Immediately after his first appearance in the Hawaii Five-0 episode “Ho’ohuli Na’au”, Twitter and Facebook buzzed, with people wondering who HPD’s new crime lab guy was. Well, he’s Brian Yang, model, producer and actor, with a recurring role as Charlie Fong. Not only is he the go-to guy for all your gasoline spectrum analyzing needs, but he could very well be Kono’s love interest. Brian graciously spent some time answering questions for the Hawaii Five-0 Undercover blog.
First off Brian, thanks so much for your time. I read through your resume, and saw you studied drama at Berkeley, but I see you’re a model and entrepreneur as well…what’s your passion?
I heard the word “actorpreneur” once and I dug it. I see myself as that. I was a bio major in college who was really involved in the drama department. In fact, I think I only graduated because of my drama grades. But all my life, I’ve been involved with a lot of different things. I think we live in a time and place today where we have that luxury of being able to wear a lot of hats. Technology has made communication instant and they say life is all about communicating, so I’m trying to do that as well as I can. I guess my passion is really just to be able to make the most out of my life on my terms. We’ve got but this one life, so we may as well make the most of it. I love many different things that range from acting to business to sports to travel. I love incorporating all of that into my life and I’ve been lucky to make that all a part of my career.
Looks like you finished Berkeley just fine… You promote a lot of Chinese business as an “actorpreneur”?
Oh…I wouldn’t say so much that I promote Chinese businesses, but I do spend a lot of time in China working there so that region is of interest to me. And I do have an interest in Asian-Americans when it comes to the media. We are so underrepresented, but Five-0 is so good at painting a multicultural society, I just love it.
Is Five-0 just about the biggest thing you’ve done so far?
I’d have to say being lucky enough to play Charlie Fong on 5-0 ranks right up there. It’s not just getting to act on TV, but it’s having had the chance to meet and work with the wonderful cast and crew, and well, getting to work in the greatest state in the country!
The Aloha state is great indeed! Back to your career, while Five-0 seemed to be a perfect fit for you, was there ever a role that was just out of reach?
There have been so many. We actors think we’re perfect for everything we go in for. Ha! Most recently, I’d have to say there’s this project that’s about to go into production called Americatown, shooting in Shanghai. Janet Yang (Joy Luck Club, The People Vs. Larry Flynt) is producing it. It’s about a Chinese American who is sent to Shanghai for work and from there, basically finds himself as a fish out of water. He’s Chinese on the outside, but inside he’s so American. I have spent a lot of time in Shanghai in the last few years and when I read the script, I felt like the main character was me! It was so perfect. I met with the writer/director and Janet, but as is in the world of film making, I think they decided against me because I wasn’t a “name” enough actor. They went with Daniel Henney (X-Men, Three Rivers, which was with Alex O’Loughlin) I heard. If I were them, I would have picked Daniel over me too, but man…that role felt like a pair of comfortable slippers. It just fit. Perfectly.
How’d you manage to get the part of Charlie Fong?
This is a crazy story and I can imagine some people might resent me for it. I mean, actors talk about paying their dues and such all the time. I know what it’s like as I’ve been in this game long enough. For the last 4 or 5 years, I get to Hawaii once or twice a year for fun as I have a bunch of really good friends who live there and in early March, a buddy of mine named – and I kid you not – Chris Fong suggested we go out for the Hall & Oates’ concert. I’m a huge fan so it didn’t take much to convince me. My friend Brent Anbe, who is a local filmmaker/casting associate/director of the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival (Brent rocks!), knew I was going to be there and so he made an intro to the 5-0 casting department and they brought me in. I mean, it was dumb luck I was there on the island the week they were casting for the character of Charlie Fong. And that another C. Fong had a hand in making me get out there….well, I don’t think you could make up a story that nuts!
You being a biology major doesn’t sound like a far cry from Charlie’s crime lab job. How’d you prepare for the part?
Luckily, I’ve been a HUGE fan of Five-0 since they announced it was going to be a part of the CBS lineup. I haven’t missed an episode. My parents were fans of the show back in the day, so I was excited to see the modern day interpretation of it. We used to make fun of my dad for looking like the actor who originally played Chin Ho Kelly. So, I was just excited to get a shot at playing a part on a show that I already knew so well. I can’t stress how important it is to know the show you’re going to go in to read for. Knowing the characters, their back stories, it all helps an actor prepare. Insofar as playing a lab tech, I channeled my inner Archie Kao. Archie’s a good friend of mine and he’s been a labbie on CSI for the last 10 years. Knowing the show and knowing how certain characters play the part, especially on a CBS procedural crime/cop show, really helped.
