I recently got the chance to talk to Peter Shinkoda about his role as Dai in ‘Falling Skies’. Here, Peter talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew, how he got into acting and what he would do if aliens invaded…
Hey Peter. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me – ‘Falling Skies’ will be coming to the UK pretty soon.
What’s the general premise of the TV series?
‘Falling Skies’ can be summed up as a drama that reinforces the importance of family, as well as an investigation into the resiliency of humans when they are no longer the master race on our planet.
How would you say the TV series is different from other projects like ‘War of the Worlds’ and ‘The Event’?
Those two cited projects are very different themselves, but both possess elements that can be found in ‘Falling Skies’. However, ‘Falling Skies’ is different because it doesn’t deal within the time frame of a few days of an intense attack like ‘War Of The Worlds’ does – it deals with the aftermath months later after the attackers have colonized the planet and have successfully dismantled the military. Our series also indulges in developing the ongoing experiences of several characters and how their stories intersect. ‘The Event’, like ‘Lost’, has a number of mysteries and characters that harbor supernatural information, where as in ‘Falling Skies’ everyone has one M.O. and that is to just survive. It is very simplistic in that sense.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the series and how he progresses throughout…
I play Dai, he’s a civilian-turned-resistance fighter for the 2nd Mass, (an outfit made up of freedom fighters who are mostly civilians). He is Tom Mason’s (played by Noah Wyle) most trusted ally and his most relied upon soldier. He is highly skilled in combat and reconnaissance, since his father was a Vietnamese scout who showed him the ropes at a very early age. He is very much a loner who keeps himself to himself most of the time unless there is a mission that he can contribute to. He has, with much resolve and selflessness, given himself completely to the resistance efforts.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
It was a last-minute audition. My manager Danielle reached out directly to the head of casting at DreamWorks, Leslee Feldman. Leslee agreed to see an audition on tape that I had to send almost immediately because it was so late in the game and talent had to be in Toronto within the week. I received the material and had an hour to send in my bid. I did and Leslee responded immediately in my favor as did the other casting directors. Within a day or two, Steven Spielberg watched the audition and signed off on my screen-test. At that point I only had to wait for TNT network approval and I got that an hour later.
The project has Steven Spielberg onboard as Executive Producer and stars Maxim Knight, Noah Wyle and Moon Bloodgood – what was it like working with them on-set?
I can’t speak for everyone, but for me I hated not going to set and finding out all the fun things that had transpired when I wasn’t working. Going to work was singularly the first thing I’d want to do every day when I woke up. Being around someone like Noah will help any person in the sense that he has a wealth of life experience that rubs off on you. Watching and learning from him in the arena of acting is one thing but as a person I certainly look up to him and would like to emulate the same classiness and leadership qualities that he possesses and I lack! Moon I have known for a while. (We did a GAP commercial together 12 years ago.) Seeing her on set all the time is like hanging out with a sister! She is a blast and she is hilarious. A triple-threat that one – she is a gifted singer and a classically trained dancer too. She’s real easy to look at as well! Maxim Knight is a gifted kid. I’m in awe talking to him – he’s like a new Haley Joel Osment. He’s going places fast! I know his folks well so it’s like having a tiny little brother. To tell you the absolute truth – it’s a big ensemble cast – there’s Jessy Schram, Mpho Koaho, Seychelle Gabriel, Drew Roy, Sarah Carter, Colin Cunningham, Connor Jessup and even Will Patton – we spent a lot of time hanging out together off-set as well. It’s very uncommon that a whole cast can tolerate each other the way we do!
If the Earth got invaded by aliens – would you hide or fight?
I would definitely take a stand and fight. That’s the expected answer and it’s also the truth! I’ve never been the kind of guy that backs down. I thrive on challenges!
Let’s talk a bit about you Peter. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I’ve always loved watching TV and going to see movies back to back in cinemas as a child. I loved the heroes! As I grew older and experienced small amounts of racism, I became aware that a lot of the flack I was getting was a manifestation of what ignorant people were led to believe after having been bombarded with racial stereotyping in the media. So after scrutinizing for years all the programming exposed to me I realized that I could and should probably do the acting thing. I followed that urge to try all the way until today. I’m still hustling as a visible minority.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
You better expect heartbreak and rejection. Study acting! Very seldom does an actor not have to pay their dues in one way or another.
We should probably mention that you’re in the new Mortal Kombat web series, ‘Legacy’ – what has it been like for you to become part of such a huge franchise?
Exciting. I’m very appreciative. It’s very high on the “cool factor” scale! I was a fan from the beginning when the first feature got released shortly after the video game. I saw the movie the night it opened at the Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in the 90’s with thousands of crazy fans. When I got word that Kevin Tancharoen was offering me the part of Sektor I couldn’t help but recall the fact that I had worshipped the franchise in the 90’s. It’s a huge privilege to just come onboard a brand that has a globally built-in fan base!
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
For very personal reasons I’ve been pleasantly surprised that there is an active contingency of guys out there who are very supportive of the fact that I’ve been given a shot at portraying an actual alpha-male Asian man. For a long time I felt as if I was the only one in the fight. It turns out that I’m not alone in my efforts. It’s very reassuring!
What does a Peter Shinkoda day usually consist of?
In the last few months it has consisted of a lot of PR work and appearances that I didn’t foresee. It takes up a lot more time than when I’m actually shooting something! But don’t take that as a complaint. All the attention I’m getting right now I’m welcome for and I’m willing to keep acting as long as I have food on my plate because I’ve been through a good amount of lean times in my past.
What else is coming up for you in 2011?
Well in just a few months we all go back to work on season 2 of ‘Falling Skies’ but between then and now there are several projects that I am looking at although I’m not at liberty to discuss them. Hopefully something exciting will develop and I can reveal them to you in our next interview!!
Thanks for the interview!