Blogtalk Hollywood: JASON TOBIN
By: Mj Racadio
The Importance of Asian Representation in Hollywood
Legendary Bruce Lee has definitely made a mark in Hollywood in terms of Asian martial arts. However, there is one actor, who stands out and following Lee’s footsteps. His name is Jason Tobin, an award-winning actor who has been featured in numerous blockbuster hits such as ‘Better Luck Tomorrow’, ‘Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift’, Bruce Lee’s ‘Warrior’ and the upcoming ‘Fast & Furious 9.’
Jason Tobin: Thank you so much for having me. It's such a pleasure to talk to you again after all these years.
MJ Racadio: Let's get right to it with your legendary character, Asian-American theme in Hollywood. Let's also talk about with your award-winning character with Jasmine. I really love that thriller psycho character. Can you share with us about your influences?
Jason Tobin: "Better Luck Tomorrow" holds such a special place in my heart for so many reasons. My dream was always to be an actor, go to Hollywood and be successful when I went to study and train. Those tough years learning and trying to get into the business, all culminated with “Better Luck Tomorrow”. What's really particularly special and important to me is that I always wanted to be an actor and that I always wanted to be part of something important.
“Better Luck Tomorrow” was wasn't just a great story well told. It was a movement. I feel that with that role, I was able to really solidify Asian-American representation. Even to this day, like when I meet other Asian-Americans or other people from various ethnic backgrounds, I am able to make a difference and it's been so humbnling, having achieved my dream after fighting the good fight. It's just so sweet to have played a part in that.
About my influences, there are so many wonderful actors and wonderful performers who inspire me. "Jasmine," was the flower that blossomed after years of pursuing a career in Hollywood and having spent time in the UK and London, making TV shows and films there, too. At Prior to it, I thought that the only path out there for me was to head back to Hong Kong, make a film that was set within my subculture in Hong Kong which have both English speaking and Chinese speaking communities.
I mean that in the sense that Jasmine was the first role that I play when I was an adult who was married, who worked, who wore suits. Even the character I played - his name is Leonard To - it was reminiscient of my father, whose middle name is also Leonard. And just to share, this name is the Chinese version of my English name, which is Tobin.
There was also something even within the writing of that, that I started to understand was truly speaking to me; I understand that this is a different part of my personality, because prior to that, I played young men, young guys when we made "Jasmine" and people would ask us what it was about, we would say, oh, it's kind of like a Willy Wonka movie meets Alfred Hitchcock. But then recently last year when I watched the Joker with Joaquin Phoenix, I was completely blown away by how similar the Joker and our film “Jasmine”. You can actually tell how we're influenced by the same movies, the same performances and so many ways. The similarities of scenes between these two films were so uncanny that I now tout "Jasmine" as "The-Joker-sans-the-budget-and-the-makeup."
MJ Racadio: I know you did a very good job in Jasmine and won many awards in different film festivals. I saw some of your videos extensively training, channeling Bruce Lee, because you have to make your own.
Jason Tobin: "Warrior" on Cinemax and HBO original series are based on the writings of Bruce Lee. I play Young Jun, this charismatic, larger-than-life and former sociapath. He is a gangster who lives in San Francisco in the 80s during very tumultuous, dangerous times. When I got the role, you know, obviously I was ecstatic. There was also this realization that I had this major responsibility to uphold Bruce's legacy. While I was nervous about that idea, I was also very confident because I felt like my whole life, my whole career has been directed towards this role, at this moment in time. It was a great role, given at the right time.
I gave it everything that I had. It spoke a lot to me, it made me see the real philosophy of Bruce Lee; something that really resonated with me and live by absolutely 100 percent as an actor. The other thing is, it's such a well-written story and character that all I had to do is just enjoy myself and have fun with it. The training part is such a gift because prior to “Warrior,” although I looked like a martial artist, I was also a dad, I did other stuff, made many efforts to bring “Warrior” to life. To be given this great opportunity - to train in martial arts again and get back into the groove - is just such a beautiful, sweet gift. And I thank Bruce Lee for that.
