1. Can you tell me more about your role in the buzzworthy film “Tag” and what drew you to the role?
I play the role of Arden, who struggles with being diagnosed with the AIDS virus alongside Jonathan Lipnicki and Chris Mintz-Plasse in a warehouse of refuged teens. I loved the fact that the film didn’t shy away from depicting controversial social issues.
2. What was is like working on “Bones” and did you get to act opposite David Boreanaz or Emily Daschanel
Crazy fun! I played the role of the exuberant birthday girl MIRIAM YOUNG, who has a male stripper at her birthday party. When David Boreanaz’s character comes in with Emily Deschanel, I mistake David for a stripper dressed in a detective’s uniform rather than an actual detective. We think he is only role playing, which turns us girls on and then we proceed to remove his clothing. Lucky me!
I loved playing a character that breaks the stereotype of the subservient, soft-spoken Asian girl. I had so much fun playing such a free-spirited, bold, and outrageous character. During my initial audition, after performing, one of the producers asked, “Wow that seemed so natural for you!” I think one of my biggest assets is my willingness to make bold, off-the-wall choices because not much embarrasses me.
3. Are Asians represented enough in the industry nowadays and what challenges do you face as an actress?
Unfortunately no. Although Asians make up about 6% of the US population, only 2% of the roles we see on screen are played by Asians. So, to match our demographics, we would need three times more Asian roles cast. Luckily with the dramatic increase of Chinese consumerism, there are more bridges being built between American and Chinese filmmaking and collaborations.
Although the stereotypes are still very prevalent of what Asian-Americans should be—submissive, play piano, and excel at Math, I’m very fortunate that I often get to audition for open ethnicity roles. I also love reversing the audience’s expectations when they look at me. In my roles, I am constantly trying to break the “Asian stereotype.” Growing up, I was called “chink,” “yellow,” and people always assumed I was the super studious Chinese do-gooder nerd. I’ve played characters that were off-the-wall and absolutely ridiculous, very non-traditional Asian characters. That’s why I see myself and get cast as “Spunk and ridiculousness wrapped up in one innocent looking Asian gal.”
4. You’re a regular now on TV with appearances in “Days Of Our Lives” and “2 Broke Girls”. Why do you think the world is now so fascinated with women on television?
I thought the world was always interested in seeing women on television. It’s hard for me to imagine a show or movie with an all-male cast. Women can bring even more vulnerability, femininity, strength, etc.
5. On that note would you ever do a nude scene if it’s an integral part to a role?
Currently, I only do two things in the nude—shower and sleep. Depending on what the nudity does in the context of the storyline, I could possibly be open to doing a nude scene.
6. With the entertainment scene in Korea being hot in so many ways, would you consider being cast in a Korean movie or even sing in Korean?
Unfortunately I can’t speak Korean, but I am fluent in Mandarin. I love combining traveling and filming, so I’d definitely be open to shooting in other countries, like Korea.
7. Tell us about your life away from the camera?
A few years ago, I founded a career coaching/marketing company for actors, Career ACTivate (www.careerACTivate.com) to help other actors live their dreams. I’ve worked in casting, producing, agency, co-founded a national film festival, etc. so I bring my insider’s knowledge to help actors create breakthroughs in their careers. I’m about to author my first book, and will be making it available to my mailing list for free (readers can sign up at http://www.careerACTivate.com)
In my leisure time, I love staying active (ex. Competitive dodgeball, I quarterback in flag football, and Crossfit) and I’m a huge fan of board games (I can be quite dorky).
8. In your opinion, what does it mean to be an entertainer? Can you let us in on any future projects?
I’m compelled to change the world through story. I believe stories help show what’s possible in the world, and in our relating to the characters we see on screen, it helps us come to a deeper understanding of ourselves and realize we are not alone in our struggles.
Growing up in few communities that were not as friendly to Asian Americans combined with how shy I was; I had a difficult time making friends and I would suffer from loneliness. But, I could turn on the TV and find solace in watching characters who struggled with feeling alienated and seeing them triumph over the adversity they faced.
I feel it is my mission to help unify this world and show how we can come together and celebrate diversity as oppose to allow it to tear us apart and create separation.
My upcoming projects include a horror variety show (first season will air on http://www.planethopper.tv in mid-November) and also a series lead in an Asian-American webseries comedy. I will be updating my website with news—www.jona-xiao.com
Thank you Jona for this interview and for showing you fun, lovable personality.