HK Magazine Archive

Byron Mann Thinks Hollywood Is Relaxed

The Hong Kong-born actor has worked in the industry for the last 20 years on films and shows such as “Street Fighter” and “Arrow."
PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 January, 2016, 10:14am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:54pm

I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I went to UCLA to study philosophy.  Then I went to USC Law School. I’ve loved watching movies ever since I was a kid. My favorite classics were “A Better Tomorrow” and “An Autumn’s Tale.” I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be acting in Hollywood. When I was 18, I studied law for a year.  But I wasn’t really interested in it.

I happened to get a break in Hong Kong:  By chance I shot a music video. It was a LaserDisc music video by Fitto Record [now Emperor Entertainment Group]. I was part of a couple on the sea shore.  My friends saw me when they went to karaoke. That’s how my acting career started.

When I went back to the U.S. I started to get cast. My first role was in a film called “Last Flight Out.” In the U.S., you have many opportunities to make movies. In Hollywood everyone is equal. You will be recognized as long as you have talent and respected if you have the ability. Hong Kong has many idols with pretty faces. But in the U.S., the secret of success is passion and hard work.

I might not be the most talented, but I work hard. Once I get the script I’ll go over it from top to bottom. Sometimes I’ll find other actors to practice with me. Not all actors do the same. There are those who read the script for the first time when they’re in make-up. But they can still remember everything. The best actor I ever met is Eric Tsang. He didn’t read scripts until the last minute. Once he read a script in the car on the way to the filming location. But he still played the role perfectly.

Once I met [the late legendary Hong Kong actor] Roy Chiao and I asked him how to be a good actor. He told me to try different types of roles, and read more books. The projects I’ve worked on last year include “The Big Short” and [TV series] “Hell on Wheels,” filmed at the same time. But I can cope with that. After all, I’ve been in Hollywood for 20 years.

I’m a very local Hongkonger. But many think I’m an ABC [American Born Chinese]. Sometimes I meet Hongkongers and they ask me where I learned my Cantonese.  I say, “I learned where you learned.” Hong Kong more or less makes films the same way as Hollywood. But Americans treat actors a lot better. In the U.S. they have labor unions for all industries. They have unions for actors and cinematographers. There is a system.

Acting in the U.S. is more relaxing than in Hong Kong. I usually have two or three months for research. Hong Kong is quite limited and they seldom do that. In Hollywood, every actor has their own trailer, with unlimited food. If they make films overseas, they have no choice when it comes to flying—they can only fly business class. In Hong Kong, your choice is between lunch boxes and lunch boxes. And that’s not even talking about the food you get on film sets in the mainland.

It was amazing to work on “The Big Short.” It’s a true story.  My brother works in a bank. A year ago, one of his clients told me this story—and it’s the character of Brad Pitt. I heard the real story a year before getting the script.

Life is long. There will be setbacks for sure. But everything will be fine. There are many ways to live your life. Facing a setback may not be a bad thing. Maybe it’s time for you to rest, to get stronger for the upcoming journey.