Actor, Host, Musician
Jimmy Wong is a Chinese American actor, musician, host and content creator. He plays the character Ling in Disney’s Mulan as one of Mulan’s friends in the army. He also cohosts the popular Magic the Gathering podcast, The Command Zone, and Game Knights, and is the face of Disney XD's gaming show Polaris Primetime. His countless talents and passions are all reflected in his wide-ranging content spanning across entertainment, geek, gaming, and cooking worlds. With just a quick search, you’ll see a multitude of his work bursting all across online. With many years of experience as an online content creator, his impress body of work and projects have aggregated over a whopping 300 million views. As a successful content creator and now actor of a huge Disney film, I’m excited to see his career bloom even further and see what other tricks he has up his sleeve.
Where are you from?
I was born in Seattle, Washington and grew up south of the city.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not acting?
I do a lot of producing, editing, and hosting. Acting is part of the many activities I’m involved in on a day-to-day basis. One of the things I hang my hat on here in Los Angeles is YouTube and content creation in general. Acting is a whole part of my creation and what I enjoy doing. Outside of content creation, I enjoy activities like rock climbing and playing video games.
Is there anyone you look up to?
Yes, definitely. I’ve always been a fan of anyone who’s been able to change the world in a major way. Growing up in Seattle, I went to Lakeside High School, which is also where Bill Gates went to school. It’s funny because there’s a lot of conversation around billionaires and the wealth of America, but it’s especially fascinating to me to see how each of them treat their wealth and what they do with it. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are two people who have made a tremendous amount of progress and have done so much good for the world through their wealth and charitable organizations. Their intentions are genuine, and these contributions are not something that they do just for show. So they definitely exemplify the kind of person I always found myself looking up to; someone who looks a little bit beyond themselves and sees a larger problem on a global scale.
In the Asian community, I love actors like BD Wong who was one of my first inspirations as an actor when I was in college. And of course, I have a massive amount of gratitude to every single Asian actor who has endured years and years of playing the stereotypical ‘bad guy’ role. These actors are all of my inspirations too because they’ve done so much great work to pave the way for what is the current climate of Asian acting in America.
Congratulations on your role Ling in Mulan! What was it like to work on this enormous and highly anticipated film?
I’ve only been a smaller piece of the pie, but for me the experience definitely feels surreal. Had anyone told me this was going to happen when I first moved to Los Angeles in 2011, I would’ve said, “that’s a great pipe dream!” I would’ve never believed them.
It’s been unreal watching how the industry has all unfolded over the past few years with a bunch of films like The Farewell and Parasite, so I’m just excited to have an entertainment industry that I can finally start to feel included in as an Asian. On some level, Mulan feels kind of similar to what Black Panther was for the Black Community – it’s just something we’ve never seen of this scale happen in the American Hollywood Entertainment industry for the Asian Community. Even though it’s a Chinese story, it’s really important to recognize that the film embodies elements that crosses all of the Asian boundaries and is one that I believe all of us can be proud and excited about.
What was it like working with an all-Asian Cast? You also had some legends working on this film like Donnie Yen, Jet Li, and Liu Yifei just to name a few.
What stood out to me was just how normal filming this project felt after the cast got involved in it. It felt so fun and almost casual. A lot of people compare filming movies to summer camp, and so there were a lot of elements on the set of Mulan that felt like a camp of sorts. Since we were all unified in trainings together, living together, and experiencing a different country all together, the experience really bonded us very quickly. So naturally, the novelty and uniqueness of the fact that we were in such a big movie with an all-Asian cast went away almost immediately. For us as actors, our roles were each part of a larger ensemble piece, so it was important for all of us to really mesh and be in synch.
It was really cool to see actors like Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Gong Li, and Jet Li be a part of this as well, all of whom are already massive stars in China and have such a massive following, so for them making a movie such as this one is not necessarily as ground-breaking or unique in their perspective, to no fault of their own since they did not grow up in the United States. They didn’t have to go through some of the same trials and tribulations as some of the other actors on set. So being able to share stories with them on set and learn about what their experiences were like and what they had found difficult within their industry was really eye-opening because at the end of the day, all of our struggles are going to be uniquely relative to our own lives and our lives are so unique to everyone else’s.
What was the most awe-struck or memorable moment on set?
