tsai chin

Tsai Chin – the Iconic Asian British-American Actor from Lucky Grandma, Joy Luck Club and Abominable (#244)

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Our guest today: Tsai Chin

Tsai Chin’s late performance as the grandma of “Lucky Grandma” was electrifying.
I had the pleasure to interview one of the most iconic Asian actors of the 21st century, Tsai Chin, 周采芹 in October 2019.
Tsai Chin is an open book and incredibly BOLD. We had a few laughs during this interview. Enjoy!

Watch our interview

Transcript

Tsai Chin – the Iconic Asian British-American Actor from Lucky Grandma, Joy Luck Club and Abominable.m4a – powered by Happy Scribe

Feisworld Podcast helps independent creators live their creative and financial freedom. I’m your host, Fei Wu, and I’ll be taking you through a series of interviews with creators from around the world who are living life on their own terms. Each episode is packed with tactics. Nuggets can implement origin stories to make listening productive and enjoyable. We’re not only focused on the more aspirational stories, but relatable ones as well. We also have non-interview based miniseries releasing throughout the year to help deep dive into topics such as freelancing marketing, even indie filmmaking that will benefit creators like you. Show notes, links and ways to connect with the guests are available on Feisworld.com. Now onto the show.

Hi there. This is fabulous and you’re listening to another episode of the Faze World Podcast. Well, I waited for a while before I released this episode with nobody else but Tai Chin, one of the most iconic Asian actors of our time. Really. She was the first Asian Bond girl to ever appear back in the 1960s and I just find this interview with her to be so authentic and super interesting. So my partner Adam and I had the opportunity to interview her immediately after the Boston Asian American Film Festival in 2019. We so appreciate the event organizer for inviting us, along with other reporters and local newspapers, to be in the same room with Sri Chin. We recorded a video which you can find on YouTube. If you prefer that I’ll make sure to include a link below. And it was such a rare opportunity to be sitting right there with her and she was super transparent with us, sharing her life stories, growing up in China, moving to England, and then eventually coming to the US. Living in La. And she is very active in Hollywood as an actor as well as a voice actor as well.

So I hope you enjoy this interview right now as I’m recording this intro. It is Asian American month here in May 2020. It is so special. Check it out. And hey, if you’re new to this podcast, I so appreciate you and please stick around and maybe send me a message. I can be found at faze world F-E-I-S-W-O-R-L-D everywhere. On social media, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, you name it. And let me help you maybe curate a few episodes. I want to connect and be able to help you out. So if you are into media, well, check out the rest of Phase Row Media. We have a documentary you can watch for free on Amazon Prime. Also, I’m making a free on vimeo with English captions as well as Chinese, Spanish and French subtitles. So we definitely put in a lot of hard work if you are into other type of stories. And I have very different types of content on YouTube which is about zoom and livestreaming as a creative entrepreneur. I made it a goal and a longterm pursuit to help other creative and fitness entrepreneurs to bring their businesses online. So I know I’m talking and sharing a lot right now.

Check us out at Feisworld Media on YouTube. I can’t wait to connect with you. I always love to hear from my listeners. Remember that if you’re listening this to anchor, you can connect with me directly, even drop me a message. But if not, I’ll see you at the end of the show. Have a wonderful day and please be well and take care. Without further ado, please welcome the one and only It’s High Chin to the Faze World podcast.

So my name is Fei and my first question is what was it like for you to be an actor in the 1960s and 70s? It was such a magical time because why isn’t magical?

I interview people.

Well, because when I mentioned your name to my mom, she lit up because she remembers at that time in the US. And in Europe, there were just not that many movies and you were this Asian iconic actor who was working and thriving. What was it like for you?

First of all, if your mom is living in America, she’s not talking about me, okay? But it doesn’t matter because in England, I’m always very well known, okay? What’s it like? I’m talking about sixty s and seventy s the world and can only talk about England, okay? Because I lived in London, was wonderful in London, because everything was changing. It was just Second World War finished and the young people are rebelling. What are they rebelling against? Class, in a way. Let’s face it, the 60s belongs to the young people and in the west as well as in the east, and I’m going to get into trouble for that. In the west, it’s all about love. Love to a point where sex becomes all free. That’s the way women started to burn their bras, everything, et cetera. In the east, in China, I’m going to say this. I know I’m not allowed to say this. It’s about hate. Hate everything. So it’s a magical time. Fortunately, I was in London, number one in the theater. It was changing as well. It is the older theater is changing to new. And some of it is there’s one play called Look Back in Anger, very, very famous.