MJ Racadio: You’re also in the upcoming Fast and Furious film, I believe the 9th instalment? Do share with us a glimpse of your character. Also, how is the schedule, like is shooting finished already?
Jason Tobin: Yes, it is Fast and Furious Chapter nine. I know it's amazing what a franchise. It's incredible. I was very fortunate enough to be in the Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift, which came out in 2006. Back in 2005, I really did not expect to be part of a franchise. I didn't think that my character was that kind of character that would come back. So, I was very pleasantly surprised that 14 years later, when I wrapped Warrior Season 2, Justin Lin sent me an e-mail, saying that he was trying to bring me back in the Fast and Furious franchise. It's a lovely surprise.
I was brought back and I spent a few weeks in London towards the end of 2019. When you work on a project as big as that, it has to be kept under wraps for a while for they don't want any leaks. I can't even tell people what I was working on. Like, what are you doing in London? I couldn't really talk about it. If you're like one of the main stars you really have to keep it quiet, until we just could not contain it anymore and I just woke up one morning and as I was drinking my coffee, my phone and my social media was blowing up. The cat was already out of the bag.
MJ Racadio: With your journey as an actor, what advice can you give to those who are just starting out and aspiring to be actors?
Jason Tobin: Over the years, many people have asked me for advice and I've spoken about it too at various events. Someone will contact me through a friend or whatever. I get my contact and I'll go and sit down with them and talk them over coffee. I would tell that that I don't have the magic answer because I know each actor has their own journey; it is a craft. And there's all this business and there's a bit of luck with this. But mostly I think the best advice I can give you is to love acting. This is where the satisfaction comes from. If you're trying to be successful without enjoying it, then I would say that your priorities are a little bit off. But the thing that can carry you through it all is the Art itself. As long as you do what you love, try to learn from the best people, be diligent and stay dedicated, you will get there. My philosophy is to just keep working on becoming a better actor. Keep bettering yourself.
I have to be the best actor that I can be, each actor has their own journey. Just love what you do. Love what you do first. Hopefully success will come. It's not going to happen immediately, but it's going to happen because you put your time in to get good at anything in life. Everything takes time. Be patient, be diligent and be consistent.
MJ Racadio: Now, how about sharing three things about you that we don’t know.
Jason Tobin: That's a good one. First is that I have a tattoo. I got a tattoo when I was a teenager and I didn't want my parents to see it. It's because I had other friends who were getting into tattoos and stuff. Second is that although I love acting and performing in front of the camera, I'm actually a photographer at heart. One of my deepest passions and loves is photography. I had a private Instagram account that was just photography and just of my kids and my wife.
The third is that I grew up all over the world. My Dad is an Englishman. He's British and ofcourse, with of Irish and Welsh ancestry. It is an interesting mix. And now, our name, Tobin, is actually, Irish, So that's my European heritage. But then, I was fortunate enough to grow up in Hong Kong. As you may know, my mother is Chinese. And another thing is that while I am of British and Chinese heritage, I spent several years living in the Philippines. I even went to Filipino school in Dasmarinas, Cavite.
Then, I spent two years in boarding school in England and then I finished my high school education in Hong Kong. Finally, we lived in the States and I went to college in the States. I really feel like I'm in many ways a bird between two trees. This helped me as an actor to learn new languages to communicate with people in different types and different cultures. I feel that that has been one of the most important aspects of my training as an actor as a result. Like, for example, I learned to speak Tagalog when I was a kid, but I lost it subsequently when we left the Philippines. But Spanish was the language I really wanted to learn and so I ended up learning Spanish for a year when I was living in Argentina many years ago. Last year, I did a movie in Mexico where I had to speak throughout the film in Spanish, and it was just another way to challenge myself. It was an amazing experience. That might be one thing that audiences and fans may not know that that's amazing.
MJ Racadio: Awesome! One last thing; what is your favorite Filipino food?
Jason Tobin: I would have to say “Sinigang na Baboy” (Tamarind Soup with Pork). I love Filipino Food, it's my favorite! You name it, I'll eat it. And... don’t forget to watch Season 2 of Warrior coming out this October 2, 2020!
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