Born to a mother from the Philippines and a father from Shanghai, Anthony grew up bi-lingual in the multi-cultural city of Hong Kong before arriving in the USA as a college freshman at USC. After earning his Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, he worked in the Information Technology industry for 15 years before redefining and recreated his life as a professional speaker, actor, and ballroom dance instructor. You can catch him in the new G.I. Joe II: Retaliation and Battlefield films this Summer. Read below for the full interview…
For you, what was the biggest culture shock coming from Hong Kong to the United States?
Anthony: How ordinary many Americans are like many of us with their own set of life problems, challenges, and triumphs. Many of them are nothing like what we see in the Hollywood movies. And because Hong Kong was, for 100 years, simply a colony, I got to experience first hand what it means to feel exceedingly proud for one’s country!
Tell us a bit about the new G.I. Joe II: Retaliation film coming out and how you got involved with the film.
Anthony: G.I. Joe is a childhood hero of many kids born and raised in the American culture. Because I was raised in the Asian culture, I had a friend whose two boys, one 5-years-old and the other 3, sat me down a few days before filming in front of Saturday morning TV cartoon to check out what G.I. Joe is all about! In Retaliation, we have Cobra raising hell, and the likes of Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson saving the day! I got involved because the folks in the casting agency that got me into Battleship, needed someone like me to be in a featured role. In the acting business, a lot has to do with luck, but that doesn’t happen unless you know the right people. It’s all about who you know!
You are definitely the most versatile guest of honor we have had the pleasure of hosting in the Creative Spotlight. Having so many different passions, how are you able to juggle so many career fields? Did you struggle at any point with time management?
Anthony: I appreciate the compliment! Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always kept myself busy with multiple tasks. So having so many passions isn’t quite as challenging from a time management perspective. It’s actually fun for me to be managing one, then the other, then the next! What is more challenging is to fend of the commonly-held view, especially in the Chinese culture, that the arts is not considered a serious career. I frequently found myself having to defend my pursuits or validating them with the results I’ve achieved. But if you have a look at my resume today on my imdb entry, I’ve done quite a lot in a span of 16 months ever since I decided to pursue professional speaking, acting, and dancing. It’s not a career that I’m looking for in life – it’s living out my passions!
How has the current economic climate changed what types of speakers / entertainers are getting booked today?
Anthony: Audience want speakers who can talk “with them”, and not “at them”. They want less of the super intelligent experts and are more open to those who they can relate to, and seem more down to earth, more like a human being who can also be prone to mistakes that we all make. But especially with the current economic climate, there are many in the audience who are in need of a bit of soul searching and guidance to improve their lives and give it a sense of purpose.
What is the biggest challenge you face when trying to educate and help foreign nationals assimilate to the American culture?
Anthony: To not to lose their own identity for their own culture because that is what makes each and every one of us unique. In their attempts to sound like, act like, and think life Americans, many lose touch with their roots and origins, which can possibly lead to a sense of loss and purpose in the future, creating frustration and unhappiness with the world they live in. My advice to foreign nationals – don’t lose your accent, don’t lose your identity; as long as you are understood, absorbing what is great about the American culture and keeping what is good about your own culture, will make your life more enriched, fulfilling, and rewarding.
You have extensive work in television as well. Which do you prefer doing? Any particular pros and cons versus film work?
Anthony: I love film work a lot more. Because of the smaller budget and tighter deadlines, TV work tends to be done in a hurry with less attention to detail (set, lights, sound, and design) than we would have for film. It’s not all bad working on TV. It’s just that, given a choice between the two, I would pick film work.
You are also in the upcoming Battleship film. Did you have an opportunity to interact with Tadanobu Asano? What was the casting process like?
Anthony: Battleship was my first Hollywood film project after only two months in the acting business. Remember I said in this business, it’s has a lot to do with who you know? An actor friend referred me to a web site calling for movie extras to be Asian sailors. I checked and it specifically said “Japanese sailors”. At first I was disappointed because I wasn’t Japanese. But it only took another two seconds to convince myself that the American viewing public don’t know the difference between Asians! So I submitted my headshot and got the role! I showed up and it took the casting office a few minutes to realize that I could be used as a stand-in instead – a promotion up the pay scale and “production ladder”! And it wasn’t until I got on set that I found out I was the stand-in for Tadanobu Asano! Asano San was very pleasant to work with! He’s very professional and has the utmost respect of all who worked with him one set. After every scene was set up, I would share with him what he can expect in terms of camera movement and characters placements.
The biggest question that has been on my mind is that after spending 15 years in the IT industry, what prompted the motivation to start recreating your life, doing what you were meant to be doing? How does one find the courage to do something like this?
Anthony: While it started off with a lot of fun traveling and working in Sacramento, Hong Kong, Dallas, London, Sweden, South Africa, then back to Dallas, with the same conglomerate, I was getting increasingly frustrated for not being able to apply all talents and skills. For 3 years, I was constantly thinking about changing careers and doing something on my own like my dad who’s an independent business man. I decided that I was going to pursue my passions and not wait until I retire at 65, when I could possibly be too old to do anything! But a life change on a drastic scale is something that we are all afraid to do. So I kept stalling, not wanting to make the first move. Then the corporation got bought out by another in one of the industry’s mega acquisitions ever. The announcement came that 25,000 (that’s 25 thousand!) workers would be laid off. I was one of them. But it couldn’t have happen at a better time! I was ecstatic to be let go because this was now my time to shine, without limitations, and I was going to “sink or swim” doing it! And where did I find the “guts” or courage not to simply go back to the corporate world? I had a potent combination of faith, passion, and stubbornness!
As an instructor, what is the biggest key advice you could offer up to general leadership success that could apply to acting, entrepreneurship, business, etc.?
Anthony: In fact I conduct this as a one-hour workshop on this very subject! My advice are focused on four key points:
- You have to perceive the world differently from the general public. A different point of view means that you will see problem and solutions in a creative light;
- Your passion is something that you could not go a day without thinking about it. Don’t give up on it. Don’t push it to the back seat. Bring action to your passion to make it into reality;
- Perseverance means not allowing obstacles and set backs stop you from pursuing your goals and objectives;
- Know when it is the right time to take opportunity by its horns. If it wasn’t for these four key points, I would never have been on Battleship, and G.I. Joe Retaliation.
Could you tell us a few of your favorite Asian films?
Anthony: Before Jackie Chan was big in Asia and then Hollywood, we were enjoying his films in Hong Kong. “Drunken Master” remains my favorite, including the series on “Police Story”. “Infernal Affairs” with Andy Lau is one of the best ever! I also love “Shaolin Soccer” as Stephen Chow captures the Hong Kong humor and culture very well on film. On TV, I grew up on Japanese cartoons that were dubbed into Cantonese for the Hong Kong market: Professor IQ remains the craziest, and my most loved cartoons!
Lastly, any upcoming films, or Silk Road Communication events you could tell us about for the duration of 2012?
Anthony: I’ve had many tape auditions for film projects for my agent in the neighboring state of Louisiana. No upcoming films yet, though I have been involved in independent (indie) films – five to date. My speaking business through Silk Road Communications, has grown measurably since January this year. In the first month alone, I’ve booked nine speaking engagements, which is more than what I had in all of last year in 2011! I flew to Chicago last month and then to Denver this month to speak.
Want to keep tabs on Anthony’s speaking engagements, film projects, & more? Follow his cookie crumb trail below: