Of course, AsianFanatics took the opportunity to conduct an interview with this rapper turned host turned actor. It took McJin awhile to answer back, (who can blame him, with all those new jobs his role as Yerng Lop Ching brought him?). But he finally squeezed some time to answer our questions.
So here it is. Unedited. For your uncensored reading pleasure:
(mugshots provided by tha man himself)
Took me some time.. but here you go..
Questions about TV series / movies / acting career:
.> It sounds like you had alot of fun filming "Lives of Omission", the first 'official' TV series where you had a significant role. How was it like working with that particular cast (Laughing Gor, Bosco, Fala, Damian, etc.)? Did you feel more connected with the other newbies or with the veterans?
The entire experience was surreal even up to this moment where the film version is soon to be released. Cast wise, I truly believe that I was real lucky to be working alongside such a group for my first drama as there were definitely some truly experienced individuals to learn from. In regards to connection, it's interesting. Naturally, with the newbies (CIB group) we all got along since we were all relatively new, with me being the newest.
Even Mandy has several dramas completed. In regards to the veterans, I think they were all extremely professional and great figures to gain experience from. With Laughing, I think I was able to get the most in-depth advisory from as our roles of big brother/little brother required that type of interaction. It wasn't until I watched the entire series for a second time that I realized I had some pretty intense scenes with Madam Jo (Fala) as well and I think she did a great job. For sure, every single time I was on set with Damian it was super eye opening and rewarding.
.> What is your take on the character that you play in the series, Yeung Lap Ching? Did you feel it was difficult to portray this character? If so, why?
I really really want to thank the producer and script writers for creating such an amazing character and allowing me the opportunity to deliver this performance. The fact that they named him Lap Ching, which is a breakdown of my actual Chinese name, in order to explain the tattoo on my neck is something I am truly amazed by.
I think that was a great scene, where Lap Ching gets expelled from the academy and the instructor reprimands him for getting a tattoo after being accepted. This is such a great way to early on indicate what a rebellious and self absorbed individual he is. As far as challenges in portraying the character, once again, I thank the writers for creating him with such a clear direction. Lap Ching's agenda is simple and plain: Follow and support Laughing Sir no matter what circumstances arise. His loyalty defines him.
.> During the filming of “Lives of Omission”, were there any funny situations / stories that occurred that you can tell us about?
Lots of great experiences and memories thru out the whole filming process for sure. I think one funny thing was early on, once everyone got comfortable of course, I would be on set and start doing these random rhymes (in Cantonese) about characters being killed in the drama's storyline. Everyone on the set would laugh.. including Laughing.. and eventually he would join in and come up with these random rhymes.
.> You’ve had some success in acting so far, as the feedback regarding your roles in “The Gallants” and “Lives of Omission” have been largely positive. Was acting a direction that you’ve always wanted to try? Or was it something that you went into by chance?
Well, some readers may know that my true first foray into acting was about 7 years ago in a little film called 2 Fast 2 Furious. Now that was truly a surreal experience. I was about 2 years or so into my Ruff Ryders career and here comes an opportunity to be a part of a super successful franchise film.
As much I was able to learn about film making thru that project, especially on a Hollywood scale, I think that was really a small taste of what the acting world really involves. I played a mechanic, who raps. You get my point. Quite frankly, after 2F2F, I didn't really do much more acting because the opportunities just didn't present itself. Between Gallants and LOO, I definitely see that acting is something I want to continue to explore and develop in.
.> You are given the opportunity to create/design a character for yourself to portray (whether in a TV series or in a movie). What would the character be like? How would this character be similar/different from the real MC Jin?
I think any actor would want to approach a role that they find challenging and as far removed from who they really might be as possible... or maybe the opposite, someone who is exactly identical to their true self. In either case, I'd love to attempt a break thru role that would really require me to push the envelope.
.> On the subject of TV series, there are obviously many fans of TVB drama series overseas (outside of HK). Unfortunately, many of those who reside overseas don’t get the same opportunity to watch the series on TV at the same time that most Hong Kongers do, which perhaps contributes (in part) to the rise in downloading of the series on the internet. How do you feel about this?
You can't fight technology. I totally understand the point you are making with internet viewership, however.. With LOO, it's my first time seeing how TVB in households outside of Hong Kong is actually on the rise. For example, my wife and all my family back in New York were actually watching the series simultaneously as it was aired in Hong Kong, with a time zone difference of course.
Questions about Music career:
.> In terms of your music, you've been quite successful the past 2-3 years especially in bringing your signature rap / hip hop style music into the HK Cantopop world and giving the sagging HK music industry a much needed 'boost'. What are your thoughts on this? What motivated you to move to HK and launch a career there?
I wouldn't dare say I gave anything a boost. If anything, I've just been lucky to do something I love with a positive reception for the most part. One of the biggest misconceptions is that I moved to Hong Kong to launch a career.. I'm telling you, never did I imagine what I've been able to experience in the past 3 years actually happening. When I landed in Hong Kong on 6/10/08.. It was with the mindset of "Okay, I'll do some promotion for this ABC album.. At most a few months.. and if things don't seem to be working out.. New York, here I come!" Who would've thought so many doors would continuously open up one after another? God has been more than kind to me.
.> What are your thoughts on being named by Time Out Magazine as one of the “Changing Faces of Cantopop” (along with 3 other HK artists – Khalil Fong, Denise Ho, and the group Rubberband)? Do you agree? Also, any thoughts on the other 3 artists named?
The other 3 parties involved in that article are all beyond my stature quite honestly. As far as musicians and talent go. That's just my humble perspective.. It's an honor to be included in such a conversation. Once again, I just do what I love and love what I do. For it to be embraced is very encouraging and inspiring.
