Daniel on why Asian actors shouldn’t be given roles ‘just because’
Times have changed since then, as showbiz – Hollywood in particular, has an ever-growing Asian representation, and not just as the stereotypical bad guy from the East who does nothing of particular significance in the show.
Daniel shared, “I think there are a number of stars that are aligning in our worldwide culture that are bringing Asian awareness to a peak level. I hope it’s not the highest level, I hope this is just the beginning, but there’s an awareness of Asian arts, culture and cinema globally that hasn’t been there before and so I think this is the start of something good.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that he’s an advocate for Asian representation just for the sake of it.
“Whether a project is a quality project with talented people (should always be the priority). This is not a charity, we’re not here to take untalented people and lift them up to places of prominence (just because of their skin colour),” he mused. “What we’re here to do and what’s changing is that we’re taking talented people who didn’t have an opportunity to do what they are able to do, and give them that chance.”
He continued, “That’s a very important distinction. The other part of that is, if you’re talented in any activity. Let’s say you’re a baseball player. You might have all the talent in the world but if no one lets you play in a game, you’re not going to get better. It’s the same with show business. There have been many Asian-American actors, writers, directors that I’ve come across in my career who have as much talent as anyone else I know regardless of race, but they haven’t been able to get better because they didn’t have a chance to get better.”
“For example, how many Asian males do you know that have had the chance to do even one project (where he’s the romantic lead), let alone two or three that has helped them build a career like Hugh Grant, whom I love? It’s nothing against Hugh Grant but when there are no opportunities, how do you get better? It’s about identifying those opportunities and giving the chances to people and now I think that’s starting.”
(Continued on next slide: Daniel reveals that he’s on the hunt for talent, including those from Singapore)
Daniel reveals that he’s on the hunt for talent, including those from Singapore
That being said, Daniel is also constantly on the hunt for more talent to bring into Hollywood, as he revealed, “I went to Seoul looking for Korean actors who can speak English for an American project. I told the actors in the audience (in Singapore) to get ready because people like me are looking in Singapore too. If you can speak English, then there may be a chance for you because we’re looking. I’m actively looking and I’m not the only one.”
But for those who think that acting will be a walk in the park, he shared that the reality is not as rosy as some may think it is. Even The Good Doctor, which is much celebrated as one of the highest-rated television programmes, has a story of blood, sweat and tears behind it.
“I didn’t take a typical path for a TV show for ‘Good Doctor’. Once a TV show gets rejected, it usually just disappears and fades away,” he explained. “It’s a question of when you decide to give up and for me, I didn’t feel like I could give up on that project so I bought the rights back with my own money and started again. That’s why it took four years to bring to the screen, but it’s a happy ending because all of that effort paid off.”
“(This is) just an example of how tenacious you have to be in this business. Someone once said to me, ‘There’s no room for you in show business. You have to make room.’ I think that’s the truth, because whether you decide to give up, show business will keep going, but if you really want to make a mark, you have to be the one to make that mark and you have to make yourself necessary,” he concluded.
As for aspiring actors who are now dreaming that think that they can make it in this ever-changing, Daniel also offered his advice from his years of experience. “Don’t do it!” he said with a chuckle, before adding, “I’m only half joking. This is a very difficult industry and if you feel like, ‘Oh I want to try this, but I’m also pretty good at this other thing’, just do the other thing. It’s probably easier and this is not something where you can go in and say ‘Well, this will be a hobby and I’ll just give it a try.’”
“If you’re lucky to succeed in this way, I bow my head to you but the amount of effort that it takes and long term effort is significant, so consider that, and if you do decide to pursue it, pursue it with everything you have. Like I said the other day, be good at what you choose to do. If you want to be an actor, be a good actor. Take classes, watch cinema, get your iPhone out and make a short film. Do all of these things. Be less concerned about how many Instagram followers you have and more interested in developing a technique for being an actor.”
The words of wisdom that we (subjectively, of course) have kept in mind are these.
“I think it’s the same keys to survival in any industry. You have to believe in yourself. you need to have a vision for what you want to do and you have to not let yourself be discouraged by all of the obstacles and people who might be your enemies and the things you feel like are unfair. You have to keep going, and no one but yourself can tell you when to give up.”