Interview with Donald Heng
(Photos via Promotion People)
1. I know you, but some people may not.
So could you please introduce yourself to the world?
"My name is Donald Heng and I am an actor born and raised in Vancouver, Canada. My parents immigrated to Vancouver from France, where they were refugees there for 7 years as they escaped a war-torn Cambodia. I have a young 10-week old son named James and a pug named Sophie."
2. What was your first job in the entertainment industry?
Also, what did you do before that?
"I started in the entertainment industry as a background performer. For about 3-4 years I worked as an extra as well as in a coffee shop. I’ve also bartended and worked for Statistics Canada. My first job as an actor was on a Disney T.V movie called, “Girl Vs. Monster”. And I finally booked that after auditioning for close to 3 years I would say."
3. Did you study acting before getting into the industry?
"I sort of enrolled myself into an acting class around the same time I got an agent. Before that all happened, I was completing my bachelors degree and was stuck in a time period where I knew I needed to get an agent in order to book roles but was under the impression that I needed a resume in order to get myself an agent. So I wasted a few years with this idea in my head, and never took action until I was nearly done my degree."
4. If you could work with anyone you'd want,
who would that person be and why?
"Tom Hanks has been my favorite actor for a couple decades so he’s the first one that comes to mind. Not only do I respect his work but I respect his public persona more than any other actor that comes to mind. If we’re talking directors, then it’s probably Spielberg because his movies are so much a part of my childhood. I remember being a young kid when my father came home from seeing Saving Private Ryan, and told me all about it and how riveting he thought it was. I didn’t watch it until it came out on video and I was pretty young. I was definitely under 10 years old when I saw that movie and it’s one of those movies that I will watch when I see it on TV."
5. What does a normal day in your life looks like?
"Life has changed quite a bit in the past couple months with my newborn child. So a normal day is a lot different than what it was just a few months back. Some days my son will sleep great and I can get up early. Other days, he will have a party from 11pm-5am and I won’t truly get to bed til 5am. No matter the kind of day though, my life heavily consists of cooking, some form of exercise, and T.V to go along with the mountain of diapers my child goes through in a day."
6. Where is your favorite place to be and why?
"In general, I’m a bit of a homebody. But I’m also a huge foodie so I want to say a restaurant. I do a lot of things that I don’t necessarily like to do; cleaning, exercise, etc... But I have to say, of all the necessary things I have to do, my favorite place to be is in the kitchen. Cooking and baking are a huge part of my life and I think the reasons for why I love it are quite similar for why I love acting. The idea of borrowing from things that have influenced you and then creating your own from scratch, and then being able to share those experiences with people is something I take great joy in. "
7. If you could, what would be the one advice
you would want to give to your younger self?
"I’d tell myself early on that I am not nearly as good as I think I am. I think ego is the biggest thing that drowns an actor. And that overconfidence was something that kept me from continually learning at times. I’d get comfortable in certain acting classes and stay there even though I wasn’t learning anymore. I got too comfortable and stopped challenging myself for a while. Now, the more I learn and the more I know, I see that there is even more to learn as I discover more things that I don’t know. I’ve come to the realization that it’s a journey that never ends and if you think you’re done learning, you’re wrong."
8. What is one of the best advice that you've got?
Who was the person that gave it to you?
"One of my first acting teachers told me that an acting career was a marathon, not a sprint. I definitely echo that advice; anyone who wants to pursue this career better be in love with it and be okay with the long haul."
9. What is your biggest accomplishment so far?
"The biggest accomplishment really is the fact that I’m still doing what I’m doing. I think its a huge testament to any actor out there who is still grinding it out everyday with no guarantee of any modicum of success. Behind every booking is truly tens of auditions which in turn are each worth hours of work. Not only is that work completely unpaid, but usually at a cost. So my respect for actors have definitely grown throughout my career. At the same time, I do see how darn lucky I am to be able to play make belief for a living. It’s crazy when I think about it sometimes. The kind of work that people actually have to do for money and the fact that I’m able to make a living just pretending to be someone else on TV/Films."
10. f you could book any role in the next years to come,
what would that dream role be?
"There have been several opportunities over the last few years that I’ve auditioned to play Bruce Lee in different projects. That would absolutely be a dream come true if it ever happened. I’m also an enormous fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so any role in that world would also be fantastic."
11. You have recent roles on Two Sentence Horror Stories and The Sinner,
can you tell us more about the characters you play?
"In Two Sentence Horror Stories, I play a character named Christian in the episode entitled “Plant Life”. Christian is in a relationship with his boyfriend Ben, but the issue is that Christian seems to be in a stronger relationship with his work. After Ben gifts Christian a mysterious plant for their anniversary, it begins to affect Christian in unexpected ways. For those who haven’t seen Two Sentence Horror Stories, it’s an anthological series where each episode is a different story with a different cast. I like to describe it as ‘Goosebumps for adults.’
