When a trio of former childhood chums gathers at the lavish Los Angeles digs of the one among them who found fortune and fame, outrageous things happen. For one long night, the three commiserate, contemplate, and ruminate over their pasts while joined by uninvited strangers.
Someone I Used to Know features Luke Chen (Brian Yen) as a hunky movie star whose relationship with his pregnant girlfriend is about to flatline. There’s also Charlie (West Liang, also the film’s screenwriter), a brainiac teacher struggling with depression; and, Danny Jung (Eddie Mui), an obnoxious womanizer masking a gnawing insecurity over his sexuality, fueled by the rejection of his wealthy father. Adding to the mix is a groupie (Emily Chang) lusting for Chen, her young sidekick (Kara Crane), and her BFF played by Rex Lee (of Entourage).
Screening at this year’s Seattle Asian American Film Festival, Someone prominently highlights local boy Eddie Mui. Although his role is not as the character that went to Hollywood and made good, Mui can claim that achievement on a more personal level. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Seattle, Mui has made a name for himself acting onstage, on TV, and on the silver screen. He’s also a credited producer.
Mui shared with the International Examiner his experiences of acting and producing Someone as well his take on Asians working in Hollywood:
International Examiner: Which role was harder for you—acting as Danny Jung, or producing the film?
Mui: Taking on the role of Danny Jung was a bit of a challenge since his life is much more complex than mine, but those are the kind of roles I really love to do. Working as a professional actor for over 20 years now, I prefer to keep doing different things and playing characters that really make me grow deeper as I get older and, hopefully, more mature. I would say being a producer is harder for me at this time since I’m still learning to be better at it.
IE: Has Hollywood changed much since you first arrived? Do you feel more accepted as “just an actor,” or are you still viewed as an “Asian actor”?
Mui: Yes, Hollywood has changed a lot since I first moved to L.A. from Seattle in the early ’90s. Back then, it was like, “Hey look, there’s an Asian person on Melrose Place!” I don’t really think that’s the case anymore with so many talented actors of many different races from various ethnic backgrounds working in Hollywood today. After all, if Hollywood truly wants to portray what our country really looks and feels like (today and tomorrow) when walking out your front door, then casting anything that takes place in some metropolitan city without any Asian Americans being represented at all is completely a fantasy world in my opinion. I mean, seriously, you go into any shopping mall in America and all you see are Asian American families shopping! And to answer your second question, … I am an actor who happens to be Asian, not just an “Asian actor.” I do believe there’s a difference.
IE: How have you been able to carve out an acting career when Asian Americans are rarely given lead roles?
Mui: Well, being in L.A. for quite some time now, I have made a lot of friendships with all sorts of creative artists, some of them also Asian, and I believe we all feel the same way about this. It’s still an ongoing fight to be more visible and given more opportunities to land lead roles everyday in Hollywood. I would like to think it’s getting better as this fight continues. But getting involved behind the scenes, such as producing or directing, helps a lot.
IE: What did you do to prepare yourself for playing such a complex character like Danny?
Mui: Whenever I take on any role, the first thing I do is really try to be as naturally “myself” in the beginning process of discovering the character. For example, as “Danny,” I would come on set being myself as much as possible but really believing that I’m actually wearing Danny’s clothes and saying things that only Danny would say, but of course using the lines from the script as his voice to express feelings. Even though this particular role of Danny Jung is nothing like myself in real life, in many ways I can still relate to how scared and confused he may feel without certain friends whom he can relate to from his childhood. I think a lot of us were most honest as kids anyway. I know I was.
IE: In what ways do you feel this film is breaking new ground in identifying “Asian angst”?
Mui: Good question. As one of the main producers, I can honestly say we really set out to try to make a good “American” film and not just an “Asian American” film. The intention of West Liang’s script was not to tell a story where only Asian American actors could play these complex roles. In fact, besides one line from the movie regarding dating a successful Asian man, there are no other references about any of the characters being Asian. We really wanted Someone I Used to Know to be the kind of movie that you were watching about “some friends” who got together during one crazy night in L.A., and not about specifically some “Asian friends” who did. This movie should appeal to anyone who ever wondered about their lost friendships from long ago, and perhaps how different they or you might be if you were to see them again for just one more night. I’m sure it’s something we all have thought about, right?
IE: What’s your advice to young Asian Americans interested in acting or producing?
Mui: The best advice I can give to young actors or producers is “keep learning by doing.” The only way to be a better actor is to keep acting whenever you can whether it’s on stage, a student film, or just taking more acting classes. Also, it’s really true when they say, “It’s who you know,” in Hollywood. Actors should always be polite and professional as much as possible on set because if you’re good, and likable as well, people will want to work with you again. Trust me!
IE: What are some of your upcoming projects?
Mui: My most recent project is another feature film called Unidentified, directed by Jason R. Miller and produced by Parry Shen and myself. This movie is a comedy-thriller shot entirely in found-footage style, and I personally came up with the original concept. It’s kind of like The Hangover meets The Blair Witch Project and unlike any other feature film produced by two Asian American actors. We had our world premiere screening at the 14th San Diego Asian Film Festival last November 8, and our official wide release date will be February 11 on iTunes, Amazon instant video, Hulu, and Xbox video.
Return of the Seattle Asian American Film Festival
Film, book carries Domingo and Viernes’ legacy to a new generation
In times of injustice, the story of Grace Lee Boggs inspires
‘Seeking Asian Female’ is a film about human understanding
‘R/Evolve’ questions the price of marriage equality