It’s about a young man who is terrible. He’s so awful that one of the audiences climbed up some old lady and socked him because he is being not happy with the British society. Then there’s Theatre Observed, which in China you have too, later on.

Today and.

Yesterday, since watching your film, I thought to myself, today young actors could look up to certain people. For example, people look up to you all the time, especially for Asian actors. But back then, you know, who did you look up to? How did you find your character?

My father is so shingle. You couldn’t get she’s one of the greatest actors of that last century, and he has all the good ethics about acting. And so I have I’ve seen the sky, as I always tell my students, I’ve seen the sky. So I always tell young people, you must aim high. If you only aim at if you aim at the sky, you may hit a tall tree. You may you never get to the sky. If you aim at a high tree, you might get a lower bush. But if you don’t aim at anything I find a lot of Asian somebody who is tact is not one of my virtues. A lot of Asians are very satisfied with mediocrity. So that’s my advice to young Asians.

Thank you. Thank you for that.

My name is Felix. So I thought it was a very lovely film. It was a very funny film that I saw last night, lucky Grandma. During the Q and A session last night, you said that you knew you were going to be an actor when you were three years old. I’d like to hear more about that moment. Do you have a memory of that moment, what it was like? Or is it something that your parents kind of retold you after?

No, it just become a very horrible little show off, little brat come home and act out. And I just knew. But I also was born on tour. You know what that means, right?

Yeah. With your father.

Yeah. So therefore, I already started to travel, and I also apparently that my father was touring. And then, because I’m one age Scottish, so I had very blonde but brown hair, so they knew whose little girl it was. The minute I could walk, I walked out of the house just by myself. So then, of course, everybody knew who was that child, so they brought me, of course, my father said, so that’s what my mother told me. Anyway.

I want to ask a follow up question about advice you have for the younger Asian Americans, particularly actors. Yeah. As you know, it’s difficult as an Asian actor to find roles in Hollywood and mainstream films. Do you think? What kind of advice would you give to young Asian actors that may be different today because things are changing with, first of all, new films, like Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell, always maybe like.

Billions of times, and I am very sick of it. I say now to the actors, especially male actors, don’t see yourself as a victim. Keep on saying. Again, you ask us, we don’t get jobs. You know, we always go, don’t get jobs. I have people when I was on Broadway, she happens to be Jewish. Oh, by the way, you don’t never see Chinese. Chinese don’t come and support Chinese themselves. Okay, that’s a reason, too. So the woman said, oh, you now are on Broadway, but what happens to you next now? And I even have somebody at the side of in some place who her. So I will not describe because it’s politically incorrect tells me that I can’t get a job because I’m Asian. What I’m saying is we are advertising ourselves I’m Asian, don’t employ me. Asians tend to think themselves as victims. Were we victims? Yes, we were victims. But if you think yourself a victim, you will be treated as a victim. Oh, she’s Asian. We don’t have to pay her very much or him very much. If she’s a woman, we don’t even have to. It’s a double whammy. So stop whining because it’s very boring and it’s like a broken off record.

But things have changed because all of most of you well, your generation speaks the language. It’s all about the language. Why? Why are Chinese waiting restaurant very rude? Why are you walking? It’s the fear and the barrier of the language, all right? And you know when a race is integrated by what? I’m going to ask you by what? What?

A smile?

I’m not a smile. I know you’ve all heard of the joke every parents want Asians to be doctors, engineers, lawyers. Lawyers? No, what else? Doctor, engineer and something else. None of them require language. Now you have lawyers, you’ll have political commentators. That’s where the race, as I see it has integrated because you need the language.

Susan told me you spend some time in Boston at Huff. Could you share some stories, your memories here, like in Chinatown maybe in at half?

Well, I mean, to me it’s a very important part of my life because it was a time I was very low. I lost all my money in England, okay? So I’m literally not a penny. So I had to go and find a job, and I don’t even know how to I never worked in the office before and I don’t even know what that stencil is. I did find that they got the job. I could type pretty badly. This is a funny story anyway, and it’s a typing pool and it’s an insurance company, okay? So the name is very long. So after a while targeting very bored, I shorten the names so it becomes all initial. It’s like Kimberly chin Wilson and Company. I thought, why not? So at the end of the day, at that time, I was 40, but the light must be very bad or good. I was told by the woman that supervised to come in and said, you’re fired. All right, so it’s the first time I’ve ever been fired, and I was quite upset. But I was also volunteering for women at N ow National Organization on the will accept the phone and you’d be surprised the men the phones and how horrible.