For The Sinner, spoiler alert! I can’t really describe my character without completely ruining the season for you as my mere existance clues you into the ending. I play “Bo Lam”, the son of fishing family who are rivals to the “Muldoons”. In the season opener, Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) witnesses Percy Muldoon (Alice Kremelberg) jump off a cliff and the Lam family members are suspects intermittently throughout the season. My character doesn’t appear until the final episode and in many ways, ties up all the loose ends and answers all the questions that linger throughout the season."
12. You work on a number of TV series,
do you have any special stories or experiences to share?
Any roles stand out?
"They’re really all pretty fun. The Sinner was real fun to shoot as I got to spend 3 weeks out in Nova Scotia, which I’ve never done up to that point. I got to work with some incredible actors along the way. One of the best stories I can tell however, is working with Vincent D’Onofrio on Ghost Wars. He was going out for a smoke break and asked a few of us actors whether we wanted to have a cigar with him. All I could mutter in between my stutter was... “uh… um... uh yeah I’ll uh… I’ll do some.” And he looked at me funny and said, “Do some? It’s not drugs, just a cigar.” I’d never put a cigar in my mouth at that point but I wasn’t going to miss out on having a cigar with Vincent D’Onofrio. I didn’t even know you weren’t supposed to inhale the smoke! I took about 2 drags? 2 puffs? Whatever the correct vernacular is and gave up after that. "
13. What is the best part about life on set?
"Honestly, all of it is good. None of it really feels like work. There can be a lot of downtime. Meeting new people is fun. Working with people who inspire you is great. And of course, the crafty (snack) truck is most people’s favorite."
14. What is your favorite part of your job and why?
"Oddly enough, I enjoy the dark moments. Moments where I can use my real life experiences and make art of it is most fulfilling. I think acting is one of the only careers out there where no matter what happens to you, no matter how bad the experience is; there is that moment of a thin silver lining where I think to myself... “God that sucks… Well... at least I can use this for acting.”"
15. How is your job different now, during the pandemic?
Did it change the vibe around set?
"It’s changed quite a bit actually. The auditioning process has moved almost completely online. In the past, with in-person auditions, you didn’t have much flexibility in terms of when you had to go in to audition. You really had to plan your life around it. There’s been a few times where I’d be off camping a few hours from town when I receive an audition and I’d have to immediately change my plans and drive back 3 hours for that 3 mins in the audition room.
With everything moved online, we typically get about 2 days to submit a tape. We are afforded the flexibility of doing that on our own time as long as it is submitted before the deadline. However, the work load has increased in that we are now responsible for taping it ourselves, editing, and sending it out. Furthermore, being able to get feedback from casting on a regular basis is also one of the things that we’ve lost in the pandemic, and that can be valuable.
Most sets have been pretty stringent in enforcing Covid-19 protocols and I personally don’t think the vibe has changed much."
16. What other roles do you have coming out this year?
"I have two feature films that are expected to be released in the second quarter of 2022. The first is a black comedy film called American Dreamer starring Peter Dinklage, Matt Dillon, Shirley MacLaine, Kimberley Quinn, and Danny Glover amongst an impressive cast. I play Dr. Berton and I had all my scenes with Peter Dinklage which was a real highlight of my career. I think he was most people’s favourite character on Game of Thrones, including mine, and it was a bit of a starstruck moment being able to meet and work with him.
The second film that is expected to release around the same time is a biographical film entitled Sight starring Terry Chen and Greg Kinnear. It tells the story of the world’s most influential eye surgeon, he has notably performed surgery on tens of thousands of patients including Dolly Parton. The story flashes between the past and present-time, following Ming as a young boy through his adolescene as he is guided by his father and also follows his journey as he seeks to revolutionize the methods for how doctors restore sight to their patients. I play Dr. Ming Wang’s young father, Zhensheng, in the flashback scenes where they lived through a tumultuous and unpredictable China in the 1960’s-1970’s."
17. In the end, is there anything you'd like to say to the people who support you?
"Thanks for the support and for following my work. Feel free to follow me on Instagram @hengdonald. For any aspiring actors who have more in-depth questions, I encourage you to drop me a DM and I will answer your questions as best as possible."
Donald Heng is an actor, best known for his work on projects like: The 100, Virgin River, Two Sentence Horror Stories, Beverly Hills Wedding, Just My Type, The Murders, The Flash, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Ghost Wars, Supernatural, Van Helsing etc.
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