Exclusive Interview with John Wusah

By Yvonne Lo

Featuring the multi-talented John Wusah, he is a Taiwanese-American actor, dancer, martial artists, producer, writer, and stunt choreographer. Born and raised in New York, he relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a career in Hollywood. Today, he has accomplished so much and AsianInNY got to do an exclusive interview with him, check it out:

Q: Tell me about your background. What is your childhood story?

John Wusah: I was brought up in somewhat of a special environment, growing up I was mostly surrounded by people of different races. Most of my friends during my childhood years were black and Hispanic. That fact is evident from the friends that I actually keep now; I actually didn’t even have a real “Chinese” friend here in the states until my college years. Besides New York, I also spent some of my childhood in the Philippines, due to my parent’s work. I went to a wonderful school called ISM (International School of Manila), where all the expats’ children went, so the environment wasn’t always that different from how I grew up, just more Caucasian and Filipino people. I do have to say that my childhood was not a very fun one; I grew up being bullied constantly for being overweight. I didn’t know why people didn’t like me? Those were cruel years of being beaten up, verbally abused, and even spat on, it actually turned me suicidal at one point in my younger years. But then I found martial arts, you can almost say that martial arts saved my life. Watching Bruce Lee on film was probably one of the most prominent moments of my life, I wanted to be just like him.

Q: From a child to the man you have become today… Who did you have in your life to support you?

John Wusah: I would definitely have to say my mother; she raised our whole family single-handedly, and for that I have tremendous respect for single mothers. They are the strongest people in the world. I used to watch my mother work, come home, do the laundry, cook our dinner, and then back to work. She was a corporate type, she was superwoman to me. The second is definitely my late stepfather, he was the father I never knew, but always wanted. There were some moments in my life that I thought having such a man in my life was not possible, mostly because I didn’t really grow up with a father. My stepfather didn’t come in until my early teenage years; I had to learn a lot of things during my younger days through my friends’ dads. I’m constantly reminded how lucky I am to have him, that he adopted three children who were not of his own and treated us better than we can ever hope for. My mother definitely deserved him, and he her.

Q: What did you want to be when you grow up? Why?

John Wusah: Honestly I didn’t know. Growing up I was always told what to do (being in an Asian household and what not). I was always expected to take over the family business, even though I was the youngest. So it was through that misguided conditioning that I never really thought of what I really wanted to be when I grew up, but I did love martial arts and movies. So maybe subconsciously, I was always prepping myself, I did love the arts. My family has always said I had an affinity for it. I always excelled at drawing, music, dancing, acting. I was terrible at school besides the arts.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in the film industry?

John Wusah: My late stepfather. He was the one that inspired and gave me his blessings on his sick bed. My father (I called him dad because he’s the only one I knew and acknowledged) always told me to do what I wanted to in life, no one has the right to say that you can’t do something in life. It was a complete contradiction to what my mother has always told me, but by that time she accepted the fact that I wouldn’t take over the business. After being in the Taiwanese entertainment industry for 4 years, I felt that I was meant to do more. Taiwan was too small for me; I wanted to be an actor, a great one, at the place where it counted. So, on my last visit to my father in the hospital, I told him what I wanted to do and that I wanted to move to LA. In his weakened state, unable to talk, I heard his whisper, loud and clear, as he grabbed my hand as tightly as he could. He said one simple word, that one word, held more emotion and truth in it than any other words I’ll ever hear in my life time. “Go…”

Q: You are such an accomplished person. You’re an actor, dancer, martial artist, producer, writer, and stunt choreographer. What was your inspiration to be better? What was your motivation?

John Wusah: My inspiration and motivation is simple, “me”. I am my biggest inspiration and motivation, it has to be. I’m the only person that can prevent myself from achieving my goals and dreams. If I don’t have faith in myself, what good will it do even if others have faith. I always tell people that you yourself is the biggest obstacle that you’ll ever face. “Fear” and “Laziness” are all obstacles that you create for yourself to not accomplish your goals. Our greatest battles are to overcome those obstacles because no one will do it for us.

Q: How different is it working in New York, Taiwan and Hollywood? How does the food compare?

