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Hank Chen on working with Tyra Banks and being an openly gay actor in Hollywood

Hank Chen on working with Tyra Banks and being an openly gay actor in Hollywood

“I had no choice but to come out, if I wanted to stay an actor. In so many ways, the industry has saved my life.”

After 18 years of hypothesis and desperation for a sequel, American supermodel and businesswoman Tyra Banks lastly starred in a follow-up to the fantasy cult basic, Life-Measurement – which starred Lindsay Lohan in considered one of her first movie roles.

The comedy premiered final weekend on Freeform as a part of their 25 days of Christmas, and noticed the America’s Subsequent Prime Mannequin host reprise her position as Eve, a plastic doll with some fierce lewks who transforms right into a human being.

To rejoice the movie’s launch, we caught up with Chinese language-American actor Hank Chen, who stars in the sequel as Brendan Butler, and he had nothing however variety phrases about working with Tyra.

“She’s an icon,” he tells us. “I got to experience first-hand the reason why, and I will say one word: kindness. She went out of her way to talk to everyone, to be kind to everyone, all while having her son on set, running her multimedia empire.”

Hank additionally opens up about being an openly gay Chinese language-American actor in the business, rising up in a “homophobic” residence, and how he got here to type One Wheaton, an LGBT advocacy group for college kids in evangelical Christian schools.

The unique Life-Measurement has turn into a little bit of a cult basic and has an enormous gay following. Is that this one of many the reason why you have been drawn to the position?
I used to be drawn to the position as a result of a, it was Tyra Banks, and b, as a result of it was Disney. And cash’s a reasonably good motivation too! My very first e-mail handle was – and be happy to print this, as a result of I haven’t checked it in years and I don’t even know if it’s nonetheless lively – [email protected] I’m unsure if anybody remembers that server. I had that each one all through highschool, till my mother and father have been like, ‘Okay, we think you need a more professional email because you need to apply for internships and school activities…’ I couldn’t be making use of for jobs as [email protected]! It was proper on the cusp of when individuals have been nonetheless hiding their identities in their e-mail handle and now everyone is simply first identify and final identify. Proper? And the movie has an enormous gay following by default, I don’t assume Disney was out to make a gay film, and I don’t assume Disney has advertising check teams which are like, ‘How can we turn this film into an iconic gay film?’ I feel by default, Disney movies particularly with this a lot fantasy and trend, simply find yourself turning into gay that’s as a result of the kind of stuff all of us love as closeted little gay boys.

Oh yeah, we love a Disney movie with a robust feminine lead.
Yeah positive! Robust feminine lead, additionally the fantasy and fabulousness of it, the security of it. I really feel like my associates who’re younger adults now, who’re very straight and married, none of them have been like, ‘Oh yeah, The Little Mermaid? Amazing!’ I feel they have been all pressured to observe it, Disney movies are iconic and they’re all the time enjoying in the background, particularly if in case you have a sister or a feminine cousin. I feel that straight guys aren’t ashamed to say Magnificence and the Beast was superior, however none of them are like, ‘Oh my god, Emma Watson remake? I die!’ Disney movies are very comforting, and they protected us as youngsters, I feel.

What was it like working with Tyra Banks on the movie?
She’s an icon. She’s a queen. She’s an icon. Working with her, I acquired to expertise first-hand the rationale why, and I’ll say one phrase: kindness. Tyra Banks is, in business phrases, primary on the decision sheet, and there’s an unwritten rule that primary units the tone for your complete set, as a result of they’re the boss. And so if primary is late or sad, that influences everyone else’s work. And that was by no means the case with Tyra. She went out of her solution to speak to everybody, to be type to everybody, all whereas having her son on set, operating her multimedia empire. I by no means noticed this lady sweat, and we have been all sporting winter garments in Atlanta in the summer time. If she had a worrying day, I by no means witnessed it, and I’ve spent mant 14/16 hour days with Tyra Banks. That goes to point out you. I’ll inform you one thing I actually discovered too, is that Tyra Banks – in addition to being type – all the time took care of herself. I consider in doing that, enabled her to be so beneficiant when she was working. She ate her meals on time, she took naps when she was capable of, she performed with her son when she obtained the chance to, she took the time to giggle and have enjoyable. I consider that’s the reason she was capable of give a lot to everyone else. What was your first introduction to Tyra Banks?

Funnily sufficient, Life-Measurement. It was certainly one of my favorite movies rising up.
You’re an OG fan! Superb! That makes me so comfortable to listen to as a result of Lindsay Lohan is massively common in the UK. In truth, I consider she went over there to retreat from American life for a short while, so I knew Lindsay is beloved in Europe. Everybody loves her.

I’m gonna get a bit deeper now… Once you began out as an actor, did you ever query being openly gay in the business?
Oh I struggled with it. I consider I went into appearing as a means of escaping my life, and shortly discovered that the one means for me to do good work was to be genuine as I might be. I had a few academics once I was in New York that basically helped me come out of my shell, and certainly one of them needed to just about maintain my hand in her face and stated, “Look, I know you’re gay, and that’s okay. You’re beautiful exactly as you are.” I broke down weeping, as a result of I didn’t hear that rising up. It wasn’t till I turned absolutely out and pleased with myself that I began reserving as a result of I believed, even once I was going into audition rooms, and individuals can really feel it. Individuals can really feel in case you are being inauthentic and perhaps they will’t place their finger on it, however they’re simply not drawn to you. That’s what makes a very good actor, you need to need to watch them, you need to wanna consider them. This isn’t only for gay roles. I in all probability wasn’t even doing gay roles authentically. I used to be placing on my model of what a gay man was, however now once I audition for a job, I’m simply me. I had no selection however to return out, if I needed to remain an actor. In so some ways, the business has saved my life, as a result of I get to be in contact with the core of who I’m on a every day foundation. The truth is, it’s required for my job.

