I recently got the chance to talk to Tina Huang about her role in ‘Larry Crowne’. Here, Tina talks about what it was like working with Tom Hanks, and about how she got into acting in the first place…
Hey Tina. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. ‘Larry Crowne’ is currently in UK cinemas right now. What is the general plotline of the film?
A middle-aged guy named Larry, who is a ‘lifer’ at one of these Wal-Mart-esque stores, is the usual ‘Employee Of The Month’ and is quite satisfied with his routine. His life gets turned upside down with a kick in the butt when management decides to fire him because of cutbacks. They blame his firing on his lack of higher education. The change is heartbreaking but it serves as the catalyst to make him go back to school at an adult continuing education program where he meets all sorts of colorful characters and he is reminded of the surprising nature of life…
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play one of Larry’s co-workers at U-Mart. I’m super enthusiastic about being a team player and my job is to inspire people to be better U-Mart employees.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I auditioned for the role at Jeanne McCarthy’s office. I was put on tape and a few weeks later I was told that Mr. Hanks had watched the tape and I was cast!
How would you say this film is different from other comedies released this year?
I think the film is different in the way that the humor isn’t just bawdy or college humor – I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that but there is a sort of mature, touching comedy to this story.
The film stars Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Sarah Mahoney – what was it working with the cast and crew on-set.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to work with Julia Roberts. It was an amazing experience though. I was so excited to work with Tom Hanks! Who wouldn’t be?! Before working with him, I heard from a few sources that he is called the nicest guy in Hollywood and in a weird way I thought maybe I would find out that it wasn’t true. Some cynical part of me wanted to find out he was a jerk…but in the end, what I discovered was that he IS THE NICEST GUY IN HOLLYWOOD. He knew everyone by name, was so laid back, joked around and on the last day of shooting, had a mariachi band come on-set and we had a mini fiesta! Tom Hanks is definitely an inspiration. He was just so grounded and it was nice to see a set working so smoothly. It was great to see that being successful doesn’t mean you have to become rude. He didn’t seem over stressed or unapproachable – maybe he was but he certainly didn’t let it show. What a good role model! The crew was amazing. Everyone was so lovely and warm. There was an all around good vibe the entire time and for me, a great, unforgettable experience.
The film revolves around Tom Hanks’ character going back to college – if you could go back to college again, what subject would you like to learn?
I would either be interested in anthropology or I’d seriously consider studying a different language like Chinese, Italian, Spanish…maybe French. I love language. Though, I have to say, I loved theatre school, so I wouldn’t mind continuing that education or maybe studying film production.
Let’s talk a bit about you Tina – what made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I come from a very traditional household. I’m a first generation Taiwanese-American. Acting isn’t really a typical career choice. Traditionally, little Chinese girls don’t have much of a voice in the family. It was preferred by some that I did not speak when I was at home. I had a lot of trouble communicating and expressing my feelings with family members but I always felt safe playing make-believe in the mirror mimicking scenes from movies, or scenes I played out from my imagination. I was a total nerd. Man, when I went to school, I was always talking and cracking jokes – my report cards would always say “Tina has lovely enthusiasm but she talks too much in class.” What drew me to acting was the idea of disappearing into a character and really trying to understand where that person was coming from and being able to pour my guts out and some how, I would feel less isolated. I was a rambunctious teen and when I found theatre in high school, I definitely had a great place to put my energy. I really think theatre saved my life.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Stay true to who you are. Fight to win over negative/defeatist thoughts. Keep sharp in your craft by finding good teachers and peers to act with. It’s so important to have friends that are supportive and doing the same thing as you. Make projects with them and let your peers challenge you. Write your own material. Stick with it. And always find the JOY in every moment. Once it stops being joyful you may want to question why you REALLY are on that path. But I don’t really know anything since I’m navigating through this tough journey too!
You’ve had a number of guest roles on a wide variety of TV series – which has been your favourite to work on and why?
That is a tough question…I’ve been lucky enough to get to work with people I really look up to and have respected for so long from afar. I loved working with Steve Carrell. He was such a nice guy, immensely talented and I LOVE ‘THE OFFICE’. I cried like a little baby when Michael Scott left Dunder Mifflin. Everyone on set was super welcoming and treated me so nicely. I also enjoyed getting to work with Hugh Laurie very much – I’ve been a fan of his since “A Bit of Fry & Laurie”. I’ve had all these great experiences, it’s hard to pick a favorite…but if we include movies, getting to work with Tom Hanks has been my favorite moment to date.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
I grew up in New York City so I was incredibly proud of the New York State for legalizing same-sex marriage. I was in New York visiting friends and family when the Bill was passed. It was also Pride weekend. The streets were electric. People were celebrating and when I say “people were celebrating”, I mean, gay, lesbian, transgender and straight. It was a beautiful thing to see…I think that was last month but I’m still excited about it. California should follow suit.
What does a Tina Huang day usually consist of?
Wake up. Cuddle with my cat, T-Rex, for a little bit. Have a cup of coffee, maybe two. And then get on the hustle. Like everyone else I suppose. Conquer the day.
What’s coming up for you in 2011?
I’m involved in several independent projects. I’m in the cast of an amazing theatre comedy piece in Los Angeles called “Fairy Tale Theatre: 18 & Over” The show is different every month and we build it all from scratch. I get to play many characters; sometimes human but mostly animal. Hah! I get to act and puppeteer. It has been very exciting to be a part of it as it sells out every month and also has gotten a lot of attention from the TV industry. Right now, we are focused on having fun and making that laughter contagious. It’s a good life.
Thanks for the interview!