Known for his work on Days of Our Lives, Hawaii Five-0, Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Star Wars Resistance, and most recently as Nightwing in the upcoming Gotham Knights video game, Christopher Sean is one of those actors you’ve surely seen and heard!
Alongside his co-stars Suzie McGrath and America Young, Christopher was kind enough to join us at our first Chai & Cocktails panel discussion, where he spoke about his experience as a Japanese-American actor both in live-action and animation, how we can push for more change in the industry, and why we are all important and deserve a chance to shine. Check out some of the gems Christopher shared with us below!
On the audition and casting process for Star Wars:
“It was a really interesting casting process because I got a call from my agent in New York saying, “Hey dude, um, Star Wars is calling for you.” And I was like, “Wait, who are you?” and he’s like, “I’m coming to LA to meet you, man.” So we met up and essentially we didn’t know how large the role was going to be, I just knew I was auditioning for a Star Wars project because they’re extremely NDA. There’s a lot of red tape involved with Star Wars, but yeah I mean it was like maybe three or four auditions.
I remember going in and doing a lot of chemistry reads and being just so over the moon elated, thinking ‘Man I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I don’t even care if I’m an extra on the show, like I’m so excited’, but it turns out it was a lot bigger than what I thought, and Suzie and I got to run around all over Star Wars universe. It was a lot of fun and the audition process was… It was scary because you got maybe seven people behind the mirror watching you perform. However, I made it a point that when I walked into the room, I knew every single person’s name. So the first time they were like, “I’m Justin. I’m Brandon. I’m Athena. I’m Molly. …” and I was like “Okay. Cool, cool” and they’re like, “We don’t expect you to remember all those” and then when I came to the callback, I said, “Hey Troy. Hey Justin. Hey Josh” and they’re like, “Holy cow! Give this man the job!” I was like, “Yes!” So I felt super confident going in.”
On getting cast in major franchises like Star Wars and Batman:
“There’s not much more to say outside of the fact that, you know, it’s DC. It’s Star Wars. It’s franchises that have changed the world and people still dress up as these characters and if I were to say to anyone — “Do you know Batman?” … Who doesn’t know Batman? Who doesn’t know Star Wars? So it’s pretty amazing to have my name alongside such large franchises and such great teams like America and Suzie and everyone involved with the creative process.”
On issues in the voiceover casting process:
“The voiceover community is extremely tight-knit. Very, very small, very niche market and it’s very unbalanced in reference to men working and white people working and taking jobs. My friend is constantly getting voice-over auditions for Black roles and he’s white. … It’s a very odd thing but I think I will not take a role that is not Asian. If I’m not the right Asian, sometimes I step away from the role. If it’s very specific to Japanese, even then I can’t get the role because I’m not Japanese enough. So it’s a very small like area of which I feel comfortable in taking on a role.”
On working as a Japanese-American actor:
“In my personal perspective, I’ve been in the business for 16 going on 17 years, and I’ve auditioned one time for a multi-ethnic Asian-American, Japanese-American and I actually didn’t get the audition. I was sent the email and I slept through it and then they rescheduled it and I slept through it again. So I’ve never had the opportunity to actually audition for a Japanese-American which is silly. But more recently than not, I mean, with the Academy Awards now changing, the standards for the way to win Best Picture, you have to have thirty percent LGBTQIA cast. You have to have more women. You have to have more diversity. Like those new rules that they are implementing, that’s where change will begin. You’re going to start to see people taking steps forward in diversity and it’s — for us, being Japanese-American — is a big milestone. Very, very excited about that.
I’ve been doing this for 16 years and typically every year I might have one or two pilot auditions at most. That’s very bad. That’s my opportunities and for me to go into the room. … I see the pool is so small, in reference to work for multi-ethnic, for even mono-ethnic [actors]. It’s very low percentages of us on camera, having contract roles, having depth of character, so it’s finally coming to a point now. I’m very excited to see what’s coming for all of us who’ve been in the trenches, who’ve been trying to pave paths on uncommon grounds. So again I’m just super excited for what’s to come and I’ve been doing this for so long I feel like ‘Is this real? Is opportunity finally happening?’ So it’s really cool. Really, really cool.”
On how allies can help us create change:
“It always comes down to having allies, having people that are willing to see the real America. … Growing up, I didn’t have a role model on camera, on screen. I didn’t have someone I could look up to and say, “That’s me”. … I mean can you name- how many mixed Asian Americans can you name off the top of your head, on one hand even, on camera? There’s a very, very small pool to pull from and so I didn’t have that growing up. Therefore, I always felt like an outsider. I never felt like I was part of a group, a part of a team. I always felt like the “other”. So until we do have allies, the people like America fighting for change, people like Ann from our Gotham Knights project making the decision to make a Nightwing Asian-American. People like, again, Dave Filoni wanting to have an Asian-American actor part of his team, like until we have allies fighting in strong positions and allies writing those positions — right now is the time for change. Finally we have the ability. There’s no longer that tape saying, “No we can’t, it has to be default white now again”. That tape is being ripped open and we’re able to start, I would say … now we have the ability to really start these opportunities for so many other people and so much change to happen.”
On how more opportunities can help us shine:
“I think it’s very important now for opportunities, again, to continue to be created by amazing people, content creators. For us to have those opportunities will change everything, the domino effect will begin, as a butterfly effect, if you will. But, again, we start to become CEO’s. We start to become leaders, we start to become the mains, the leads, not just sidekicks, and in life, you start to feel like ‘Cool, like I don’t have to be less than’. There’s an old saying, Marianne Williamson … we’re not afraid of the darkness within us, we’re afraid of the light, but who am I not to shine, right? You know that that quote … essentially it just says that the more that we shine, the more we give others the opportunity to shine. And who are we not to shine, being children of God? Who are we not to shine with childlike enthusiasm of life? Who are we not to? We’re all meant to shine, so essentially — and I’m paraphrasing heavily — but in the end, it really is important for us to know that we are okay as ourselves. We are unique, you are all unique and you’re all special. Therefore, you all deserve an opportunity to shine.”
On whether representation and diversity has improved:
“The people on this panel are a testament to the change. … You would not see that five years ago, six years ago, maybe even less. You wouldn’t see that. The fact that we are here now talking about change in a public environment … we’re bolstering the change, that atmosphere of change, the positive change that is happening in entertainment. We’re here and were very excited about that. So the fact again, that the three of us are talking about it, we’re affirmations to that statement: Yes, change is happening and yes change is here.”
Keep up with Christopher on Twitter and Instagram!
Our upcoming Chai & Cocktails event features the Dassani Brothers and Madhuri Shekar, creators of the new film Evil Eye, now streaming on Amazon Prime. Don’t forget to register for this special event and tune in on October 23rd at 5PM PST for our scary and exciting chat about all things horror with them!