Justin Chon, Unleashed
The actor of Twilight fame is starring in 21 and Over, a new film that may ruffle some feathers. But that’s just fine with Chon, who says it’s time to push boundaries.
story by OLIVER SARIA
photographs by ERIC SILVERBERG | styling by KAYLA MCGEE | grooming by KELSEY DEENIHAN/Exclusive Artists Management
When Justin Chon entered the boisterous eatery, Bottega Louie, in downtown Los Angeles, I almost didn’t recognize him. He melted into the crowd of lunchtime refugees from the nearby Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. His hair was neatly trimmed, and he wore skinny slacks and a red cardigan over a powder blue knit shirt buttoned to the top. Overall, a more conservative look than I had expected, save for one bold fashion choice. Slung over his shoulder, tucked underneath his armpit, he was rocking a Gucci murse—perhaps the most polarizing accessory ever invented. It takes a certain amount of guts to sport one, and I would soon find out Chon is anything but fearful.
“I think we need some rebels,” he declares. “Not everyone has to be the good little subservient Asian boy that does exactly what everybody wants them to do. This is the biggest thing that Asians need to understand: We need to accept that it’s OK to be different. And I try to push the boundaries,” he says, an air of mischief in his eyes.
It would seem that, after five years of being associated with the Twilight franchise, playing Eric Yorkie, one of Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) mortal friends, he’s grown accustomed to strong opinions, and he’s perfectly fine with that.
“As small as my part was, I was a part of something. Whether you like it or not, it’s made a mark in cinema history. It’s like ‘Star Wars for girls,’” he says, crediting Bobby Kim, cofounder of the Hundreds clothing brand, for coining that label. “And to be a part of that is an honor. Nobody can take that away from me. However sh-tty you think the movie is, I was a part of that. Not many films in history have reached that level.” Continue Reading »
Into the Deep End With Steven Yeun
The dashing young star of AMC’s The Walking Dead talks about digging into his character for the upcoming third season and reveals how the more pressure he feels—from fans, from community, from himself—the deeper he goes.
by OLIVER SARIA
photographs by YANN BEAN
While on location in Atlanta, Ga., where he’s shooting the much-anticipated third season of the The Walking Dead on AMC, Steven Yeun confesses via phone, “I sometimes can’t check my hat at the door.”
That can be a frightening admission, given that the hit zombie drama series, which returns Oct. 14, and the graphic novel upon which it is based center on a band of survivors of the zombie-apocalypse and the subsequent horrors they encounter.
“Sometimes I’ll bring it home, and you find yourself like, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen daylight in a week because you’re going out to work and you come home and you don’t even want to go outside and you’re just, like, depressed,” Yeun says. And, to make matters worse, the actor happens to be on a huge Korean cinema kick. “And actually that doesn’t help me unwind,” he says. “Man, Korean cinema is so messed up. I love it, it’s amazing, but it’s like so guttural and terrifying.”
Guttural and terrifying also aptly describe The Walking Dead. If the series hews closely to the comics, which Yeun confirms will “weave in and out of each other,” viewers can expect even more f***ed up s*** to happen this season as the characters face off against the only monsters worse than zombies: other humans! Continue Reading »
Mars: The New Frontier
Meet David Oh, the NASA engineer who is helping to put a human face on Mars exploration.
story by OLIVER SARIA
photographs by MICHAEL QUIROS
Now that NASA’s space shuttle program has been shuttered, it seems like the science engineers have become the human face of space exploration. For David Oh, lead flight director of the Mars Curiosity rover, that has meant a brush with fame after his family’s decision to live on Mars time was widely circulated by the press.
As one of the select engineers required to sync his work schedule with Martian time for the first three months of the mission, Oh’s wife, Bryn, decided to switch the entire family’s schedule to coincide with a Martian solar day, or sol, which is roughly 40 minutes longer than Earth’s. Think of it as changing time zones every day (with continual jet lag). That eventually meant family outings in the middle of the night with their children, Braden, 13, Ashlyn,10, and Devyn, 8. With the kids now back on Earth time after the nearly month-long experiment, we sat down with Oh at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., to find out more about him, the lessons of “Mars time,” and the future of space travel.
