Earlier this year, Tyra Banks announced her search for a “hot male Asian actor” to join her in the much-awaited sequel of Disney’s 2000 fantasy-comedy TV film “Life-Size.”
That actor turned out to be Hank Chen, an openly-gay, Chinese American talent who now plays Brendan Butler in “Life-Size 2” at Freeform.
Speaking to Gay Times Magazine, Chen, 29, revealed that he was drawn to the role out of his love for Banks and the studio itself.
“I was drawn to the role because a, it was Tyra Banks, and b, because it was Disney. And money’s a pretty good motivation too!”
The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Chen grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and has since been a Disney fan. In fact, he incorporated the studio in his very first email address.
“My very first email address was – and feel free to print this, because I haven’t checked it in years and I don’t even know if it’s still active – [email protected] I’m not sure if anyone remembers that server.
“I had that all throughout high school, until my parents were like, ‘Okay, we think you need a more professional email because you need to apply for internships and school activities.’”
Chen, who made his film debut in Robin William’s “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” said that Banks’s “kindness” made her a “queen.” For being welcomed to “Life-Size 2,” he accepts the renowned TV icon’s compliment without issue.
“I mostly thought of myself as just cute,” Chen told NewNowNext. “But if the legendary Tyra Banks wants to call me ‘hot,’ I will not complain.”
According to Chen, he has always looked up to Banks and other stars of color. He admits that as a Chinese American gay man, finding work was less of a trouble than finding love.
“In my love life, yes! In the industry, I think it was to my advantage. People love diversity. I know that there are a lot less opportunities for actors who are diverse.”
“However, because the leads of so many projects are usually white, a lot of time projects are looking to fill with supporting cast members with people of colour,” Chen said.
“If it’s a gay role, I’m usually in contention, but usually next to an African-American or a Latino. In the entertainment industry, I think being a person of colour, gay or straight, is a huge advantage, so I believe that has helped.”
Chen, whose TV credits include “Transparent” and “Scandal,” added that his representatives constantly pitch him for roles.
“If it has hindered, if they were explicitly not looking for an Asian character to portray a character, then I don’t hear about it.”
At this point, he believes that Hollywood and the rest of the world are ready for more nuanced stories involving Asians and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“The tides are turning. I am optimistic there soon won’t be a justification needed for an Asian person or a gay person in a script. They won’t have to have some sort of trauma—unless it serves the purpose of the movie—we can just be allowed to be ordinary people, too.”
“Life-Size 2″ premiered during Freeform’s “25 Days of Christmas” on Dec. 2.
Images via Instagram / @hanksterchen