Sitting with Jack Ngu

Interview by Suzanne Nguyen

Jack Ngu
Actor, Multimedia maker

1. Mind introducing yourself.

I sense danger in introducing myself to strange little ladies that
collect stories and seem to have many mysterious plans, I like
mystery. I am an Australian born Asian actor with Multimedia
trimmings, seasoned in all sorts of genres and approaches to
film-making in front and behind the camera. Current status is restless
and torn between the industries in Sydney Australia and Singapore.

Race is inverted, in Singapore Asians are the priority and majority and Caucasians are the minority or novelty.

To give depth to that, in the Asian market I feel like I’m treated like a human being and not just another thug, gangster, drug dealer, computer geek, ninja, martial arts guy. “

2. Since your QA with Peril, has your career improved or are you now focused on
being an …..?

By the time I did the Peril interview I was already swinging more to
being an Actor having just completed a one year course, it is what I
enjoy most in the creative production spectrum. My career was
enjoyable, sustainable and quite convincing when I subsequently went to Singapore. Coming back to Sydney was the evilest thing I have ever done to myself, inevitable and necessary though. Here My career feels like a grinding halt waiting for the signal. Whist acting is my focus I always will use my Photo, video and other production sides to document and support it directly or as another source of income.

3. You once talked about career expectations of your parents, what turning point in your life did you decide to become a practicing actor? And does your parents know or support your career?

There is no clear cut, black and white turning point, and in fact once
a time in my freshman year I hated Actors, thinking what the hell are
they doing with their life? However to answer this question I can give
you greyish bread crumb story cause I know you love following threads and strings. I always wanted to leave a mark on the world preferably by visual arts, while my parents never pressured me into any particular career, you can feel what would satisfy their Asian parent desires. I told my parents I was going to study advertising and gained the silver Asian parents’ approval. Unbeknownst to even me, I would slowly over a few years make my way to the other side of the camera, this is how I unintentionally prevented a great disturbance in the Asian parental force. As a loophole I am occasionally landing the
advertising/commercial role. There was also a girl I was trying to
impress in my freshman year, she was cute and happened to be a
performer, she went overseas to pursue her career (or so it seemed)
this may also have something to do with it.

My parents do know about my career, they probably don’t entirely
understand it though, I can barely explain it to the average person in
English and expect them to understand but with my parents there is
also a language barrier, generation and cultural migration gap. It is
common for Asian parents not express support for your highs and lows when it comes to personal milestones or failures especially in arts, explaining what I do would still seem very mysterious to them. I don’t judge or blame them for being neutral about it as I have given a
gradual conditioning to it. I am awaiting for that big break, or to
pass that nondescript point where I feel stable enough to drop the
bomb in the mysterious package they have been looking at for years and go “oh by the way mom and dad I’m an actor” and present proof.
Meanwhile they can see that I am happy with what I do, they do see me though the hard times and do show faith in my abilities at least to
look after and provide for myself doing all this mysterious stuff.
They are very tolerant folks and that is more than I can ask for from
Asian Parents, not asking them for money for all these years probably helps with that.

4. What are the main difference between the acting industry in Singapore and Australia?

You meant to pluralise that with differences but I’ll go with the
singular for the sake of keeping my ramble switch off.

Race is inverted, in Singapore Asians are the priority and majority
and Caucasians are the minority or novelty. To give depth to that, in
the Asian market I feel like I’m treated like a human being and not
just another thug, gangster, drug dealer, computer geek, ninja,
martial arts guy. Even though being all that is a lot more fun than
being a normal human being which we actors are trying not to be, there is a sense of respect that has been elusive for some time.

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5. For the last twelve months, what projects did you work on?

Well this will be a bit embarrassing as I’ve not been so busy with
projects back in Sydney, doing brand ambassador work just to fund
life.

However, I have been mostly doing extra work, on one occasion even
when I was cast as a feature for a commercial I ended up as an extra,
this was especially insulting when I coincidentally as brand promoter
had to hand out fliers of the campaign depicting with the Caucasian
guy that I could have shared the lime light with. I appreciate any
time I get to be on set but it gets to you when it’s always at the
bottom of the food chain.

Max Max: Fury Road, Change of our lives, Rake, hidden peaks and Asian Australian a parody of PSY’s gentleman music video are a few of the things I cameo’d in.

Meanwhile In Singapore I was wrapping things up with a dream-time
equivalent story telling for children in a shopping mall, a featured
extra in a documentary about the beef jerky delicacy shot in an period
set built in Indonesia and in a crime re-enactment playing a power
abusing prison policeman, and to top that a national commercial for
health and accident insurance.

On the production side here, I shot and edited several wedding videos and photo shoots, some corporate presentations, the lion dancers of Sydney’s Chinese new years parade, product photography and a 48hr film, and a few self test auditions if that counts.

6. Have you ever watched Back to the Future series, well if you have to send a message to your 16 year old self, what would you say to him?

I have seen the series, I don’t remember much but got a gentle
reminder that we have to totally change our fashion sense next year
which I’m excited for. Anyway, I would address my self with and
envelope that says “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this” then I
would enclose a normal photograph of myself with a mild smile and
signed it with: Don’t hold back, travel, go to Singapore, look after
your health, learn and live untethered.

Then I’d enclose a little not saying that the huvr-boards are a hoax
and if you can, create facebook, but that’s not important.

7. What’s next?

Keep acting, get better at it, my strengths have always been in comedy and improv, that sense of humour is likely what makes me resilient in this industry. However, what I really want is to become seriously formidable in drama, it would make me that much more versatile.

I want to go back and forth between Sydney and Singapore, although I dream of other parts of the world like L.A. Toronto, Hong Kong, Londonand even Brazil, the trouble is finding stability in all that.
Singapore is literally the center and gateway to the rest of the world
so this is the next logical step after what seems to be a step back in
returning to Sydney for a year. I will no longer deny that Sydney
Australia has not given much to me and I have been recently been
reminded how painful it is being Asian talent here is. I sense a
change that is happening for multicultural representation in
Australian media, it’s going to be exponential. I’m not the golden
knight at spearhead but a core part of the phalanx that just happens
to be keeping my spear sharp in Singapore.

8. Where can we find you and your work?

You can find me in greater western Sydney when I’m here or far North east coast of Singapore if you ever go there.

Also
www.jackngu.com

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