In addition to being gay, you’re Chinese language American, an ethic minority. Has this ever hindered you as an actor?
In my love life, sure! Within the business, I feel it was to my benefit. Individuals love variety. I do know that there are so much much less alternatives for actors who’re numerous. Nevertheless, as a result of the leads of so many tasks are often white, numerous time tasks wish to fill with supporting forged members with individuals of color. If it’s a gay position, I’m often in rivalry, however often subsequent to an African-American or a Latino. Within the leisure business, I feel being an individual of color, gay or straight, is a large benefit, so I consider that has helped. If it has hindered, in the event that they have been explicitly not on the lookout for an Asian character to painting a personality, then I don’t hear about it. There’s a lot work that’s achieved on my behalf behind-the-scenes by my superb workforce, that I’m not aware about, and I’m frankly shielded from. My representatives are always pitching me and promoting me, and saying good issues about me and advocating for me, and if somebody tells them to their face that they’re not on the lookout for Hank Chen, I luckily don’t have to listen to about it.

You’ve been open about being raised in a Christian “homophobic” house. How did that influence you rising up?
I feel the childhood that I had made me a a lot stronger grownup, as a result of in comparison with the rejection I needed to deal with rising up, the rejection I face from Hollywood is youngster’s play. Whenever you develop up in an evangelical setting that has very inflexible values and beliefs about gay individuals, all when you’re questioning your sexuality, as a toddler you find yourself dwelling in a world the place there are not any protected areas. Sarcastically for me, as a result of I used to be just a little swishy as a toddler, I began to get bullied round center faculty. My protected area was truly the church, as a result of I wasn’t openly made enjoyable of to my face or bodily antagonised. They have been too well mannered to try this. I’ve a really excessive tolerance for discomfort, which was developed for years as a toddler. Now, I’m studying that it’s okay to say no and to maintain myself. It’s okay to hang around with individuals who don’t have an issue with gay individuals. It appears very primary, however these are all privileges that weren’t afforded to me as a toddler. However you can also make lemons into lemonade, and it formed me into the individual I’m at present.

Do you assume your childhood, being raised in that type of surroundings, is why you went on to take action many nice issues afterwards? Akin to turning into a founding member of OneWheaton?
Yeah. OneWheaton is an advocacy group that spun off in direct response to my school’s place on homosexuality. I went to Wheaton school in Illinois, which is totally different to the one in Massachusetts, which is definitely very cool with gay individuals. They hate being confused with the one I truly went to! Once I went to that school… One of many hardest issues about being raised spiritual is you are feeling remoted. You haven’t any one to share these very complicated ideas with, and as quickly as you do, you realize you’ll be focused or get in hassle, like an abusive remedy or conversion camp – which nonetheless occurs. So out of the worry of your personal security, you keep quiet. Being at Wheaton, I didn’t worry bodily violence however I did worry being expelled. So OneWheaton was based when a bunch of alumni discovered one another on Fb, and we have been actually all like, ‘Oh my god, you exist?’ It was like discovering a unicorn, as a result of I felt so alone on that campus. Sure, there have been a handful of individuals the place I used to be like, ‘You’re female, or wow you’re actually into Britney Spears…’ You have been all the time afraid to ask anyone as a result of a, like myself, they might in all probability deny it, and b, doing so would condemn them to some type of disciplinary motion. Or worse, hell, as a result of we have been spiritual. It was very ‘don’t ask, don’t inform’ on that campus. OneWheaton was shaped as a useful resource to let present college students know that a group of us exist, as a result of I do know that if it had existed once I went to that school, it will’ve meant the world to me. It has spun off with different Christian schools, and so there’s a community now for younger gay Christian teenagers who haven’t any selection however to go to a Christian school for no matter purpose, to know that a useful resource like OneWheaton might be obtainable to them throughout and after they graduate.

Now that you simply’ve been in the Life Measurement sequel, are there some other comparable cult classics that you simply’d like to see revived?
Sure, Showgirls! Elizabeth Berkley deserves one other probability! Nomi Malone shouldn’t be but the field workplace shot that she deserves, and since turn into a gay icon. I consider that Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon deserve their time in the limelight with a movie that has introduced a lot campy pleasure and empowerment to the gay group. Every time I’m having a nasty day, I’ll pull up Elizabeth Berkley’s introduction to Showgirls on the Hollywood Endlessly Cemetary a few years in the past. You possibly can see the love and the adoration in her eyes when she was greeted to cheers. The speech she gave was so lovely and so empowering. We’d like a Showgirls 2. I need to know the place everyone is in Vegas. Deliver all of them again. Let’s give them the celebration it deserves, and give me a task! I would like the headlines to learn, ‘Life Size 2 actor heads to Showgirls 2’.

You’ll be able to watch Life-Measurement 2 on Freeform now. Watch the trailer under. 




Images Benny Haddad and Yves Vibrant


 

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