Our interview with talented actor James Chen who can currently be seen in the second season of the Netflix/Marvel series “Iron Fist,” playing the role of Sam Chung. The character Samuel Chung is known in the comics as the vigilante superhero ‘Blindspot’. Season 2 of “Iron Fist” premiered on Netflix on September 7, 2018.
In addition, James can currently be seen as recurring on the new CBS drama series “FBI”. Created by Dick Wolf, the procedural drama follows the inner workings of the New York office of the FBI, bringing to bear all the Bureau’s skills, intellect and mind-blowing technology to keep New York and the country safe. James plays ‘Ian’ and the series.
James is best known for recurring as ‘Kal’ in the hit AMC series “The Walking Dead.”
Additional TV credits included: “Law & Order: SUV”, “Seven Seconds”, “Elementary”, “Person Of Interest”, “The Blacklist”, “Blue Bloods” and “NCIS: LA”.
James trained as an actor at the prestigious Yale School of Drama where upon graduation, he led the School of Acting in commencement ceremonies and was awarded the Dexter Wood Luke Memorial Prize. He first began acting professionally in Philadelphia theater after attending the University of Pennsylvania. Upon completing Yale, he resumed his professional career in New York City, where he quickly began working in Off Broadway theater, TV, film, commercials, and audiobooks.
Of his dozen plus narrated audiobooks, some of his favorite titles include “Prayer of the Dragon” and “Chinese Yankee”, which can be found at Audible.com.
Hi James, please tell us a little about you?
Hi there! I’m born and raised in the Empire State, studied and worked in Philadelphia for six years, (so did not study acting in college), but came to it later during grad school at Yale Drama. Because of this I’m always a sucker for a good slice, cheesesteak, or bagel… it’s been a challenge, professionally. Been living the dream working and acting in NYC and LA. Have also been known to globe trot to Asia for vacay and to refresh. In other news…I probably do too many things… Ever reminding myself to get out of my head… Wish I played the piano more often… I seem to be drawn to inadvisably difficult things… Am infuriated by injustice…I buy too many books…
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Who is your biggest supporter?
Perhaps my sister. She’s always been cheering me on. Love you, Jen!
How did you get started in the industry?
I was still in college and auditioning for local commercials in the Philly area… my first booking was a regional commercial for AOL. Remember that? CD coasters for days… 😀
What was your first acting role?
Well my very first role was playing the Sun in the 2nd grade solar system play… does that count. When I was in college I got a chance to play the lead in a Chinese Students Association play and that was really my first role as an adult. Great memories, and I got bit.
What is the best and worst part of being an actor?
It’s always interesting, and I get to explore how humans think and behave… with other curious wonderful humans. I’d say always having to audition for work can be not awesome… and how decisions are often based NOT on ability but rather on more commercial considerations.. hey showbiz. That AND the state of how Asian characters were and are depicted in American theater, TV and film. The damaging lies of these practices of omission and reduction are a painful every day reality.
Best advice ever given?
If you can ever possibly imagine doing anything else other than acting with your life… do THAT. It can be that much of a mental/emotional/spiritual obstacle course. … and make your bed first thing in the morning.
Tell us about the Netflix/Marvel series “Iron Fist”. Who is your character Sam Chung?
In Iron Fist season 2, we meet Sam Chung as a community leader at the Chinatown Bayard Community Center. He is an ally to Colleen Wing and Danny Rand as they quest for answers to their past… he cares deeply for the people of his community and works to provide for them via clothing and for drives, reading classes for elderly, legal and business advice, and he works to protect them if they’re in danger.
What can we expect in this 2nd season?
New characters are introduced in Alice Eve’s Typhoid Mary. Previous relationships with Joy and Ward Meachum become more complicated. There’s a satisfying increase in Asian representation this season fleshing out the Chinatown world Danny and Colleen venture in. There are also quite a few more higher-octane action sequences that I think everyone will be thrilled by.
What has been your most memorable experience from the set so far?