Walking on any of the sets for the first time was incredible. It was such a thrilling and mind-blowing experience to see from 3-500 people sometimes all working together on the same project with so much passion and creative energy, and especially because the film was helmed by Niki Caro, an absolutely phenomenal director with such a strong vision. Witnessing a female director, female photographer, and so many different women all run this massive project with such confidence and ease is an experience I’ll never forget. This was inspirational for everyone else on set as well, you could really feel it reverberate throughout all of the departments; everyone definitely had a reverence for what was happening.
How did you grow from this experience? From coming in on the first day vs. leaving on the last day?
There is so much to making a film like this that teaches you about where your strengths and weaknesses are. The experience reveals a lot about who you are as a person. Something that really changed in me was learning about my own personal limits and learning about how far I could really push myself physically and mentally because we did so much training for the projects over the course of six months. Beyond this, I was in awe getting to know the trainers and meet with so many incredible professionals ranging from horse training, stunt training, and physical conditioning. Watching how professionally each handled their business and understanding how they were able to make a career out of it was such a pleasure. Any time you have a chance to talk to someone who has 20+ years of experience of life on you within the professional industry that you want to be in, it’s a great time to shut up and listen. It left a strong impression on us actors over time – understanding how they handle themselves mentally and how they navigate working in the environment was really powerful.
If you could go back 10 or 15 years and give yourself advice, what would you tell yourself?
I would definitely tell myself to talk to a therapist and not be stigmatized by that word or what the idea of therapy means. Self-reflection and honesty are some of the most valuable traits I have always held true to my heart. I believe they separate you from a lot of pitfalls that end up creating hardships; the self-doubt, anxiety, and lack of uncertainty of what’s going to happen can be detrimental to our mental health.
It seems that a lot of people as actors and performers come into the industry looking for validation and for roles that are going to make them feel like they’re truly worth it, which puts such a heavy weight on a job. So, for me personally, having a better sense of self and the ability to look for help in the right places without being afraid would’ve been the guidance I would have told myself to follow. I wouldn’t have wanted any of my career or the rate of its progression to change because it’s been fundamental in me becoming the person who I am today. Mental health therapy and speaking to counselors or trusted friends are things that I believe a lot of people can do more of, and I think everyone would be honestly surprised by how much they can benefit once opening up to the idea.
Do you have any advice for people interested in pursuing a career in acting or entertainment?
I’ve learned after nine years of working in the industry, it can be a crapshoot sometimes and a lot is out of your control. One of the most important parts of being in a creative field is finding people who you can really trust as collaborators in a partnership where you’re really able to hold each other accountable.
So, if you’re interested in going into the entertainment industry, whether as an actor, producer, director, or any other profession, make sure you find great people and focus on working with these kinds of people all of the time. Don’t settle for less than this; it’s a big industry and there’s always someone around the corner. Don’t be afraid to cut out toxicity if someone is making things harder for no good reason. Don’t be afraid to take what I like to call a “Friend’s Diet.” It’s okay to not see someone as much as they want to see you. It’s your life, it’s your career, and it’s your livelihood, so really treat that with the utmost respect, and I think everything will fall into place after that.
What’s next? I know you have an animated comedy film Wish Dragon coming out soon, can you talk about that?
Yes, I can’t wait! Wish Dragon is coming out November 6, 2020. Animation is an entirely different beast compared to a live-action, but I was able to visit the animation studios in China last year where I was able to see a lot of the near complete cuts and edits of the movie that I’m super excited about. I feel like it’s going to be one of those iconic and absolute landmark films – the movie is beautifully animated, and the voice cast is fantastic. One of the producers is Aron Warner who won an Oscar for Shrek, so it was great to be surrounded by mega talented and experienced people who you can learn so much from.
John Cho plays the dragon, Constance Wu plays my mother, and there’s tons of other cameos in there. So again, it’s awesome to have a cast that’s fully Asian and represented across different parts of Asia in an animation that tells a really universal Asian story.
Where do you see yourself or want to strive toward in the next 5 years?
It’s really healthy for people to set goals for themselves, and I encourage everyone to think deeply about what a six year goal would be for them, as well as a three year, two year, or one year goal and so forth. For me, I see myself hosting a popular and successful late-night show. I would also love to do more movies like Wish Dragon. Animation is an amazing way to create a universal message that everyone can watch, be attracted to, and learn a lot from.
Follow Jimmy Wong on Instagram: @jfwong