Don’t overthink, and just do it. You’ll never be fully ready, and nothing is perfect, especially in art.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dave Jia.
Dave Jia is a Chinese-American actor who was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Besides acting in films and television shows, he also loves to shoot comedy videos for his TikTok page.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in Brooklyn, but at that time, my parents were new immigrants who were struggling, so they sent me to China to live with my grandparents, uncles, and aunts who all took care of me until I was 4 years ago. By then, my parents had a more stable financial situation, so my relatives sent me back to my parents, who were now living in the suburbs of Philly. Because of this unique upbringing, I didn’t meet my parents until I was 4!
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I’ve had a few interesting stories, but here’s one that happened recently: I was shooting a scene where my character had just been severely injured. The makeup artist did a great job making my face look beaten and bruised. My clothes were covered in fake blood and dirt as well. Anyways, as I was being driven to the filming location, we quickly stopped at a nearby gas station, and I got out of the car to stretch my legs. Suddenly, two police officers pulled up behind us with their lights flashing. One of them came up to me and was like, “Sir, are you okay??? Do you need us to take you to the hospital?” And I had to explain to them that it was all fake makeup for a film shoot. We laughed it off and they left shortly afterwards, but for a moment they seemed really concerned and panicked.
It has been said that 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?
Years ago, when I was starting out, I stayed up for 2 nights straight for filming, and I probably wouldn’t ever do that again. At the time, I was working as the stand-in double for Ken Jeong on the film Ride Along 2, and we had a bunch of back-to-back night shoots. Around that time though, I had also auditioned for the TV series South Beach Tow, and their casting director called saying that they wanted me to play a character on the show. However, the filming would coincidentally take place in the daytime in-between my night shoots. I initially turned down their offer, but later they called me back saying that the production was willing to film my scenes first and then let me leave early. They were pretty persistent so finally I agreed. Needless to say, I was exhausted. Despite how much coffee I was chugging, I kept dozing off in my trailer during the breaks. Luckily, the footage turned out great, and you can’t tell from my performances that I was in the middle of a 36-hour all-nighter.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Unfortunately, I can’t speak much publicly about the projects that I am currently working on. However, I can say that I have roles in 4 feature films that will be released in the next year or so. Also, I recently starred in and helped produce a crime thriller project, called DarkEx. The plan is to submit it to film festivals and pitch it to a few networks to sell it as a TV series.
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?
My biggest advice for aspiring actors is to get good training. There’s a popular misconception that “it’s all about who you know.” And while there is certainly some truth to this statement, I think the craft of acting is often overlooked. Back when I was in middle school, I played football, and our team would practice 3 hours every day, and when I was learning to play guitar, I would practice 5 hours every day. Acting shouldn’t be any different.
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?
Growing up as an Asian person in the US, I was frequently bullied and left out, simply because of my race. I think a big reason for that is a lack of understanding. And since the media has such a tremendous influence in shaping how people view the world, having more diversity represented in film and TV could help encourage more understanding, which I believe in turn would help reduce discrimination. Secondly, people from different backgrounds naturally have different upbringings, perspectives, and ideas, so when we give people of different backgrounds the opportunities to tell their personal stories, we’ll end up having more content that is more varied and unique. And finally, our world is inherently diverse. Since films and shows are reflections of life, having diversity would make those stories more realistic.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Don’t overthink, and just do it. You’ll never be fully ready, and nothing is perfect, especially in art.
- Always be training. If you’re not on set, you should be taking acting classes, rehearsing with friends, practicing at home, etc.
- Make your own content. Instead of waiting for opportunities, go out and create them yourself.
- Don’t take every advice. Especially in a field where everyone’s paths are different, not every piece of advice will be applicable to your journey.
- Create a work/life balance. There will always be more work to do, so be sure to sometimes take time for yourself to help you not burn out.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Have some hobbies! Life isn’t just about working, so whenever you have the free time, you should unwind — whatever that might mean for you.
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. 🙂
Kindness. It’s so simple. It doesn’t cost anything. It doesn’t take any time. I wish everyone would just be more kind to each other.
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 dad. When I first told him that I was going to act professionally, he wasn’t a fan of the idea, and like many other parents, he’d rather see me pursue a career in maybe medicine or law. But over time, he accepted my choice and started becoming more and more supportive, which I feel very grateful about.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When I was 12 years old, I started taking guitar lessons with Michael Kelly Smith, who was one of the founding members of the bands Cinderella and Britny Fox. He’s an amazing musician and an amazing teacher. One time he said something that I’ll never forget, “The first half of learning is learning everything, and the second half of learning is forgetting everything.” I think this is true for more than just learning guitar. When you’re brand new at something, there are countless techniques and theories to learn, but as you become more proficient, you begin to gain the wisdom of knowing which “rules” you can break and how they can be broken. This is where most innovation is born.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Edgar Wright. He’s one of my favorite directors. I love his visual storytelling style. It’s so unique. He’s truly a master of his craft. I’d love to grab food with him and just bond over filmmaking and stories!
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Rising Music Star Dave Jia On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.