And on that wall is what’s? The Israeli woman prime Minister Cold De Mayer. Yeah. And underneath it and she can’t type. So that’s the beginning of Boston. Also where I met this one. In those days, it’s again called poor theatre. It’s very theatre. Kotowski Otto, all that. It’s all about using physical instead of dialogue. So that’s how Tier and I met. And then I did more theater. And the great thing is I did suddenly I joined a theater group that’s multiracial. This is the beginning of the movement and I started to play classical theater. Clayton Nestra, you probably don’t know who it’s okay, don’t worry, you’re not a Greek scholar. But the one most wonderful thing, of course, is playing Hesterprint and then, of course yes, just very quickly, I decided to go to university and nobody wants me because I don’t have a diploma from Royal Academy and I’m not going to spend three, four years doing a BA. So everybody said no. And Tufts University wrote to me and said, Come over. Of course, I did have two letters from two people, which you’re definitely so famous, but you definitely don’t know. One is Jules Pfeiffer and the other is David Albertein.

The Chinese immigrants back then, compared to now, what’s the biggest change here? Like embarrassment.

What?

Immigrants?

Immigrants. The situation changes all the time. It depends which wave of immigrants in the beginning, of course, are peasants because they have to and also from Poison, from Hong Kong. It’s not an accident. Not from Hong Kong. From Canton. It’s not an accident. It’s from the south, not from the north. They have to be a refuge in Shanghai first, you know what I mean? So there are different ones. I don’t know. What is the recent one? Well, the recent one are every Chinese people. They all have an apartment here.

I’m from Zhongzhou, hunan. I told you before. Yes, but I do spend like four years in Shanghai.

Okay. How’s your shanghai NIS?

Like zero.

Don’t worry. I need yeah.

So my question is based on your experience in the industry for that many years, what has changed in terms of Asian community in the movies industry and also, like, their portrayal, women?

Well, I think that Chinese actors or Asian, I’m just saying are better trained, know the language. Also, I’m always telling you another thing about you shouldn’t come to interview me because you’re going to get many lectures. Artists have to travel. In my time, we travel and we did another thing, it’s called read, so that it’s better. But in some ways, of course, it’s more integrated. And don’t forget, agents are not on the rise, so people have more respect for agents. Also the rise is called M-O-N-E-Y. Money. Okay? There’s respect for money even in the industry. Everybody wants Chinese money. China has power, more power. And the audience is enormous. I say to Western people, look, a million is nothing in China. And also I said to a lot of Western people, I said, you to forget that China is the longest continuous civilization in the world. All right? Jewish? Yes, but Jewish? Neverland. And people forget that China has only been weak since 1830. That’s a very short time. So if China get it all together, how can China be a huge power? So that makes the immigrant more confident. And it depends. Vancouver is built by the Hong Kong immigrants.

They’re very clever. New Zealand is by the poorer because it’s nearer to China. There’s a wave all the time. And the main thing is there are still Chinese in restaurants and stuff who doesn’t learn English. And that’s very bad. And as people who are in China, they don’t learn Chinese. If you’re going to a country must learn that language.

So after this movie, do you have any other plans in the future?

When I was doing the movie, I was doing three other things. We’re doing two animations. One is already out above the other. And I was doing a documentary, which I won’t mention. I will not mention it because I’m not very pleased with it. So I just got another I don’t know. I don’t think I can do another. Lucky grandma. That’s fair. I’m too old. Actors don’t retire. It retires you’re.

Thank you.

Thank you.

I have a mountain that is very Chinese, because my father because all the people who are in jail are all out. Yeah.

Do you know who brushed

Western Theatre? My grand teacher. The student. That’s the first thing I said to congre you’re, my grand student.

This episode of the Phase Feisworld Podcast is brought to you by Feisworld, LLC, our marketing service agency created for independent creators and businesses. We offer website development, video production, marketing, mentorship to people who want to tell better stories, level up and create a profitable brand. Phase feisworld podcast team. Our chief editor and producer, Herman Sevillos. Associate producer, Adam Leffert. Social media and content manager. Rose the Leon Transcript editor, Alina Ahmedova. And lastly, myself, the creator and host of Phase World. Thank you so much for listening.

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Media links:

Learn more about Tsai Chin
The Boston Asian American Film Festival
Lucky Grandma

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