Jing-Xuan Chan is a dynamic actor who’s worked in the Australian film, television, and theatre scene for a number of years. Degree-qualified from the Victorian College of Arts, she brings to each role a brilliantly captivating energy alongside her signature knack for humour.
We’ve seen Chan in television productions, like Dirt Game (2008), City Homicide (2009), and most recently, in this season’s The Family Law, where she plays Danny Law’s new love interest, Ming-zhu. She’s also appeared in a number of short films which have featured in national and international film festivals, and is currently a guest actor in the theatre production, Incognito.
Magdalene H. speaks with Jing-Xuan Chan about what it’s really like in the Australian film industry as an Asian-Australian actor, the challenges of working across different mediums, and Chan’s present and future projects.
Magdalene H: How did you first start out in acting?
Jing-Xuan Chan: I first developed an interest for acting in high school. We had a strong drama department and I was involved in various school productions and eisteddfods.
M: You’ve previously played roles in both theatre and film, including Corrie Chen’s short films, Happy Country (2009), and Wonderboy (2010), as well as Burrow (2013). When you compare film and theatre, what are the challenges and highlights of each?
J: I enjoy working in both mediums, but they do present different challenges. There are more technical demands when you’re working for the camera, but there is also the luxury of being able to do multiple takes in a scene. I find that theatre requires more stamina, but it is incredibly satisfying as an actor to tell a story from beginning to end, and there is also something very special about the shared experience with an audience who is right there in the space with you.
M: In recent years we’ve heard the term ‘white washing’, in regards to challenges faced by Asian actors in Hollywood. Relative to this, how would you describe the acting scene in Australia?
J: It’s been really encouraging to see that the Australian industry has taken a step forward in terms of diversity in the last couple of years, even though there is still a long way to go. I get such a thrill seeing the diversity of talent in shows like Newton’s Law, Pulse, Here Come the Habibs, Redfern Now, and The Family Law. Similarly, on the main stages of the Sydney Theatre Company, Malthouse, and La Boite this year.
M: Have you ever personally experienced anything similar to whitewashing in your time as an actor?
J: Fortunately, I’ve had quite a positive experience working as an Asian-Australian actor, and I hope that the local industry continues in its commitment to telling the stories of Australians from all backgrounds.
M: You’re currently working on the production Incognito, which incorporates the talent of four individual actors playing 21 roles between them. Can you describe how this has impacted the dynamic of the production as a whole?
J: It has been an absolute joy working on Nick Payne’s masterful text, and this has probably been the most stretched and challenged I’ve ever been as an actor. I think it will be a real delight for audiences to follow the story, piece it all together for themselves, and to watch actors transform several times within one show. As exciting as it is to experience a play in this clever and unconventional form, the content remains incredibly thought-provoking and there is a whole lot of heart to it.
M: And how this has challenged you as an actor?
J: Playing multiple roles, tackling different accents and jumping back and forth between different storylines – all within the same play – has been a beautiful challenge. It’s required me to think very fast – if I switch off for even a split second, the ball drops. Luckily, I’m surrounded by enormously talented fellow actors, and as an ensemble we have been wonderfully guided and supported by our amazing directors Ella Caldwell and Brett Cousins.
M: Incognito’s playing until 13 August, 2017. What other roles can we expect to see you in after this?
J: You can spot me in series 2 of The Family Law on SBS, which is currently airing, and I’ll be working with the Melbourne Theatre Company in the not too distant future. Other than that, I’m looking forward to seeing what fun projects might come my way!
M: Finally, where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
J: Gosh, I have no idea what life will bring ten years down the line, but I’m eager and excited to find out!