Surround yourself with a team that loves you. What I mean by that is this: find people who respect you as a person, understand your goals, and have your best interest at heart. They’ll go the extra mile and do whatever it takes to help you accomplish them.
As a part of our series about creating a successful career in TV and Film, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Khoe.
Jennifer Khoe stars as “Xiao” on the CW network’s “Kung Fu,” a modern reimagining of the classic TV series starring the late David Carradine, now in its third season.
Her TV credits also include recurring roles on “The Rehearsal” (HBO Max), “Keeping Up with the Joneses” (Lifetime) opposite Vivica A. Fox, and “Superman & Lois” (CW). Additionally, Khoe has starred in several popular TV movies including “A Dangerous Defense” (Lifetime Movie Network) and “Game, Set, Love” (Hallmark Channel).
A Canadian/American, Khoe has homes in Vancouver and Los Angeles.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I am a second-generation Chinese Canadian and the proud product of two wonderful human beings. My parents are both of Chinese descent, but my father was born in Indonesia and my mother in Connecticut. I was born in Edmonton, Alberta and grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, and have wonderful memories of both amazing places. As a kid, I played tennis which led to being recruited to play for the women’s team at the University of California, San Diego. I stayed in Southern California after graduation and now split my time between Los Angeles and Vancouver. It’s truly the best of both worlds.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I wish there was something more “substantive” to say here, but the truth is, it started when I was chosen to play a “robot” in kindergarten. Aside from the deep character development work that role required, ahem, I fell in love with the stage. After that experience, I was always asking my teachers if I could perform skits and dance routines in class. In third grade, I even asked if I could be in the sixth-grade play. Yes, I was a girl who knew what she wanted. It is at this moment I would like to thank all my supportive and extremely patient teachers. If they hadn’t so kindly indulged me, I’m not sure I’d be talking to you right now, at least as an actress.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Earlier this year, I played a tennis player in a Hallmark Channel movie called “Game, Set, Love”. If that’s not “life imitating art,” I don’t know what is! It was directed by the incredible Jessica Harmon who we all know as “Niylah” from “The 100” TV series, but she’s also a prolific and terrific director. Our wonderful leads were Davida Williams and Richard Harmon. But it also turned out, and to my complete surprise, the tennis consultant on the movie was my former coach, the amazing Ryan Clark. That was a wonderful reunion. A real full-circle moment.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
As an actor, I’ve been fortunate to work with some very talented makeup artists. In fact, sometimes you feel so great when you leave the set, you don’t want to remove the makeup. And one day, I didn’t. Even when I went to bed. Big mistake. When I woke up, I had a massive stye. It was like the planet Jupiter had landed on my face — truly gross. When I arrived back at the set, they pretty much turned me around and sent me home. Long story short, wash your face!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I play “Xiao” on the CW network’s “Kung Fu.” It’s a modern reimagining of the classic TV series starring the late David Carradine. Our series, now in its third season, was developed by the fantastic Christina M. Kim. One of the most exciting things has been working with a predominantly Asian cast including Olivia Liang, Kheng Hua Tan, Eddie Liu, Shannon Dang, and celebrated veteran actor Tzi Ma. This is the first time I’ve worked on a project that has featured so many Asian actors and creators. The energy is contagious from the moment I step on set until we wrap for the day.
You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Being an actor is just like being an athlete: You don’t become an Olympian overnight. It takes years of dedication and preparation. This craft is a process, so respect it as such. It will take time so don’t quit! We need you.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
The pioneers who came before us faced countless, sometimes unthinkable challenges to enable our presence on sets today. Diversity in film and television is important because it ensures their efforts don’t go to waste. Representation also diversifies content. Different faces, bodies, and so on might be the creative spark needed by production teams behind the scenes to make something they hadn’t otherwise thought to bring to life — with respect to cultures and stories, of course. Finally, representation shatters stereotypes that have been around for generations. It’s important to portray minorities for who they are — real people with real feelings and emotions.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- You’ll hear a lot of “no’s” before you get one “yes”. When I started, I had no idea how difficult it would be to break into the industry. Determination and a willingness to put in the work are must-haves.
- Protect your spirit and give yourself permission to say, “no”. Work hard, yes, but don’t overwork yourself and think you need to take on every project. Listen to that small inner voice.
- When one door closes, find another one. Persistence is key in this industry.
- Take a vacation. Please, take a break from the race. Decompress and give yourself time to process what’s happening. It will make you more present in auditions and on a set.
- Surround yourself with a team that loves you. What I mean by that is this: find people who respect you as a person, understand your goals, and have your best interest at heart. They’ll go the extra mile and do whatever it takes to help you accomplish them.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Measure your success in progress, not accomplishments. I mean it. Measure the progress you make by each week, and then each month, the year, and so on. This is all part of practicing a growth mindset. Even the small wins matter in the grand scheme of your career as an actor. Second, find balance in your life. Take up other activities, be with friends, and find support outside of acting; for you as a person.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Pay it forward. Whatever you can, however you can. I truly believe that paying it forward can induce kindness and make the world a better place.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mother has been my cheerleader since day one. She’s seen me go through the ups and downs of the industry and has always been there. She’s even the best self-tape audition partner and has come to my rescue more times than I can count! Truly, my collaborator in every sense of the word. Whenever I call her with a crazy idea, she’s not only encouraging, but ready to join in.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be”. Reminding myself to slow down keeps me in the present and grounded. It’s a reminder that the best things in life take work and time.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Reese Witherspoon! What an extraordinary woman. I really admire her in so many ways. Give me a time and place and I’m there.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow me on Instagram and twitter @jennkhoe
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Jennifer Khoe On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in TV and Film was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.