Jun 14, 2012|
HK Magazine: Were you born into an artistic family?
Will Yun-lee: I guess you can say I was born into an artistic family in the sense that my father was one of the first Taekwondo Masters to come to the United States in the late 60s and opened schools all across the US. But our creativity was more in the physical aspect, especially as I became involved in Competitive Karate Forms Tournaments and always had to create new forms that would have the potential to win competitions.
HK: What was it like growing up in a Korean-American family?
WYL: I had a very interesting childhood. At an early age, my family was going through many hardships, so I had to live with a lot of different families that would take me in until my father had the means to take care of me again. I learned to be very self-sufficient and independent, but reuniting with my dad was probably one of the happiest times in my life. We lived in a motel in Hawaii and it was there I met my step mother, who would raise and nurture me. Even though we were very poor at the time, it was one of the best memories I ever had. My childhood dream was to become a Taekwondo Master like my father, but of course, things change and then change again, which leads me to this interview.
HK: What did you study in college?
WYL: I studied Political Science at UC Berkeley. I thought I was going to be a lawyer. The last couple of years of college I became involved with a community organization that helped kids who were in trouble with the law, in gangs and in prison. I fell in love with helping these kids, but then my father became ill and I had to detour my plans and run his martial arts schools.
HK: When did your interest in acting start?
WYL: I really became interested in acting right after college. I started studying at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and got the acting bug. A few years later, I moved to Los Angeles with about $500, a bag of clothes and a dream. The big impetus for this move was watching Jason Scott Lee in the Bruce Lee story. His acting and Bruce Lee's legacy inspired me to try acting.
HK: As an Asian actor working in Hollywood, how has your ethnicity affected your career?
WYL: Being an actor in Los Angeles is tough, but being an Asian American actor is even harder because the roles are so limited. You have thousands upon thousands of Asian actors fighting for the same few roles. It wasn't until I met Maria and Stanley Orzel that I was re-inspired to challenge myself and find material that wasn’t [about] just being the "bad guy," but [involved] more roles that were strong leading male characters like Marcus in "Far Away Eyes.”
HK: Speaking of which, how did you get involved in "Far Away Eyes?"
WYL: I met Maria and Stanley Orzel—the producer and director of the movie—a few years ago in Los Angeles. I think they saw a small short film I did, and from there we met and hit it off right away. When they gave me the “Far Away Eyes” script, I knew I had to do it because of how challenging it was as an actor, in terms of doing a performance that was primarily in one room the whole movie. Truly, it was my most satisfying experience as an actor.
HK: How long did it take to shoot the film?
WYL: I think the movie shoot was about three weeks. At the time, I never worked in Hong Kong, so I was blown away by the efficiency and enormous talent of the Hong Kong film crew. The crew really allowed me to just focus on the scenes. It was just a blast working with them.
HK: What's your impression of Hong Kong?
WYL: I have now been to Hong Kong three times, and I have to say it is truly, truly one of the favorite places I have ever had the fortune to experience. The people, culture and city spirit are unbelievable. I can't wait to go back!
HK Magazine hosted the Gala Premiere of “Far Away Eyes” on June 14 at AMC Pacific Place. The movie will open this fall in selected cinemas.