Hank Chen is a very talented actor and comedian who can be seen next in Jacza Bravo’s directorial debut, Lemon, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2017. The film has a talented cast that includes Michael Cera, Nia Long, Megan Mullally, and Shiri Appleby. Hank can also be seen in the web series “Strangers" and “The Chances," both also premiering at the Sundance Film Festival 2017.
We had a chance to talk to him at Sundance. Here it is:
What did you enjoy most about this project? Why should audience watch it?
- The film I'm lucky enough to be in, Lemon, is a labor of love that took the producers, Janicza Bravo, the director, and her husband, Brett Gelman, the star of the film over 5 years to get made. Because of that, I was on a set where everyone cared so much and it showed in the environment, and the work. The audience should definitely watch it if they've ever felt weird or like an underdog. When you watch the ordeal Brett's character goes through, trust me when I say you won't feel so alone anymore. Oh, and if you're Jewish. There are some moments where I felt like only someone truly Jewish could understand and appreciate, and all I could do was smile and clap along.
What's your most favorite memory of Sundance?
- I attended the SAG Indie actors brunch and literally in the course of half an hour, met a ton of my acting heroes and simultaneously reconnected with 10 people I had worked with or known back in New York and Los Angeles. None of whom I knew would be attending Sundance, and some I'm back in touch with now. I have a few coffees and lunches lined up that I'm really looking forward to. Moments like that are terrific because it makes you realize just how small and inter-connected the artistic community is.
What do you think about state of inclusion in Hollywood?
- I think Hollywood has done an okay job. There's always more and never enough, so you can't lose sight. But it's important to acknowledge and commend people when change is being made in the right direction - even if it's incremental. Because, hey, at least it's still forward movement.
What's your experience and what do you think we all can do to improve the situation?
- Like every actor, my experience is going to be unique because no two careers are alike. But what I can say is that as a member of two minority groups, there are advantages and disadvantages. For instance, it might be easier for me to get through a door to get seen because my line isn't as long as, say, the young blonde ingenue line. But on the other hand, that door I'm walking through... the roles available to me are limited in their size and influence. I've played waiters more times that I can count and not interested in doing that anymore.
What do you like about being a storyteller and artist? What's your message to other aspiring storytellers?
- If I'm doing my job correctly, I love getting to reflect the human condition. When a performer moves you, it's because the audience sees in them something they see in themselves - whether you're willing to admit it to yourself or not. For me, art helped me come out, and ultimately influence my identity as a gay man. Was I terrified to watch shows with queer themes like, Six Feet Under? Absolutely. But I also felt that show speak to me and understand me in a way no one in my current world was able to, so I couldn't look away.
- My message to other storytellers is to tell a story that is uniquely yours and don’t try to be anyone else. Sundance is all about films with strong single visions and new perspectives. Don't water it down for a mass audience. Make it your voice, and make it heard.
What's your most favorite and least favorite thing about NYC?
Favorite: that there's variety in New York - it doesn't seem like everyone is in show business. New York is the pinnacle of finance, art, fashion, media, food, museums, you name it. You run into (literally and figuratively) a lot more people doing different things in New York and that keeps things, life, and your circle of friends interesting.
Least favorite: the weather. Only 4 good months out of the year. Two in the spring, and two in the fall.
Hank will be seen in season 2 of "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” later this March, and the feature film directorial debut of Hallie Meyers-Shyer's Home Again, produced by Nancy Meyers, starring Reese Witherspoon, Michael Sheen, and Candice Bergen and is set for a wide holiday release fall of 2017. Hank is known for Amazon’s “Transparent," TV Land's “Lopez,” and CBS's "NCIS: Los Angeles." Other television roles include Netflix’s "Grace and Frankie,” ABC Family’s “Baby Daddy,” and CBS’s “Blue Bloods." One of Hank’s favorite roles to date is working alongside Robin Williams in his final theatrical release, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn.