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Q & A with Vin Kridakorn, Leading Man Extraordinaire
Vin Kridakorn is not just another pretty face. The up and coming actor is currently performing as Jonathan Harker in “DRACULA: Blood is Life,” running February 16-March 6 in Bangkok’s Siam Pic-Ganesha Theatre. And chilling horror film “Eveless,” which Vin co-produced, is about to hit Fantasia International Film Festival (check out the spooky trailer!). But that’s not all there is to know about Vin: he’s also a panda enthusiast, foodie, and unequivocal advocate for casting diversity.
Vin found time in his busy schedule to talk about what it’s like to be a millennial actor of color at a time when issues of diversity and race are all over the headlines. With the Oscars right around the corner, check out Vin’s unique perspective and get an inside peek into what it’s like to be struggling — and thriving — on the inside of the entertainment industry in 2016.
First off, thanks so much for sharing some of your story with us! What's it like going back and forth between the US and Thailand? Is there any place or way of working that feels the most like home?
It is certainly nice to be working here where most of my family lives! But it's a tough question for me to answer, because I certainly get asked a lot about where I feel most at home. I'm torn between two worlds.
Tell us a little about the show you’re working on now!
Sure! I'm working on a stage production of Dracula, as Jonathan Harker. The show is produced by Paul Ewing and his UK company Ewing Entertainment. Paul's goal is to blend Thai and international talent to produce a show that has never been seen in Thailand before. (What people may not know is there is a booming theater scene here.) What is exciting is the scale of the production and the amount of talent. I'm quite humbled to be a part of this journey. It also marks my first show here, and what a way to start!
You're playing a guy who basically gets locked in a vampire sex dungeon for most of the play and has a huge transformation. Is this your dream come true or your worst nightmare?
Harker definitely goes through a journey through the course of the play…I think this role is the perfect role for me, but also, one of the hardest roles I've ever taken on. I think that's what you want. It's on the cusp of either being brilliant, or sucking balls. I honestly don't know which one it is yet.
Have you noticed any differences in working as an Asian actor in the US vs. working as an Asian actor in, well, Asia?
Quite simply, in the US, how many characters on stage, TV, and film, do you see that are of Asian descent? Well, in Asia, most of the characters are of Asian descent. So the perspectives are vastly different. In the US, it's like, Asians can't be leads! Asian men can't be romantic! Well, I have news for you: we can.
Did you watch this Thai skin-whitening commercial that's been in the news? What was your reaction?
Skin whitening is not new here in Asia. I remember when I was younger watching all these ads promoting whitening of the skin, which is basically another form of discrimination and classism. But I remember there was a point where I basically accepted my darker skin tone. I grew to accept myself and I actually quite like my skin tone now. I think it suits me! On a serious note, I think skin whitening is ridiculous, but also on the flip side, I think tanning is equally ridiculous. Talking specifically on this skin whitening commercial, Thai people have no concept of racism in the way that America does, mainly because of the differences in history, therefore differences in perspective. What was worse, to me, was saying that having whiter skin is somehow superior than having darker skin. It's ludicrous and should be stopped. I say f*ck those ads.
Has anyone ever made you feel like you needed to change your appearance to succeed in your business?
Not specifically, but I think I am my own worst enemy when it comes to how I view myself. Maybe we'll leave it at that and not open that can...
What are some of the challenges you've experienced in the entertainment industry's treatment of diversity?
The issue of whitewashing a particular role, or even worse, yellow face (or brown face, black face, etc...) is still prevalent today. Today in the year 2016. It's surprising in a lot of ways.
It is sad to see a role whitewashed. It really does make me ache — ache because of the small mindedness of whoever decided to whitewash a diverse part, and also for all of us who want desperately to play that character. It subliminally sends a message that we're not good enough to even get parts that were originally written for us. Why does "white" mean universal and "yellow" doesn't?
In my specific experience, which is New York theater, it's disheartening to know how few Asian American actors are on Broadway. I still continue to fight on to work as an actor, but knowing the uphill battle does subconsciously gnaw at you. So, for me, it's important to acknowledge the small steps I've taken and the things that I've accomplished thus far. I have to keep in mind that the journey is as important as the goal.
How do you protect yourself and your own sense of identity in such a tough business?
It feels weird at times to think that I would go into a career that clearly doesn't really support people of color. I find it hard at times to confirm your own sense of identity in this business. You're constantly shape shifting and asked to stretch out of yourself, that I feel I need to reaffirm who I am at times. I'm naturally an introvert, so I feel I have to work extra hard to reach beyond myself and take risks. What I've learned is that really is the secret door to better acting, taking risks. So for me, it's a continued struggle to balance my own self identity and what a role will require. But at the same time, this challenge is why I love acting. When you reach beyond yourself and work, the end result is just, simply, the truth of the human experience.
Any projects, people, or ideas that make you feel proud or optimistic about the future?
The recent revival of Spring Awakening on Broadway which used actors who were deaf, mixed with non deaf actors, and even a wonderful actor in a wheelchair, was awe inspiring. I wish everyone could see that show. And the current project I am, Dracula, is very diverse. We are all from different backgrounds and different ethnicities. The cast is very colorful. It just makes you think there are people out there who get it, and understand why this is important.
Do you feel like the line between "just not right for the part" and racial discrimination is easy or tricky to pinpoint? What would you tell people who have never thought about this before to think about or look for to be able to tell the difference?
As an actor you will never be good enough to everyone. There will always be someone who will discriminate against you based on any factor, raging from you are too fat, too tall, too Asian, not Asian enough. You just never know. In some respects, you're going to have to be at peace with other people's perceptions of you or it will literally eat at you.
As for racial discrimination, it's a continued struggle. I've been quite lucky to have had opportunities available to me that perhaps weren't there for other people, but I've also experienced the opposite. I've seen many changes for the better through the years in terms of casting, but we can go so much further. I don't want to be the supporting character in my story.
We talk a lot about the need for diversity and socially just representation in American casting for actors. What do you think would be an ideal world situation?
This is a tough question and one that we need to continue to discuss. What I would love is that we have theater/film/TV that truly reflects our world now. And that is, it is not completely white or black, but multi colored, layered, rich, and beautifully complicated. We need to move in a direction where we don't default to just one ethnicity. The world is much bigger and broader than you think. Expand.
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