Love Archie in CSI…didn’t realize Asians were represented so well in the crime lab! You’ve quickly developed a following in the Five-0 social networking circles…you’ve been described from everything between “cute” to “sexy”. A lot of ladies are saying your chemistry with Grace Park is “adorable”, chemically speaking. Is this kind of attention a new experience for you?
Definitely. I mean, I’ve heard some interesting things before from things I’ve done in the past, but this is the first time something I’ve done has actually sparked a social network dialogue. I guess it’s just a sign of the times. Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, thank you. You guys have done wonders for my ego! Ha…just playing. Really, you just have to take these kinds of things in stride. It’s fun, but at the end of the day, I try to keep things in perspective. Keep your nose to the ground, never take anything for granted, and appreciate the moment.
What’s it like working with Grace Park?
When I say it’s been a real pleasure, I really mean it’s been a real pleasure. Grace is simply awesome in so many ways. She’s obviously talented and beautiful, but she’s so down to earth and giving. It’s so important to a non-regular actor when they come on set and the regulars make you feel welcome. There are enough nerves to last a lifetime already, but Grace kept things light and was really encouraging and supportive the whole way. Luckily for me, I actually met Grace several years ago through a movie she was the lead on and I had a bit part in. It was called West 32nd and because I was the guy who had chopsticks stuck in my face, I think she remembered me when I came onto 5-0. I mean, who could forget that?! Having had even that little bit of history really helped me be able to be more at ease with her for our episodes on Five-0. Grace Park for president! Wait, she’s Canadian right…?
Well, maybe at least Prime Minister! Is Charlie a character we’ll see in the future, and what does the future hold for Charlie and Kono?
Ah….you’d have to ask the head folks about that. I certainly hope so! The potential is there I guess, but one never knows in this industry what the future holds and therefore, I honestly don’t know what the future holds for Charlie and Kono. I have seen someone refer to them as CharKo already, but, uh…Brangelina probably don’t need to lose any sleep just quite yet.
CharKo… dunno about that one. Did you get a chance to explore Oahu a bit?
Oahu is really like a 2nd home for me. I’ve been there so many times now and have really fallen in love with it and know it pretty well. Obviously, I hit the Hall & Oates’ concert which was amazing, but generally, when I wasn’t shooting, I was either soaking in the sun somewhere or eating. I was bummed Jake wasn’t playing somewhere while I was there. I tend to go nuts when it comes to food on the islands. My friends and I created our own “greatest hits” meal one day. We drove to Ono Seafood, Sam’s Kitchen, Genki Sushi, and Leonard’s and bought stuff from all those places and feasted. If our stomachs had any more room, we would have got Helena’s ribs, Tokkuri Tei, Boots & Kimo’s, and the lemon crunch cake from Aiea Bowl. I’m getting heavier just thinking about it.
Boots and Kimo’s has the best macadamia nut pancakes. Pop quiz: what’s your favorite Hall and Oates song?
Oh man, I get asked that one a lot. My response is it’s like asking me to pick my favorite child. Not that I have children. I’ve probably been to close to 30 Hall & Oates’ concerts in my lifetime and seen them all the way from Japan to the Bay to LA to New York and now Hawaii. If you think about it, they actually had a hand in my sitting here doing this interview with you Officer 808! I ought to write them a thank you letter. Okay, okay, I’ll give you an answer about the songs. I listen to 94.7 KUMU a lot whether I’m driving in Hawaii or streaming it online when I’m off the island. They play I Can’t Go For That and One On One about 3-4 times a day. Right now, those two are my favorites because of that. Ask me in 5-10 years and I’ll probably tell you it’s Goodnight and Goodmorning and She’s Gone.
What projects are you working on right now?
It’s been a busy year. I’ve wrapped a bunch of things already but in terms of what’s current and ahead, I’m currently producing a video project that involves Jeremy Lin, an NBA player on the Golden State Warriors. This summer, I’ve got a sci-fi short film playing at the LA Film Festival that I was involved with as a producer and actor. I’m excited about it as we’re trying to develop it into a feature. And then, I’m also going to be shooting a feature film in LA about 3 childhood friends who reunite for a birthday. It’s a wonderfully written story and I’m lucky to be working with some wonderfully creative people on it. I just want to keep sharing good, solid stories with the world, like I’m sharing all this stuff with you now Officer 808. Thanks for this opportunity!
Hey no problem Brian, thanks for giving myself and the fans your time and this valuable insight. Sounds like you do have a busy year, and hopefully we’ll see more Charlie in (the as of yet unannounced) season 2!
Watch for Brian Yang again in the season finale “Oia’i’o” tomorrow night.
Follow Brian’s “Official” Charlie Fong’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/charliefongHPD
And find him on Twitter as well: http://twitter.com/briflys
Follow his blog at: http://www.alivenotdead.com/brianyang