From California kid to Asian movie star
Tomb Raider 2's Terence Yin chats with Steven Joe.
Just a few years ago Terence Yin was a UC Berkeley student aspiring to become a medical consultant. Terence is now a Hong Kong movie star and a singer with 19 films, two TV dramas and a supporting role in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.
AsianConnections Steve Joe caught up with Terence, as well as Hong Kong's legendary actor Simon Yam, and star Angelina Jolie at the movie's world premiere. Click here for red carpet coverage in Hollywood by AsianConnections' Steve Joe, Marissa Becker and Mike Kai.
Steve talked with both Terence and Simon in exclusive interviews.
Click here to Steve's chat with Simon Yam
and read right here for his conversation with Terence.
The Paramount Pictures movie starring Angelina Jolie and Gerard Butler is the sequel to the hit Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Directed by Jan de Bont.
Steve: Terence, you come from an acting background. Can you tell us about it, and how it has influenced you?
Terence: Both my parents were actors. My mom was a famous actress in Hong Kong. My father was a famous director and actor. The fact that they were in the business never really influenced my childhood that much, basically I grew up in LA.
But, I guess in the end, it influenced me quite a bit. Because when I went back to Hong Kong to work over the summer, I met one of their friends, who is my manager now, Willie Chen. He is the one responsible for bringing me back to Hong Kong, to get me started in the film business there. And Ive been there ever since.
Steve: What was your summer job?
Terence: I was working at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. I was basically an intern, a secretary, a slave-boy. And I never thought that I was going to look for opportunities in acting or show business. It just kind of happened.
Steve: What was your original plan, what was your major at UC Berkeley?
Terence: I was a rhetoric major. My original plan was I was going to work as a medical consultant for a few years and see where that takes me. And maybe go to business school and kind of take it from there.
Steve: The straight arrow kind of path.
Terence: I was pretty straight arrow actually! (laughter)
Steve: How was going to school at UC Berkeley? Im from the Bay Area, too. Im actually from San Francisco.
Do you miss it at all?
Terence: I miss Berkeley. I had so much fun in college. It was just a good time. I was really busy, I was learning a lot. I was working throughout the four years. I actually didnt have much time, but I had so much fun. College is the best four years of your life.
Steve: Youre also a singer. How did you get involved in singing?
Terence: Actually when I first moved to Hong Kong, I moved to Taiwan first. I signed a record contract before I went. Over the course of that summer when I met Willie Chen, he introduced me to the head of this big Taiwanese record company. I did a demo that summer. They liked my voice. And they decided they were going to sign me up. But I was still going to school, so I wasnt going to leave school to become a singer, right?
So, I graduated, thought about it, and I decided I was going to go over.
Steve: How did you get the Japanese following?
Terence: That was mainly because I had some Hong Kong films that came out in Japan at film festivals and stuff like that. The first movie was a gay love story about these four men. I was one of the characters and that was my first experience [in Japan].
As it turns out theres a large following for Hong Kong films in Japan anyway. A lot of the films that we do in Hong Kong go over and subsequently I was able to do some Japanese movies.
The album that I did in Taiwan three years ago, that was actually released in Japan. Because Apparently there was a demand for it. Like its a Mandarin album, but they did a Japanese version.
Steve: How do they do a Japanese version?
Terence: Its re-packaged, theres Japanese lyrics. Its a CD made in Japan for the Japanese market.
Steve: Have you done a Japanese version?
Terence: No, my Japanese is only so much!
Steve: I asked you yesterday at the Tomb Raider premiere your thoughts on how Asians are portrayed in Hollywood. Have you seen the film, Better Luck Tomorrow ?
Terence: No, I really want to see it. I missed the release in the United States.
Steve: I went to UC Irvine, and so many times, being around a bunch of Asian people, we never get to see each other on film. And when we do see each other on film, they are stereotypical roles.
Terence: [Better Luck Tomorrow] Its basically a start. Theres a large population of Asian Americans. Many are second, third, fourth Americans. Their thought processes, their beliefs are very much American. And you see very little of that portrayed in the media here. If you are Asian, you are Asian. Its not even if you are Chinese. Or if you are Japanese, or Korean, or what not. You are just in one group. Its actually quite a challenge to start from here and broaden the perspective, slowly. First you have to get the perception to go beyond the fact that we are all just Asian. There are many distinctive cultures within the Asian term.
Steve: Especially living in southern California, you definitely see all those different cultures in K-Town, Chinatown, Little Tokyo
Terence: Just even in LA, you go to every region, theres a distinct flavor, a distinct culture that influences that region of town. To begin to communicate that in the media, I think it takes many, many steps.
Steve: Do you plan to be doing more American films, or stay in Hong Kong?
Terence: I hope I have the opportunity to do more in the U.S. I feel very proud that I have an opportunity to be a part of this process, in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life .
Steve: Exactly, your English is perfect, which is usually a difficulty of most Asian actors coming from abroad.
How did you actually get the role in Lara Croft?
Terence: They did the casting in Hong Kong. They were location scouting and also casting for the role of Chen Lo which is played by Simon Yam. I went to the casting, too. And they liked me and created this little space for me to be in the film.
Steve: What have you learned from Simon? He is such a veteran. It you looked at his body of work, its huge.
Terence: Just by hanging out with him. You cant help but learn by osmosis. He is a tremendous actor and a tremendous person. By watching him deal with his work and watching him with people and how he treats people.
Hes a huge star in Hong Kong and Asia. But, just the way he relates to everybody, and his attitude towards his work and his life. By watching someone like him have such a positive attitude, its inspiring.
Steve: Can you tell us about the differences of working in Hong Kong,Taiwan and Japan?
Terence: Obviously, there are huge differences. In every region that you work, there are different practices and different customs. The fans in each region are different. The Japanese fans are really crazy and really love you and stuff like that, but they are also very shy and respectful in a certain way. In Hong Kong, they are maybe a little bit less enthusiastic on the surface, but its the same. It's just how different cultures influences your behavior. Just in terms of work environment, every region, in Japan, Hong Kong and America, its very different. I love working everywhere.
Ive enjoyed every experience that Ive had. I would love to work in either of those places again.
Steve: Any thoughts on doing directing or writing?
Terence: I really like acting. As I go along, I have a better and better sense of what acting is, and what type of actor Id like to be. And I really, really enjoy this process.
Steve: Thanks a lot Terence.
Terence: Thanks. And I send my greetings to everyone at AsianConnections!