Can you tell me about your background. Continue Reading »
Out of the Shadows
Story by OLIVER SARIA
Photographs by DIANA KING
Eden, a new film that garnered a heap of awards at this past spring’s South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas, deals with the issue of sex trafficking—in the United States. That statement is enough to raise eyebrows. Both its star Jamie Chung and the woman who inspired the film’s story, Chong Kim, hope it also spurs action to combat this hidden crime.
Jamie Chung arrives for our interview at a Los Angeles café bearing a gift for Chong Kim, the woman upon whom Chung’s latest film, Eden, is based. They hug one another warmly and sit side by side. Kim shares photos from her smartphone of her 12-year-old son and scrolls through some snapshots taken during the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, which both attended and where Eden won three awards: Narrative Feature Audience Award, SXSW Chicken & Egg Emergent Narrative Woman Director Award (Megan Griffiths) and Special Jury Recognition for Performance (Jamie Chung). There’s an ease and lightness between them that belies the gravity of the film, inspired by Kim’s horrific true-life ordeal.
Set in 1994, Chung plays Hyun Jae, a Korean American high school student in New Mexico who enters a bar with a fake ID. She leaves with a seemingly kindhearted fireman who turns out to be a wrangler for a sex trafficking ring, headed by a corrupt law enforcement official. Imprisoned in a storage unit with dozens of other girls, Hyun’s captor gives her the name Eden and forces her to become a prostitute. Tortured, raped and injected with narcotics, Eden escapes her two years of captivity by deftly rising through the ranks of the organization.
On this bright Sunday afternoon, Chung, based in Los Angeles, and Kim, who lives in Dallas, seem like friends reuniting over brunch, nothing to indicate the extraordinary circumstances that have brought them together. Continue Reading »
Byrne, Baby, Byrne
For years, Steve Byrne has lit up the stage at comedy clubs, bars and late-night talks shows, earning a reputation as one of the hardest-working stand-up comedians in the biz. Now he’s getting the chance to enjoy the fruits of that intense labor as the star and co-writer of his own sitcom, Sullivan & Son, to premiere on TBS this summer.
story by Oliver Saria
photographs by Yann Bean
The premiere of comedian Steve Byrne’s sitcom Sullivan & Son on TBS is only about three months away when I interview him, and he’s still settling into his production office at the Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif. The place looks like a teenage boy had decorated it. The walls are plastered with NHL and movie posters—the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins (his two favorite teams) and all things Marvel Comics. Other framed memorabilia is stacked against the wall, still in bubble wrap, and a tabletop hockey game sits in the middle of the room, waiting to be assembled.
It’s the quiet before the storm. Full-on production mode for the 10-episode season begins in earnest by early May, right after his wife of one year, Jessica, is due to give birth to their first child, a girl. Byrne has every reason to be frantic, but the relaxed vibe of his office décor extends to his demeanor. It’s a good thing I caught him before he is completely stressed out and sleepless.
For a guy with a reputation of being obsessed with work, he doesn’t come off as blindly ambitious or self-obsessed—driven instead by the love of his craft, which he first developed after stumbling upon a job answering phones at Caroline’s Comedy Club in New York City in the late ’90s. For the theater major from Kent State, the original plan was to move to California, but after catching the stand-up bug, Byrne spent the next 15 years tirelessly plying his trade. During that span, he has made the rounds of the late-night talk shows; won the MySpace Standup or Sitdown Comedy Challenge; toured nationally with The Jameson Comedy Tour, The Kims of Comedy and Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Tour; headlined numerous USO tours (his brother is in the Army, and he is a huge supporter of U.S. troops); appeared in the films The Dilemma, Couples Retreat and Four Christmases; and aired two well-received hour-long specials on Comedy Central, Steve Byrne: Happy Hour and The Byrne Identity. Continue Reading »