1/ He was in a movie with an Oscar-nominated actress.
Before Truth or Dare, where Hayden Szeto plays one of Lucy Hale’s college chums deceived into playing the titular party game with a mystical nasty twist, he earned rave reviews in the 2016 coming-of-age comedy The Edge of Seventeen as the socially-anxious boyfriend of Hailee Steinfeld’s emo teen. The part of Korean-American high schooler Erwin Kim who gets the girl was a game-changer, says Szeto, 32, on the phone from LA. “Erwin [was depicted as a real person and he didn’t play into the stereotypical Hollywood trope]… He was a very fleshed-out character and he could’ve been of any ethnicity. [Playing him] opened up a lot of doors for me because it provided the platform to showcase my ability to carry a prominent character in a movie.”
2/ He has a funny story about auditioning for Truth or Dare.
“Auditioning for horror films has always been very awkward,” say the Chinese-Canadian from Vancouver. “Because you have to act with a paranormal force that’s obviously not there. But you have to let yourself get to that place and really imbue the audition room with what you believe. You’re not acting with another actor; you’re acting with your own imagination.” It’s an awkwardness that goes with the territory. “That’s being an actor! You’re playing pretend for a living, so you have to do it enough to not feel like it’s silly,” says Szeto, who isn’t a horror-phile. “I enjoy horror like how I enjoy rollercoasters — I’ll go with a bunch of people and enjoy the ride. I’m not the type of guy who will sit at home, turn off the lights and watch The Ring by himself. I can never do that.”
3/ He has no plans to pursue showbiz in Asia like his idol Bruce Lee.
“I remember packing my bags for America when my mum came into my room and said, ‘Are you sure about this? Why don’t you go back to Hongkong? We’ll call up some people we know in showbiz’”, recalls Szeto, whose parents moved back to the former British colony when he was 15. “She was just worried that there were no parts written for [Asians]. I said to her, ‘The reason you don’t see many of us on-screen in America is because a lot of us think that way. The first reflex is to run the opposite direction, and if you have nobody to face the wave, we’ll never going to cross it. We’re going to be washed away. I look up to Daniel Wu and Bruce Lee. They’re absolute trailblazers for me. They earned me the right to face the wave head-on because they paved the way for me to be braver, to be better.”
4/ He’s very cautious of the kind of roles he chooses.
“Even when I got The Edge of Seventeen, I was like, ‘Holy crap, it’s an Asian-American love interest in a Hollywood movie, with an Oscar-nominated actress as its lead.’ I think not many people have seen that for a long time, if ever. And I knew I had to do my job as an actor. I am more cautious because not only am I looking out for the Asian-American community, I am one of them. I live it every day. So I look at it from my perspective, and how the community would feel about this. Because every time I see Asian-Americans on-screen, I’m extra hard on them. ‘Come on, you’re representing us! I need you to do a good job for all of us.’ I’m not here to have people look up to me, but I want more people to be inspired and fight the same fight, because I do think we have a shortage of troops to fight this path.”
5/ His next project is with the director of Thor: Ragnarok.
It’s called What We Do in the Shadows, a half-hour comedy series about three vampire roommates living in New York City, and it’s based on the 2014 movie of the same name directed by Taika Waititi and Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement. “We did the pilot a couple of months ago and now it’s picked up,” says Szeto. He’s unable to say what he does exactly on the show, but would only say that he had fun working with Waititi, who’s one of the showrunners. “I just feel like he’s that really fun cousin you want to party with. He’s just hilarious, and I felt like when I was working with him, the whole cast just became little kids. We were free to do whatever we wanted. We let go of all our inhibitions, and that allowed us as actors to do our best work.”