Beautiful? Check. Talented? Check. Busy? Double check. Jamie Chung is among the hottest actresses on prime time. She stars on the NBC series “Believe,” played Mulan in “Once Upon a Time” and has a resume bursting with movie credits such as “The Hangover Part III,” the indie film “Knife Fight,” “Premium Rush,” and “The Man With the Iron Fists.”
The California native and daughter of Korean parents studied economics at the University of California, Riverside before breaking into show business, though, as you’ll discover below, she always envisioned herself ending up onscreen. We caught up and spoke to her about that break, her series, and the importance of her Korean heritage.
“Believe” is doing very well in general and people are using XFINITY On Demand to catch up with it. How did your role on the show come about? JC: That’s great to hear. I heard through the grapevine that Alfonso was teaming up with JJ Abrams to do a TV show and I had to be apart of it. I originally auditioned for “Moore,” the hit woman, but Mark Friedman and casting thought I was too sweet. So they had me go back to the waiting room with new sides and read for Channing. They told me I could take as long as I wanted for the new sides. I was ready to go in 15min. They really believed in me.
What do you like about the show? JC: I love that the story is centered around a young girl and her father. How they meet and get to know one another is unconventional, but at the end of the day Love trumps all. I also really like the fact that every episode has a happy ending. Each episode is filled with such talented guest star actors.
What do you think people are reacting to? JC: Johnny Sequoyah. She’s so talented and lovable.
By now the story is well known, but you were discovered, so to speak, or asked to be on MTV’s “The Real World,” while you were working in a sports bar. Tell us the story – where were you in your life, what happened… JC: I was in college working two jobs and paying for tuition. They came to my city. I auditioned and got the part. It was on one of the best experiences of my life and am very grateful they picked me.
Tell us about your background. What was your family like? What were you like as a kid? JC: I was a bit of a tomboy. Loved sports. My parents worked all the time so my sister and I would stay home and watch a lot of TV and movies. A LOT of movies. Some that were probably not age appropriate.
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You majored in economics in college. Was your plan to go into business? Or acting? JC: It was always acting. I just needed a backup plan. Education is important to me.
When did you know you wanted to be an actress? JC: Since I was a kid. Loved doing skits and plays when I was younger.
Who were your inspirations growing up? JC: Audrey Hepburn, Diane Keaton, Bruce Lee.
How did coming from an Asian family influence you? JC: To always work hard and take chances. Asians are known for being conservative and smart becoming doctors and lawyers. Some could possibly perceive that as being “safe.” But I see it as being courageous. My parents immigrated to the U.S without knowing a lick of English. They were able to start their own business, own a house and raise a family. That’s pretty damn ballsy and courageous. And they are extremely hard working. I learned my work ethics from my folks.
Did it impact your school life or your career choices? JC: Yes. it made me take the leap of faith after college to chase after dream. Wow. That sounded like an after school special.
Besides “The Real World,” what do you consider your most important break? JC: I don’t think I’ve had that yet. Don’t get me wrong…I’m grateful for all the work and for working aside such amazing folks. That’s priceless…I just don’t consider that a “big break.”
You did a lot of guest starring roles – “ER,” “Castle” among them. Who did you learn from? Who has given you good advice? JC: No role is a small role. It’s all necessary to tell the larger story. And that’s what we do. We are storytellers.
How important to you is your Korean heritage? JC: Very. Korean was part of my academics growing up but my brain has a hard time learning the language that way. My stand in and good friend Hye Jin has been so supportive on set. We’re always speaking in Korean and I feel like I’m really improving. I’m expanding on my conversational Korean. In terms of learning the overall heritage, It’s a part of my life. It’s very important to me.
Do you think of yourself as a role model? JC: I’m certainly not perfect. It’s flattering and I’m happy to be inspiring other young women.
Are there any traditions, family traditions, you love and continue? JC: New Years. In Korean it’s called Sebae. I love that it’s all about spending time with family, wishing each other good luck, respecting your elders and remembering your ancestors. Oh yeah, and eating a lot of mandu.
When you look back, who gave you the best advice – and what was it? Why was it good? JC: Don’t compare your career to someone else’s career. This is your journey and yours only.
What advice do you have for others who might be considering a career like yours or looking at you as a role model? JC: It’s gonna be hard, but you have to ride it out. When you don’t book a job, don’t consider it as a failure. Use it fuel you for your next audition.
What do you like to do during your free time? JC: Work out, blog, travel, learn Korean, eat, Yelp places to eat, get lost, go to parks, take photos.
What’s next for you? JC: Hong Kong and a bunch of movies that are in the can.