Jean Yoon has an amazing stage, TV and film career and she is one of those actresses we have had at the top of our interview list, however, since she is based in Tornoto that made an on-camera interview difficult! Jean is such a warm and gracious person and responded positively to our request for a written interview and took time to write indepth answers to our questions.
1. Was your first role an episode of “La Femme Nikita” in 1998? What was your reaction to seeing this series revived as “Nikita” starring an Asian-American actress Maggie Q?
“La Femme Nikita” wasn’t my first gig, though it is the first that is recorded on IMDB. It was fun. Wardrobe put me in a super sexy all black outfit. I loved the boots so much I bought them. When I learned the show was being revived with Maggie Q, I took it as a hopeful sign of the rising acceptance of Asian actors in leading roles. My first gig was a short drama in the mid-eighties called A Brighter Moon directed by Keith Lock. I played a small role, but my primary contribution was as a co-writer. It was a first in the Toronto Asian film scene, and went on to earn a Gemini Award, a prestigious Canadian film award, for best short drama. I worked exclusively in theatre through the nineties and only signed on with an agent at the end of that decade. My first real job in mainstream film and television was Waking the Dead, a feature released in 2000, where I got to work alongside fellow Korean Canadian Sandra Oh. Sadly, her storyline and mine alongside her were cut in the end.
2. How does living in Toronto affect your acting career and what opportunities are there for actors in Canada?
Toronto is my home. I grew up here and except for a four year period when I lived in China, Vancouver, Edmonton and then China again, I have been based here. We have a vigorous and immensely talented theatre community here, and I am always busy, developing new plays, acting, writing, collaborating, producing new work and working to foster the next generation of Asian Canadian artists. Here I am known more as a playwright. My works include The Yoko Ono Project and Hongbu & Nolbu: The Tale of the Magic Pumpkins and other plays. I dedicated several years to advocacy and new play development, and have, I think made a significant impact on our theatre community. Like any Toronto actor, I wonder occasionally about moving to LA. Maybe one day, I’ll make a move though I can’t imagine moving southside permanently. I have deep, deep roots in theatre and in the Canadian cultural milieu.
3. Tell us how you got involved in the film “Wedding Palace,” your role in the film, and how you developed your character.
My agent received the breakdown. Jory Weitz, the casting director hadn’t been able to find anyone in Los Angeles and was sending the casting call for the mother role out across the US and Canada. I had played Korean moms in several Korean Canadian plays here, and for years have been studying the Korean immigrant mother, both as an actor and as a writer. I was more than ready. I got the script, talked with the casting director and put the audition to tape and sent it off. We received an offer almost immediately. At first I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Later, however, when the original shoot days had shifted, I was able to accept. It’s not often I’m offered a chance to collaborate with artists like Brian Tee, Stephen Park, Kang Hye-Jung, Margaret Cho, Bobby Lee, Charles Kim and Kelvin Han Yee. I feel very fortunate that things worked out as they did, and I look forward to seeing the film when it screens in Toronto.
Wedding Palace will be screened at the Boston Asian American Film Festival on Oct. 26th. For more information and to purchase tickets visit their website: BAAFF