In our continuing coverage of Filipino-American History Month, is this FAHM Spotlight featuring Filipino-American actor Alain Uy who you can currently catch as Yen in hulu’s Helstrom. Here we talk about his new film, THE PAPER TIGERS, his thoughts on Filipino representation and the specificity of South East Asian representation right now – oh and even, his prediction of… the NBA Finals win? Check it out below.
Let’s talk about your new film about three middle-aged kung fu prodigies, THE PAPER TIGERS. You’re described as washed up Bruce Lees in their 40s? How would you describe Danny?
I think Danny is the everyday guy just trying to get through life. I think for the most part he’s trying his best. Just doing his best as a parent. He’s newly divorced so he’s trying to figure out what to do next. In some ways, he’s like Al Bundy. If you remember [Married With Children], in his younger age, [Al Bundy] was this amazing guy, and now 20 years later, he’s like ‘What do I do now?’
That’s a super interesting parallel, (laughs) a kung fu kicking Al Bundy!
(Laughs) Yeah, we had a lot of fun with the character because the premise of the movie is: imagine if you will, Bruce Lee, how badass he was. What happens if you fast forward 20 to 25 years later: he’s got parent responsibilities and he’s divorced, can’t hold down the job and he’s out of practice now. How does that look? And I think that’s such a great premise for a movie.
Did you do any specific training for that or were you already trained in that arena?
I started off training a long time ago as a kid with martial arts. More specifically taekwondo. I reached second-degree black belt and I was ranked fourth at one point as a nine-year-old.
For this particular project, we had a crash course in a lot of the movements that was specific to the character and specific to the choreography that we ended up doing.
Congratulations on Helstrom by the way! Welcome to the Marvel Universe!
Yeah! Exciting. Very exciting.
What can you tell us about Chris Yen?
Chris is definitely not like Danny. Danny on one hand is aloof and chaotic – trying to figure out life now that he’s going into the next phase of his life.
Yen, on the other hand, is a very well put together man who runs a very successful auction house of antiquities with his wonderful business partner, slash best friend, slash surrogate sister, Ana Helstrom. They’ve been going through life. They actually grew up together in foster care. So, this family relationship that they have, that’s how we perceive Chris, within Ana Helstrom’s world.
Very excited to see it! So congratulations!
Thank you! I’m excited for everyone to see it. It’s going to be a different part of the universe that Marvel fans haven’t been able to really watch. It’s something a little bit more mature. It’s scary AF. It’s the perfect time for it too since Halloween is just around the corner. So, I’m really excited for people to watch this and binge it.
Oh my god! It’s one of those things where Southeast Asians, Filipinos…this is, since it’s Filipino American History month, it’s a great question on your part to ask about that.
I think that’s the first thing that comes to mind.
I’m really excited about what’s to come.
We talk about representation and how much it matters. And how much it matters to me when I was growing up. You see other Filipinos like the Basco brothers come to mind. They were very influential to me. Not even just as an actor but just as a young Filipino American. And experiencing what it was like to be “other”.
I’m an immigrant. I grew up in the Philippines up to when I was about six and when I moved, I quickly realized, ‘Oh, I’m different. I’m not part of the ‘norm’.’
So, fast forward to today, when there’s a lot more specificity to Asian roles, and people pay more attention to what type of culture your character is, I think it’s important.
I’m personally ethnically half Chinese and half Filipino. I grew up in the Philippines. My parents embraced the Filipino culture and the Chinese culture – so to see someone like Jon Jon Briones…[he’s] who I could only hope to be.
I’ve been in this business for about twenty years now and to see how much things have changed towards more representation and better representation – more specific representation is a wonderful thing.
Last question for you. About the NBA Finals...
So, you’re a Lakers fan...
But the Heat is coached by Erik Spo...
Oh my god.
Who is Filipino. So, how do you feel about this?
Look, as much as I love the fact that Spo is reppin’ hard for who we are, I’m putting all that aside and I’m still a Lakers fan. I’m wearing a Lakers shirt. I’m proud of him one thousand percent. It’s one of those things where you’re torn because it’s ‘I’m reppin my city hard, I’m wearing my purple and gold right now‘ but then a part of you is like ‘AhhhHh!‘
At the same time, I just want the Lakers to end it on a storybook ending. Given the fact that they went through so much as a franchise with Kobe and everything.
This is true.
And at the end of the day, I will say this: I feel like Spo is going to have another opportunity next year. This team is so dope: Adebayo. Herro. The last thing I’ll say is I was really bummed out that Goran Dragić has an injury and Bam has an injury too.
I just really want a good, solid final. They’ve got a lot of fight in them so I’m hoping at the very least make it competitive and I’m sure it will be competitive. But that’s my hot take on the Heat and the Lakers.
You can check out Alain on instagram @alainuy.
This interview was originally conducted October 02, 2020. It was briefly edited for clarity.