John Wusah: I’ve never worked in New York’s entertainment industry, I was more corporate when I was there, but I heard a lot of amazing things about it, and I’d love to have the chance to film something in New York. Taiwan is a lovely place, although the quality is not as comparable to the world stage, we are getting there. They just have to get over their own obstacles. We, as Taiwanese people, are capable of achieving great things. We have great examples like Ang Lee, Jeremy Lin, and Chien-Ming Wang. We just need to get up and do it. Hollywood is amazing; I am truly humbled by the talent that is here. This is truly the place where people who want to be in entertainment should come. I’ve had so many opportunities and blessings here in LA, people are so driven. They have a hunger to learn and improve, they take things seriously and I couldn’t ask for a better environment to be in as an actor.

Q: Do you miss New York? What is the best thing you ever ate in New York?

John Wusah: Oh hell yeah, I miss NY. All of my friends are there, friends that I grew up with. That’s what I miss about NY, the ambiance and the feeling of just being. The best thing I’ve eaten in NY – Chicken and rice over white sauce. I swear, every time I visit I go straight for the halal stand.

Q: Who is your idol? What makes him/her your idol?

John Wusah: Besides my parents? Bruce Lee, he is definitely my idol. He is the person who put Asian men on the map! He made us sexy, masculine, and fierce. He is what I aim to be, Bruce Lee was more than just an actor or martial artist. He’s someone who gave people like me hope.

Q: What are your thoughts on Asians being the minority within the film industry?

John Wusah: I think we’re coming up; it’s a great time to be Asians in the film industry because we’re in the beginning stages. We are seeing more and more of us in all fields of work from commercials to TV shows to movies. You wouldn’t have seen that five to ten years back. Hollywood is a funny place, they like to stereotype people into specific roles and boxes. Even today, I still get type casted for certain things, but hey, you have to play the game until you can change it. More opportunities are opening up for us, we just have to keep exposing ourselves and keep up the great work.

Q: Who have you worked with and how was it working with them?

John Wusah: Definitely Will Smith, working with that man was the highlight of my career. So humbled and down to earth, I’ve never met such a complete family unit ever. His kids are great; Jada is an amazing director. I would love to work with Will again, next time I’ll be opposite of him in a film.

Q: Who would you like to work with in the future?

John Wusah: I’d love to work with Ang Lee. As a fellow Taiwanese-American, I would love to be under his guidance. He just seems like a very easy going guy. Another would be John Woo, I’m a sucker for his action films. So I’d love to be able to work with them at some point in the future.

Q: What advice or words of inspiration do you have for upcoming film actors and producers?

John Wusah: Have faith, have courage, and most of all work your butt off. Kevin Hart put it best, “Everybody wants to be famous, but no one wants to do the work.” You have to work harder than anyone else to obtain your goals. Keep exposing yourselves, and put out QUALITY works. There is a saying in Hollywood that a black actor has to work ten times as hard to get to where the white average actor gets to. So now I’ll tell you this, as Asians, we have to work twenty times as hard as the black actors to get to where we want to go. That is the reality of how far behind we as a people are. We have no room for mistakes. If you’re a film maker; make sure your films are of the BEST quality before you put it out into the world. I’ve seen terrible films made by Asian Americans here, and it sucks because we have so much talent. But the Hollywood will only see you at your worst, unless you make something that blows their mind (which doesn’t happen often). If you’re an actor, be realistic. You have to know when you’re not good, but it doesn’t mean that you have to stop. It just means you have to take classes and get better. You don’t want to be the ones put on the pedestal just to be laughed at. Our kind has had enough of these setbacks, which is why we have to work so hard to get to where we are. Only put up works that you think are of TOP quality or people won’t take you seriously, especially Asian men. Think about it, who has taken over after Bruce Lee? What Asian actor has been such a sex symbol after him? None, don’t you think that’s a problem? Let’s fix that, I know I am.

Q: What is your current/next film project?

John Wusah: I just finished shooting a SAG national commercial yesterday for Valvoline, my portion is for the Asian market which was a lot of fun. I currently have two short films in post-production, ColorLines and Dream Lover. I’m also filming another short film at the end of this month, as well as a pilot and two web series at the end of summer. Currently finishing up my feature film script and a web series that I’m developing with my partner, I’m looking forward to seeing how my films will be received in the film festivals next year, so it’s an exciting time for me personally.

We will continue to support you, John Wusah. Be sure to watch for him in film, television, as well as Internet in the near future, because you know he’s only going to put out his BEST QUALITY work.

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