.> Your music when you were in the U.S. tended to focus on your experiences as an Asian American. After you moved your career to HK, how were you able to make your music relevant to an HK audience, especially given the different cultures? Did you have to make some significant changes in order to accommodate the HK audience?
My music has always been a reflection of my own thoughts and experiences. This holds true in my English and Cantonese material. This means the move to Hong Kong didn't really affect that creative process much. The only difference is the language. Of course, my command of the Cantonese language is limited so it may not compare to what I may be able to express in English. The beauty in my eyes is that there's times when I feel like Cantonese can best describe what I want to express as well as times when I can only say what I want to say in English.
.> When you are invited to appear in shows or at events, it’s almost inevitable that you’re asked to do some type of rap sequence at some point. Do you have to come up with these rap sequences by yourself ‘on the fly’ or is it actually scripted? Do you feel that you’ve been typecasted into the role of “that rapping dude” and thereby had limitations placed on your singing career?
For the record. I don't sing. Not in the traditional sense. Brian McKnight. Jacky Cheung. Mary J. Blige. Those are singers. In regards to the high demand that I always incorporate a bit of rap into whatever appearance I may be attending, it's understandable and the circumstances are never the same. Sometimes it's on the fly, sometimes it can be previously planned and scripted. Whatever the situation calls for.. As long as I'm comfortable with it.
Questions about Future projects / personal questions / other general questions:
.> Since you were born and raised in the U.S., how did you learn Cantonese growing up? As a non-native speaker of Cantonese, how do you cope with the language issue, especially now that you’ve expanded your career into movies and television (and thereby having to deal with scripts written completely in Chinese)?
I didn't learn Cantonese. It was spoken in my household growing up.. so I spoke it. It definitely helped that I was really into TVB (and HK films) at a young age so I picked up lots of what I know today from years of watching these films and dramas. Too late to regret it now.. but I definitely wished I learned how to read and write it as well as a child. It would save a lot of time in Hong Kong that I spend translating and writing Pin Yin.
.> Having experienced both the American and Chinese entertainment industries, what is the biggest difference between the two, in your opinion? In terms of logistics, having lived in the U.S. as well as HK (both places seem to have a different pace and lifestyle), how are the two places different for you? Was it difficult adjusting to life in HK?
The biggest difference to me.. is that Hong Kong is rather small. As a city and naturally as an entertainment circle. This is not necessarily a negative. It just creates an environment where it can feel kind of condensed at times. You go the events and its the same artists.. same media.. etc. From a business and creative standpoint, this can naturally restrict any type of growth or expansion.
.> Besides your music career, you’ve also had quite a comprehensive experience in HK so far, as you’ve had opportunities to host variety shows, film movies as well as participate in TV series. Which of these ‘roles’ (singer, host, movie actor, television actor) do you like best? With such a multi-faceted career, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced? Are you planning on continuing down this ‘singer/host/actor’ path in the near future or will you be focusing more on one over the other?
It's definitely been an experience of new experiences. There's definitely a newfound passion and love for acting. With this also comes the realization that a big part of pursuing an acting career really boils down to opportunities. Film acting is definitely different from television dramas. There's a new challenge in both and I'm looking forward to exploring all aspects. Music wise, one of the biggest things I'm looking forward to for 2012 is releasing a new English album. It's actually been about 6 years since I've released an English project.
.> Who do you feel has been the biggest influence for you in terms of your career so far (in singing as well as acting)? Is there anyone in particular whom you’d like to thank? Are there any other artists whom you are particularly close friends with?
If I had to thank someone, it would be the supporters and anyone who's encouraged me in any way shape or form these past 10 years.
.> With the multi-faceted nature of your career, you probably don’t have a whole lot of free time compared to other artists. On the occasions when you do have some free time, what do you enjoying doing most?
If I could, I would spend more time with my wife and family. There's a challenge in that of course being that they're all in NY while I am in HK. Besides that, I'm relatively low key. Reading. Basketball...
.> The entertainment industry is known for being a ‘pressure cooker’ type environment. Have you encountered any particularly stressful situation that you’d like to share with us? In general, how do you deal with all the stress that ‘comes with the territory’ of being a celebrity?
Here's my head on way of dealing with what you are referring to. I don't allow myself to become a celebrity. Without a doubt, there's a certain element of pressure that comes with being a public figure.. Especially in the entertainment field. However, whatever changed perception that the public may have, this doesn't need to affect ones own state of mind. More importantly, I put God first.
.> In the few years that you’ve been in the HK entertainment industry, you’ve become quite recognizable. In fact, you seem to be everywhere in HK – on billboards, in TV commercials, on variety shows, etc. How do you feel about your ‘ubiquitous’ presence in HK?
Recently, more than ever, I've developed a whole new grasp of what gratitude is. Maybe it's because before I came to Hong Kong, my experience in the business has been filled with it's fair share of ups and downs. This definitely reinforces my mentality of "what is here today may not necessarily be here tomorrow", so I must treasure every opportunity and learn to let go.
.> Over the years, the U.S. entertainment industry (aka Hollywood) has seen some growth in terms of the presence of Asians / Asian Americans in the industry (whether in music, movies, or television). What are your thoughts about opportunities for Asians / Asian Americans in the U.S. entertainment industry?
Any opportunity is a great opportunity! I'm all for progression and advancement, Asian or not.
.> What are your thoughts on your latest album HomeComing?
HomeComing is special to on a very personal level because it is pretty much an audio documentary of my last 3 years in Hong Kong. If I had to describe the overall project in one word it would be: growth. It is definitely a big step ahead from the ABC album in all aspects.. from my usage of Cantonese to the content.
To end this interview: are you a cats person or a dogs person?
I was born in '82. Year of the dog. That says it all.
God bless you,
- ~Sue~, xxMiya, Icetea and 16 others like this