I think it was my first day on set working with Jessica Henwick. It was my first day and just the two of us, and she’s such a free and generous person. Everything was quite effortless, we had a lot of fun, and you could just feel the Sam-Colleen rapport fill the room.
Now tell us about your role in the CBS drama series “FBI?”
I play Ian Lim, who is a super smart member of the FBI’s CART (Computer Analysis Response Team). Ian is a genius, and knows it. Perhaps the only reason he isn’t banking millions with a start up in Silicon Valley is because there’s a gritty competition and sense of challenge he gets from outsmarting terrorist. Evidence recovery, offensive surveillance electronics… you name it, Ian has the equipment, know-how and instinct to problem solve high-stakes moments on the fly.
And about the hit AMC series “The Walking Dead” coming back for it’s 9thseason. What can we expect for this season?
After Rick’s showdown with Negan in the season 8 finale… the world and communities have some breathing room. They’re in a rebuilding phase, and learning how to self-govern themselves in a world where they aren’t under Negan’s constant threat. But as we’ve seen from the first few episodes that have aired so far… things are proving to be more complicated than expected. People want different things and have differing ideas of how to move forward.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I have a great episode of Madam Secretary coming up this month in mid-November paying a billionaire. Was glad to get my Crazy Rich Asian card before the year was out. Also later next year I’ll be on the last season of Broad City and The Last O.G. Two incredible shows with just the most talented and unique minds. And the indie feature, Fluidity, is gearing up this Fall. It deals with the intersection of technology and sexuality amongst millennials striving to find meaning and identity in this fast-paced world.
Who is your favorite Actor/Actress? And why?
Cate Blanchett is one of the artists that continues to capture my amazement throughout the years. I’ve seen her perform on stage several times, and her facility and artistry are really inspiring. Her presence on the screen is equally commanding and the variety of characters she’s inhabited is insane.
We learned that you have narrated over a dozen audiobooks. Congrats! Can you tell us about it? And where we can download them?
Thanks so much, it seems audio is back in! I’ve had the pleasure to narrate fiction and non-fiction novels that usually depict Asian or Asian-American characters set in a wide variety of places: Some take place in San Francisco, others in the outer provinces of China, one in a mysterious secret cave. So they cover a good selection of genres, with quite a few mystery-thrillers. It’s a lot of fun and really creative for me as an actor. You can find all my recorded titles on Audible.com. Just search for narrator “James Chen”. Happy listening !
3 things you can’t leave your house without?
Lip balm. Ear buds. Phone. (Wallet didn’t make the top 3 … what!?)
What music do you like?
Most kinds! Indie rock, r&b, Alisha Keyes, MJ, atmospheric sound tracks to set the mood if I’m doing an activity or prepping for an audition.
Your idea of a perfect Sunday is?
A good night’s sleep, exercise, brunch!!, some time in the park, reading and meditating… Mmm.
How’s a normal day in your life?
I’ve honestly come to the conclusion that there is no “normal” day in my life, since shooting and auditions and traveling always make days unique and unpredictable. But I’d say some constants are fresh coffee, exercise, trying to squeeze in quality time with friends over food or theater (preferably both. usually not at the same time).
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Series lead in a critically acclaimed TV show, working in film during the off season, producing more content that’s personally meaningful to me and promotes the Asian-American experience.
Do you support any charities?
I support he ACLU and the Nature Conservancy. Respect for people and planet!
Where we can follow you?
Favorite Music: Depends on my mood… enjoying Ra Ra Riot lately !
Favorite Quote: “Great things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”
Favorite Holiday Destination: Something tropical.
Favorite Food: Years of living in LA… Korean food has won me over from my Italian food upbringing.
Favorite Restaurant: Chuck-E-Cheese… the ball pit though.
Favorite Drink: Vodka soda lime
Favorite Celebrity Crush: Cate Blanchett strikes again.
Favorite Song: Bohemian Rhapsody
Favorite Sports Team: Knicks.
Favorite Movie: Shawshank Redemption.
Photo Credit: Ryan West