Five words describe Mickeey Nguyen, a Vietnamese Canadian dancer and actor – progressive, passionate, charming, funny, and caring.
While Nguyen’s mother was a Saigonese, his dad lived in Hue. In 1988, after the Vietnam War, Nguyen’s parents left their homeland for Toronto where they settled and still remain.
Born in Toronto, the 27-year-old was trained at Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts. He got his first break as a dancer in 2010, when he collaborated with famous YouTuber Lilly Singh, who currently has more than 14.9 million subscribers, and music star Shawn Mendes. “Dance was my full-time passion. When I landed my first acting role as a series lead in Nickelodeon’s Make it Pop! I discovered I also had a love for film and television,” Nguyen said. The heart of this talented man since then has always had space for two passions: dancing and acting. Nguyen recently appeared in the fantasy hip hop series Utopia Falls on Hulu and CBC.
Eat as Vietnamese. Speak as Vietnamese.
As a second generation Vietnamese-Canadian, Nguyen has a special fondness for Vietnam because of its culture. He loves Saigon’s breathtaking beauty, which he usually doesn’t get to experience when living in Toronto. “I’m constantly in awe of my hometown, and I can’t wait to go back to visit.”
Meals cooked by a Vietnamese mother are not only delicious but are also full of affection. Home meal culture has always been preserved in his family. “One of the things I love the most about my mom is her traditional Vietnamese cooking. I get the most excited when she makes Bánh Xèo, which is basically a meaty Vietnamese crepe,” explained Nguyen. Even his beverage of choice is Vietnamese. “My utmost favourite drink would be Sinh Tố Sầu Riêng, which is a durian milkshake,” he said. Durian has a very strong odor and isn’t for everyone, but it’s a favorite in Southeast Asia. “I don’t care what people think. It is the king of fruits,” he said with a laugh.
The Nguyens understood that speaking Vietnamese is important when it comes to honoring a family’s origins. “It is one of the things I am most grateful for. I think everyone should keep their family’s traditions and culture.”
Growing up in a country where the official language is English, Nguyen wondered why he had to learn Vietnamese. He wasn’t too happy about it, but his parents kept encouraging him to learn the language. “Looking back on it now, I’m happy that they enforced that because I’m able to keep the culture that they grew up with and continue to practice it.”
The love of the Vietnamese family
Before becoming a professional dancer, Nguyen wanted to become a doctor as per his parents’ wish. Back then, the arts were just a hobby. But then he decided to do it professionally.
His father had always supported anything that would allow Nguyen to feel proud of the outcomes that come from it, as long as he persists and consistently works hard to become a better version of himself. Unfortunately, he passed away due to lung cancer when Nguyen was 14 but his teachings and influence have always motivated the actor to this day. His mother was extremely anxious about her son’s career path, but supported his decision. She wanted to ensure he could return to medical school in case the arts didn’t work out.
“When she began to see how much of a career I had made with dance and then the success from acting afterward, she was really proud. That was the best feeling ever.”
Being on the road a lot, Nguyen takes full advantage of opportunities while he is in Toronto to see family. Plus, he calls home whenever he is away.
In a Vietnamese family, affection is an invisible string that ties the members together. “Even though the filming process can be a bit overwhelming at times, the work feels seamless because I know that they’re always there for me,” said Nguyen.
Dancing and acting, two inseparable passions
Nguyen teaches dance every week at multiple studios all around the city when there is no filming schedule. He dedicates to guide the young people who come to his class and is inspired when he sees his students making progress.
Does he feel more strongly about dance than acting? “I don’t think one excites me more than the other, but if there’s a project that involves both, that’s when I get really excited,” Nguyen said.
When cast as the star in Utopia Falls, Nguyen couldn’t believe it. When he was a child, it seemed that only Thuy Trang, who played Golden Superman in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, was of Asian descent. It was a huge leap forward for the film industry to give him this opportunity. “I am glad this industry is beginning to diversify,” he commented. During the filming of Utopia Falls, Nguyen once terrified other actors with a ghostly prank. When he was waiting for his scene and everyone else was busy shooting, Nguyen snuck into the other actors’ trailers and stuffed their clothes with pillows. He sat them in chairs and snuck back out. “Then, I just waited to hear all the screams. At first glance, they thought someone was sitting in their trailer,” Nguyen recounted with a chuckle.
When asked about the key to success in the entertainment field, Nguyen was thoughtful. “I think what’s really important in this industry is to have a lot of self love. We’re always our own worst critic, aiming to be perfect.”
Patience and allowing himself to make mistakes, and learn from them, is also important.
What is his advice to other Asian-Canadians who want to follow in his footsteps? “No matter what, trust in your path. It is personal and is bound to turn left and right at times, but you need to trust those turns are for the better.”
Does he plan to join the Vietnamese entertainment industry? Nguyen said that his mother and the whole family really wanted and supported this. He grew up watching the Vietnamese musical variety series Paris By Night and appearing in this famous show is a dream he’d like to realize in the next five years.
Nguyen also hopes to participate in Marvel/DC Universe projects and present a TedTalk on being an Asian artist. Finally, he hopes to be able to continue looking after his mother and sister in the coming years. After all, it’s family that helped him get where he is today.
This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt