Basking In The “Twilight” – Interview w/ Justin Chon

Actor Justin Chon is taking in his increased fame after appearing in the much-beloved ‘Twilight Saga’ movies.

By Nalea J. Ko, Reporter

As an up-and-coming actor Justin Chon has learned to find the humor in fan criticism. The 28-year-old actor broke into Hollywood after studying business at the University of Southern California. He has since appeared in films and on TV, with a two-year run on the Nickelodeon TV show “Justin Jordan.”

Chon, who is Korean American, is seeing his star rise by playing the overachiever Eric Yorkie in “The Twilight Saga.” In “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” Chon’s character walks the halls of Forks High School with vampires and werewolves.

With the success of “Twilight” came internet speculation about Chon’s character.

“People I guess think Eric is gay, which he’s not. But it’s really funny. They think I’m gay, which makes me crack up,” said Chon over the phone about the “Twilight” fan fiction pieces on the internet.

Fan fiction allows “Twihards” — as hardcore “Twilight” fans are affectionately dubbed — to write dialogue as if they were a character in the teen vampire movie. Chon takes the comments in stride.

“So, it doesn’t bother me at all,” Chon explained, “I’ve played a gay guy and a transvestite before and I think it’s fun.” He has appeared in the comedy “Puff, Puff, Pass” as a transvestite named Bobbi.

Whatever the role, Chon is an advocate of honing his craft and researching the part. And he is not afraid to trounce the competition to land a role.

“That was fun, man! I got to play — you know I beat other transvestites out for that part [in ‘Puff, Puff, Pass’], dude,” Chon explained. “Oh hell yeah! I had to learn how to totally walk in those six-inch heels.”

He has showed his versatility in other feature films like “Crossing Over,” where Chon played Yong Kim, an immigrant.

It might not be surprising that Chon chose to pursue a career in Tinseltown since acting is in his blood. Chon’s father, Sang Chon, was an actor in South Korea. The elder Chon gave up acting because his bride’s parents did not approve of his career.

He was both supportive and hesitant about his son’s acting aspirations. Chon’s father was mostly concerned about his son’s ability to make a living from acting — these were challenges Chon was mindful of.

“You just can’t deny the fact that we really do live in white America,” Chon said about the limited Asian Pacific American representation in the media. While driving down a Los Angeles street lined with billboards for television shows, Chon was struck with the lack of diversity on TV.

“I was like, ‘wow are you f—king serious, man?’ Dude, do you not realize that there’s so much ethnic [diversity] now in this country? It’s just sad, man,” Chon said. “Especially for Asians I don’t feel like we have a huge Asian star yet. So, it’s like we get overlooked all the time and we’re the nice, quiet, little, good Asian boys and girls that do what we’re told. So, it is very difficult to change that stigma.”

There were only a handful of APA actors for Chon to look up to while growing up. Bruce Lee, Steve Park, Jackie Chan and Jet Li were among the few.

But Chon has paved a path of his own despite the sometimes limited and stereotypical roles available for APAs.

Often mistaken for being younger, Chon has also been able to capitalize on his baby face by taking younger roles like the one in “Twilight.”

“Oh man, when I was 10 people thought I was 5. And when I was 5 people thought I was fetus,” Chon said jokingly when asked if he always looked younger than his age.

What exactly is the secret to eternal youth?

“It’s the Asian genes. Honestly that’s all it is. My parents look super, super young, so it’s just good genes.”

The increasing attention from fans and the paparazzi also does not seem to faze the actor. But just in case stardom does go to his head, Chon’s friends keep him humble. They don’t miss an opportunity to tease Chon about his past acting roles, especially in the company of women.

“Oh my gosh. You know what happened, I have this friend and one day out of the blue he calls me — and he’s like the most dudely of dudes — and he called me and he’s like, ‘hey, so um I saw this movie over the weekend called “Puff, Puff Pass.”’ And I’m like, ‘yeah, so?’ He’s like, ‘yeah, man. One of the men, or girls, looked really familiar. You know anything about that?’”

With increased attention from “Twihards,” Chon is required to make more red carpet appearances. And as the co-owner of a shoe and clothing store called Attic in Buena Park, Calif., Chon should theoretically not be short of wardrobe options. But that is not always the case, he said.

“It’s not, like, suitable for a lot of the things I go to [laughs],” Chon said about the street-wear clothing in his shop. “So, in my normal life, yeah I wear a lot of it. But, like to events they would think, ‘who invited this hoodlum?’”

Chon just wrapped filming the third installment of “Twilight.” One might think that a young actor in the one of the year’s biggest movies who is continuously called “cute” by bloggers would have no shortage of dating prospects, but Chon said he is still looking for a sidekick.

“No, I’m just looking for a really cool girl and it’s harder than you think. I’d love to just get with a girl who’s just really down-to-earth. I don’t really date actresses,” said Chon. “Where is another opportunity to meet girls?”

The actor is appreciative of the “Twilight” success, but he said no matter what twists and turns his career takes, he is happy to be living his dream.

“You know, like, people a lot of the times do it [pursue acting] for the wrong reasons they want to be famous or whatever. I could go into obscurity and no one would know who I am. I don’t care, man,” Chon explained.

“I was doing fine before all this ‘Twilight’ stuff and having a great time. I just loved acting. So I think that’s the main thing. For Korean Americans and young aspiring actors, you better enjoy what you’re doing because you might get there and be famous and you’re going to be really unhappy.”

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