TAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine constantly looks for exciting talent to present to all of our readers. Recently we ran across an actress that is versatile to fit many roles. From the dramatic to comedic, actress Jona Xiao has a wide spectrum of accomplishments.
Jona, when did acting first appeal to you and what steps did you take to learn your trade ?
JX- When I was young, I never thought I’d become an actress. English was my second language (I was “Made in China”) and I was super shy because I could barely speak English at the time.
Then, in the 6th grade, I was forced to take a drama class. Somehow I ended up playing the lead role in the class play “Rapinstilskin,” the rap version of Rapunzel. It was such a blast being able to step into this fairy tale role that it was what I looked forward to every day. I really found myself opening up more emotionally as a result of my experiences in this production and future ones.
To learn my trade, I took so many different kinds of acting classes, and while in college, I received a joint degree in business and cinematic arts, with a theater minor. In addition to learning from being in front of the camera, I also worked in agency, ABC casting, producing (A BEER TALE feature film), co-founding a national film festival 6 years ago, etc. That is why I started my career coaching company for actors, Career ACTivate (www.careerACTivate.com), to share my insider’s info with other actors.
TAEM- Who were your greatest influences for your career?
JX- Edward Norton: I loved his breakout role in PRIMAL FEAR, where he plays a small town innocent guy who ends up faking multiple personality disorder in order to get away with murder. He is able to fool the other characters, as well as the audience, by reversing our expectations of him. We judged him as looking too naïve and innocent to commit such a heinous crime.
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.”
TAEM- Recently you were cast in the film Tag. Please tell us about this production and the character that you play.
JX- I’m so grateful to have been part of TAG. 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 refugee teens.
TAEM- Tell us about some of the other cast members that you will working along side of on this project.
JX- I’ve been an admirer of the comedic talents of Chris Mintz-Plasse (“Superbad”, “Kickass 2”) for years now, and to see him command such a dramatic role moved me to tears. Other cast members included Jonathan Lipnicki (“Jerry Maguire”), Scout Taylor-Compton (“The Runaways), and a rising talent, Helena Ball. Helena was actually a former client of mine (I help consult actors on the business side of the industry) turned close friend, so it was so great to collaborate with this powerful group.
TAEM- Tell us about the producer for this film and some of the other work that he has done.
JX- It was a true honor to work with producer David Ball (“Escape of the Living Dead”, “Tag,” “96 Minutes” with Brittany Snow, Nick Cassavette’s “Yellow”) because I truly admire what he has to offer the world—he’s charismatic, SUPER personable, has a heart of gold, incredibly savvy, intelligent, worldly, and a brave filmmaker who doesn’t shy away from depicting controversial social issues. He’s currently working on the final chapter of the “Night of the Living Series” currently.TAEM- We also learned that you appeared in the hit TV show Bones. Please describe your role in this and the excitement that you had in performing in it.
JX- 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.
JX- I would love to share some insight with Eerie Digest readers. This is a series which will include short horror vignettes, both funny and scary. We have an amazing Host simply named ELIOT who embodies the horror spirit of the show. We also have a Newscaster DALLAS JAMES who will report on upcoming horror films, suggest indie films for the viewers to watch and also do in studio interviews and report on everything horror. If it appeals to Horror fans, we will cover it. We also have a field reporter KELLY HANCOCK who does red carpet interviews, event coverage and on-site interviews. We also have an Elvira / Vampyra type character named BLOODY CARRIE who will introduce the main story in each episode from her lair. We are putting together a 13 episode season, roughly 10 minutes per episode. We do plan on expanding the show as we go and it has a possible future in TV. The first season will air on www.planethopper.tv by Mid-November.
TAEM- We understand that you also appeared in Apple’s ‘Back to School Campaign’ promoting their products. Tell us something about this.
JX- I was so shocked by how widespread my Apple BACK TO SCHOOL campaign became. They turned the advertisement into online promotions, large Apple storefront posters, and even door hangers. One of my friends who worked at an Apple store jokingly complained that he was sick of hanging up my face on doors.
I was walking towards my apartment one day, and I accidentally stepped on something, looked down, and realized it was one of the door hanger advertisements and I had stepped on my own face, haha.
My friends have taken pictures of the advertisement when they’ve seen it in their travels—from France to Japan, and all over.
TAEM- You were also just cast in a horror variety show. This is something that many of our readers would enjoy to learn. Can you indulge any information about this to us ?
TAEM- You had also starred in 15 films, 7, TV shows, 15 theatrical productions, 10 commercials, as well as voice-overs and print work. What do you owe your stamina to, and how are you able to separate all the characters that you play ?
JX- I’m grateful that I have held onto my vision of what’s possible for me to do as an artist. It’s easy to maintain my stamina (despite NOT being a coffee drinker) because 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.
When I first began acting, I used acting as a way to escape into a different character and take risks because I thought I was too shy as Jona. Now that I am older, I love taking on these different characters and finding that character within myself. I believe we as human beings have such a complexity of emotions and personality traits—it’s about which ones we allow come to the surface. In playing these different characters, I get to find and bring to the surface different parts of myself.
TAEM- Of all the production genres and roles that you play, what would you say is your favorite style of acting ?
JX- I love having all kinds of experiences, but if I had to pick, I’d say either comedy or action/adventure (I grew watching XENA and thought she was such an awesome kickass female). With doing comedies, and especially sitcoms that were shot live, I love making people smile and laugh. People can easily forget what we say, but rarely forget the way we make them FEEL. If I made at least one person burst into laughter and escape the troubles of their day, then I feel I have done my job.
TAEM- You also have your own consulting company. Please tell our readership about it and the purpose that it serves.
JX- I help solve problems for actors. Using my experiences in front of the camera and working on the business side of the industry (talent agency, ABC casting, producing, co-founding a national film festival 6 years ago, etc), I wanted to share the “insider’s info” I learned with other actors. That is why I started my career coaching company for actors, Career ACTivate (www.careerACTivate.com). There are so many well-trained actors I admire that just don’t know how to handle the business side of the industry. It is a firm belief of mine that if there’s something you want that you don’t have, it just means there’s something you don’t know. I want to share that knowledge so more actors can get what they want and live their dreams.
TAEM- Along with your latest accomplishments is there new events on the horizon for you ?
JX- I just decided that I’ll be publishing my first book that will serve to help aspiring actors navigate the industry. The working title is: THE UNSTARVED ACTOR: How to Take Success Into Your Own Hand and Build a Thriving Career. I know how confusing and frustrating it can be to figure out how to market oneself and breakthrough in the industry, and wanted to see more actors living their dreams.
I will be making a free download available to my newsletter subscribers at www.careerACTivate.com
TAEM- Jona, your work is impressive and I feel that we will be hearing much more about you in the future. I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with our publication and I know that our readership is thrilled to learn all about you.
JX: Thanks so much for having me!
For more info about my acting career, check out my Official Website: http://www. jona-xiao.com