- Ella Wu
A #hyphenatedAsians POV: Mao Sun (Edited)
The Universal Asian got to know Mao Sun, an actor and producer. He has appeared in a variety of short films as well as network television, including the Netflix series “The Stranded.” As a producer, he works with Satellite Films, a company that creates content for a diverse clientele, from biotech to The CW network.
“I was born in Springfield, raised in Northampton,” began Mao Sun. The L.A.-based actor grew up in Western Massachusetts, a progressive area. “It was a very liberal town,” he recalled, “but I was always the only Asian kid.” During his childhood, his close relationship with his family was a balm and a blessing. “I was crazy quiet growing up,” he said. “In being quiet, I didn’t really have to explain as much about my culture as opposed to if I did talk.”
However, his inner performer found ways to shine through, despite his outward shyness. “I always kind of acted as a kid,” Sun described. “I did historical renditions and stuff like that, and I really, really liked it. In sixth grade, I was a big fan of my reading and English classes—and even my music classes. I got to express myself. I didn’t really get to do that at home.”
Still, it wasn’t until after college that Sun seriously considered committing to acting as a career. “I didn’t really think anything of it,” he said. “But then the next day, I said screw it, I’m going to take an acting class. The first scene I did was from "Scent of a Woman" with Al Pacino. We did the scene, and I felt so good whether I acted well or not. It [was] just so liberating. I’[d] never done this before—cried or showed imaginary anxiety in front of a bunch of strangers. And I [thought]: this is what I want to do.”
“It’s a form of therapy,” he continued. “It’s stepping into somebody else’s shoes and thinking from an outside perspective, altering a state of mind in order to see why certain steps within a script or character are legitimate. And to have that perspective has really opened my eyes to just general life as well.”
It wasn’t an easy decision, by any means. Sun left behind a job in advertising, a job he’d been at for over two years. “When I was working in advertising, it was great because I knew my trajectory in five years,” he said. “I knew [it would be] junior account manager to account manager to senior account manager. That [would] take three to four years.”
Unfortunately, most actors do not have the luxury of stability or certainty. “I can’t make plans a month in advance,” said Sun. “[I don't have] a schedule or financial comfort at all. People don’t want to admit it, [but] it’s still a very objective industry. The product is yourself, and so you’re kind of selling yourself, which sucks. That’s the business of show business. There’s a facade you have to put on in order to appease people. It’s skill-based to a certain extent.”
The harsh reality of show business is something that all actors must come to terms with at one point or another, and what sets the truly dedicated actors apart is the ability to push forward despite the overwhelming hurdles in their path. “Don’t do it unless you absolutely want it,” Sun advised, “because it’s not worth it unless it’s what wakes you up in the morning, unless it’s what truly makes you happy, [unless] you can’t see yourself doing anything else. Don’t you dare get in this industry because you see all these actors and everything on TV, [because] that’s literally five percent of people. Even though I got a few co-star roles, that’s not equivalent to getting a job at Google and being able to get a job anywhere else. Do it only if, deep down, you know this is what you’re meant to do.”
Aside from actual politics, the entertainment industry could arguably be called the second most political industry in the U.S. The ongoing debates about authenticity, diversity, and so on have no end in sight, and neither should they. Our understanding of culture and identity is ever-changing, ever-growing to fit the society and people we are today, tomorrow, the day after. “I want to be able to bend the stereotypes,” said Sun, when asked about remembrance, “push a way forward for myself, my family, and hopefully the culture. I don’t want Asians to be in movies for being able to fight—which is fun and everything—but it’s such a stereotype. I [want] people to know that I’m American. I just want to be American. I want to pave the way in 50 years for Asians not just to be Asian, but to be fully American. This is what Americans look like.”
“I don’t think all art should be political,” he went on to explain. “If it’s forcefully political, then it’s not really fun to watch. You’re kind of just putting more gas in the fire. It’s not funny. I think art itself doesn’t need to have an agenda. I think it could. It’s art. It doesn’t have a criteria of what it should be. Art doesn’t need to have a purpose, so you can make art however you want it. I think if you’re political in art, then go for it. But make sure you go all the way with it, make sure it’s true to your heart and that you’re not just going with a trend. As long as art comes from who you really are, then that’s all that matters.
“Just appreciate who you are and who you’re surrounded by,” Sun finished.
Find Mao Sun on IMDb.