Phi Huynh is a 30-year old Vietnamese-Canadian actor, who was born in Toronto (Etobicoke). When he was 14 years old, he was chosen by singer Ngoc Huyen for a Cai Luong segment involving martial arts that was performed on the stage of Asia 45: My Nhan Ngu. He graduated from the Specialized Honors B.A. Theatre program at York University in 2011. His background includes traditional karate Shorin-Ryu, competitive gymnastics, tumbling, and stunt training. He was recently nominated for Best Emerging Male Actor 2019 at the Canada China International Film Festival – Montreal 2019 for his role in Picking Things Up: Noi Lai Tinh Xua. The film was directed by Celine Tsai, and executively produced and written by Phi. He has also had various network television principal roles in V-wars (Netflix), Titans (Warner Bros.), 2nd Generation (Amazon Prime TV), Salvation (SYFY), The Next Step S.3, Mayday Air Crash Investigation (Discovery) and Heroes Reborn (NBC). “I dream to inspire and entertain Western audiences, and bring Vietnamese representation to Hollywood,” says Phi.
You have just finished a speaking role in Titans. Can you tell us about this experience?
I had the opportunity to play a small character in an episode of Season two of Titans. It involved speaking as well as fighting. I was one of the bad guys, trying to fight the super heroes. Titans is based on a DC comic book and is famous so I had to portray the right type of ‘bad’ guy to the audience. It was truly a life changing experience working with the star actors. In this generation, super heroes are a big deal for the film and TV industry so I took my work very seriously. Titans is streamed on Netflix.
What has it been like to be an actor?
I am an actor as well as an action performer. When starting out, I didn’t have many role models or mentors to teach me how to get into the business. I also wasn’t born into a family of artists, I had to learn everything on my own. I was a kid who had a big dream and made his own goals and worked hard to achieve them. I train at the gym, study, eat and live the lifestyle of an actor. It is not easy, but very rewarding. It is one of the hardest jobs to get hired for as well as maintain. I have an agent and a manager who help me, but I am the one who has to work hard at the acting auditions to get the job. You cannot “try” out acting, you have to commit to it or you will not succeed. I wake up, go to acting classes, then go to train at the gym to keep in shape, go to casting calls, learn my lines and prepare for the next day as well as keep part-time jobs. When you do get hired, you work for 12-16-hour days on a film set.
What are the most difficult and important factors to face at a casting call?
Try not to take everything personally. You can try your best and that’s all you can really do. You have to move onto the next audition if they don’t hire you. Sometimes you can be the best actor in the casting room, but they are looking for a six-foot-three muscular guy. For a Vietnamese actor, it is very hard because often western writers look for actors of Chinese, Japanese or Korean descent. I like to show that there is Vietnamese talent.
What does your family think of this job?
Initially my parents weren’t happy, but they know that their son is stubborn and hard headed. They also know that I’ve invested so many years of my life into performing and acting that I cannot turn back. They see the joy when I get hired for a job and recently, in the past three years, I have been able to make a good living just by acting and action performing.
Let talk about the feature film you are writing. Are you planning to film it in Vietnam?
I recently came back to Toronto from the Viet Film Fest 2019 in Los Angeles. That film festival has inspired me to go back to Vietnam to film a feature. Why? Because I want to stick to my Vietnamese roots. I can’t reveal the details yet but it has to do with my own experiences as a Viet Kieu. Living life in Canada as a Vietnamese is very different than being Vietnamese in Vietnam. I want to create a story that shows the beauty of Vietnam while bringing the cultural differences together. I am looking for producers to come aboard to help with finances and, yes, I would love to cast local actors in Vietnam. My dream is to work with Vietnamese directors such as Charlie Nguyen and Victor Vu who have helped pave the way for Vietnamese talent.
As a Vietnamese Canadian, what do you think about Vietnamese culture?
I grew up in a very multicultural neighbourhood with barely any Vietnamese. I didn’t have many Vietnamese friends growing up, but I always knew how to speak the language with the help of my parents. I don’t think that being a Canadian Vietnamese I am any less Vietnamese than anyone from Vietnam. In life, we all live different experiences and in this short span, it is more important to experience what life has to offer us. That is why I would love to go back and film in Vietnam. I’m proud to say, “Toi la nguoi Vietnam, Toi la nguoi dien vien.”
Inspire me with more Vietnamese stories, culture and friendships. I want to meet all of you and learn more about Vietnamese lives in Vietnam. I want to know what you go through. Let’s exchange stories so I can include this in my feature film. Support me as I will support you. Don’t be afraid to be an artist, I’ve done it. You can do it, too.
I am working on my YouTube channel, Phinex Pictures, and am looking to meet Vietnamese filmmakers/artists in order to collaborate on more short films. Connect and follow me on my Instagram @mr_phinex.
This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt