal and is a ubiquitous desire, I would like to work, not for a pay cheque, but for the love of acting.
Where do you see your career in five years as an actor?
Prescience is both a gift and a curse, however projecting a foreseeable future is not only healthy, but is important to one’s psyche. With that said, I would like to see my career steered in the direction of the great “character actors”. Performers like Johnny Depp or Jauquin Pheonix have had opportunities to delve into parts of the human condition that few actors have dared to tread. It is these darker, flamboyant, troubled and, oftentimes, misunderstood psychological makeups that truly interest me. Characters with deep-seeded psychological damage or quirky traits speak to me the most and I would like to be given the chance to breathe life into these individuals. So, to give a succinct answer, within five years I would like to position myself as a key player in the “character actor” arena.
What is your greatest weakness and how do you work to overcome it?
Insecurity is both rampant and ubiquitous, sometimes manifesting itself in debilitating actions. However, there is a strength in unreservedly confronting your inadequacies headlong. Looking into the mirror of truth is oftentimes a frightening and formidable task, but navigating the miasmic labyrinth of self-doubt is of utmost importance when overcoming weakness. I have always been insecure about my looks and unfortunately, in this industry your visage accounts for quite a bit of the ratio between auditioning and booking. To add insult to injury, I have been told ad nauseam that I am not tall enough, not handsome enough, not talented enough, not ripped enough, not Asian enough, not sexy enough, not enough, not enough, not enough… In spite of that onslaught, I do not take these comments and rejections with any malice, nor do I take them as personal attacks, rather I look at them as opportunities to prove those naysayers wrong. Moreover, I overcome my weaknesses and insecurities by never giving up or giving into the barrage of negativity that this industry so easily dishes out.
How does it feel to be so successful? What is your mantra of success?
“Success is the child of audacity” and as such is born from bravery. There is a mystique surrounding actors which conjures images of red carpets, luxurious cars and sprawling cliff side mansions, fame and fortune and a life of ease and profusion. This is the picture that the mainstream media paints when promoting the lifestyle of a successful actor, however I do not conform to that logic. The term success is both subjective and malleable, taking on many forms and realities. In my world, success is not measured by one’s bank account or size of home, nor is it calculated by what the mass populous deems as prosperity, rather it is in the journey to achieving those luxuries. Success to me is never giving up on your dreams and doing something every single day to bolster and further the attainment of those dreams. So, delving into a bit of abstraction, my feeling towards my personal “success” is one of habitual, visceral duties which then manifest themselves into the mainstream’s view of what it means to be successful. As per my mantra, it is just that, inveterate actions which buttress and expedite my dreams.
A character you would want to play.
As aforementioned, I am a student of the human condition and if the greatest teacher of the condition is life-experience, then the greatest implementer and manipulator of those experiences is William Shakespeare. I once had the opportunity to play Hamlet and looking back on the run I was far too young, naïve and underequipped to fully comprehend, or comment on, the psychological subtleties which Shakespeare wrote into the dialogue and soliloquies. If given the chance, I would like to live in Hamlet’s skin once more to honestly and assiduously explore the subtext and nuances written in the words with an older and, perhaps, wiser eye. This time around I would be more diligent in extrapolating Hamlets plight in regards to Freudian psychology, the Oedipus complex, vanity, pantomime, sexuality and love, all the while being aware that in those subtleties lie intention.
If you could give other artists advice about money or getting started in their career, what would it be?
I am not a vetted financial advisor, so please do not take these next statements as gospel. With that being said, I was once given a pearl of wisdom by an older colleague of mine when I was coming up the ranks. He told me, “you have to keep yourself financially viable until the stars align”. This is a mantra that, even to this day, I adhere to. In other words, do not bank on entertainment as your “bread-winner”. The cold, calloused and hard truth is that this industry is in constant flux and is highly volatile. So to keep yourself afloat during the “lean years” always keep a few means of financial backup at the ready. As per advice in starting out, there has never been a better, or easier, time in history to create films. So go out and shoot something, create vignettes, record monologues, soliloquies, dialogues etc., just go out and do it!
What message would you want to give your fans?
I would like to give a heartfelt thank-you to each and every one who has been along this journey of absurdity with me and I, as always, are your humble servant.
Thank you for your love and support!