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Hymnson Chan

6th June 2024

Digital Editor & Interview: Pankhuri Bhutani

Photography: Jason Rivera

You might know this talent from his impeccable performance in the final installment of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" alongside Larry David as his iconic nemesis in HBO's latest offering. Currently under the massive spotlight, Hymnson Chan is no stranger to Hollywood. 

Establishing himself as one of the most sought-after stunts-double within the landscape, Chan's phenomenal work can be witnessed from doubling for renowned creatives in the industry including Randall Park, Ken Jeong, Jimmy O. Yang and Nico Santos, to name a few. 

His widely-loved performance within stunts has appeared in several blockbuster hits including that of "Bullet Train", "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen", alongside several popular television series such as "The Brothers Sun", "Snowfall", "The Rookie", "American Horror Story" and "Shameless".

His artistic talent also bagged him several outstanding accolades; most memorably a SAG Award for his stunt work in Marvel’s blockbuster project, "Avengers: Endgame". 

Besides stunts, Hymnson has also branched out his talents to showcase his versatility and diverse range as an actor- being involved in a plethora of fan-favorite projects including that of, "I Think You Should Leave", "Grey's Anatomy", "Kidding", "Shameless", "Key & Peele" and "Jane The Virgin" alongside Syfy’s "Underlings". 

We recently had a chat with the wonderful Hymnson Chan about how he initially paved his way into Hollywood, the significance he holds for diversity in this industry, discussing more about how the usual behind-the-scenes of his stunts go upon, and delving into several other significant insights pertaining to his professional journey.

Hi there Hymnson. Thank you for joining us on ReVamp! How are you doing?

Feeling blessed, another day of living the dream in Hollywood! Thanks for having me.

I would love to start this interview by asking you what it was really that brought you closer to this landscape of stunts and entertainment?

There were so many influences, dreams, and unforeseen life twists that led me to a career in entertainment, but I don't think we have the time to go through it all. The short answer, though, is that I was exhausted of seeing how Asian people were being portrayed in TV & film because every stereotype or slur I encountered growing up was based on something or someone on TV. Even though he was a childhood hero, being called "Jackie Chan" became an offensive nickname. But watching my Dad preach at Church every Sunday, I learned firsthand the power of storytelling/media and how it can change people's lives, so Hollywood became my calling.

From being a phenomenal stunt double for renowned talents such as Randall Park, Ken Jeong, Jimmy O. Yang, and Nico Santos, amongst many others, what, according to you, has been the most memorable moment of your professional journey so far?

A moment that blew my mind was when I got to stunt double Ken Jeong, and when I went to introduce myself, Ken already knew who I was! He remembered me from an episode of "Community" years ago that I was in. Although we weren't in any scenes together, he said he really loved how I played the role and that it really made him and his daughters laugh when they watched me.

I honestly didn't know how to respond because I grew up a fan of Ken's! Even before The Hangover, I loved his stand-up comedy and would watch him on BET's Comic View (secretly because I wasn't allowed to stay up that late as a kid), so that moment was very validating as a performer and a memory I'll always cherish. Not to mention, Ken is such a humble and terrific person that it's inspiring to see such big stars remain kind and grounded human beings.

You were also recently seen alongside the wonderful Larry David as his nemesis in the highly- successful project 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'. Talk to me more about how you initially got to be a part of this project.

I got my role on "Curb" because of nepotism. Larry David is actually my father. I'm just kidding!! I wish it was that easy, but I booked it the old-fashioned way through auditioning. I got the audition from Allison Jones Casting over a weekend, shot my audition with the help of my wife, and sent it off to Casting on Monday morning. Then, a few days later, I got the good news that I booked it! I actually got the call from my manager during my birthday dinner, so that's going to be a hard gift to the top for future birthdays.

What was your experience like on the first day of the set, as well as meeting your fellow co-stars and crew for the first time?

My first day started off with a little bit of nervousness because you have no idea what's about to be thrown at you, and you're worried if you're going to be able to keep up with legendary funny guys like Larry David,

Richard Lewis and Vince Vaughn. But once the cameras started rolling, I settled in quickly with the cast and felt right at home. It was almost an out-of-body experience because I immediately had such terrific chemistry with Larry that our banter and bickering flowed naturally, so it was easy to lose myself in the role. Our scenes would run for 5-10 minutes straight and were filled with so many hilarious moments that the Editors definitely had their work cut out for them. I would LOVE to see all those outtakes!

Do you remember your first impressions of your character when you were initially offered the script? Did those perceptions somehow evolve by the end of your shooting as you got a better grasp of your character?

I was apprehensive about the role at first because I had to do a Chinese accent. It can be a triggering thing for a lot of Asian audiences and actors because, for a long time, an Asian accent was used as a way to mock Asians for the sake of a laugh. However, an important factor in accepting the role was the realization that the joke works because of the accent, but the joke isn't about the accent. So that was an important distinction for me and really gave license to my creative juices to flow freely and not be worried about that. My character became a fleshed-out human being with a specific mindset and personality and wasn't afraid to take on Larry head-to-head. He just happened to have an accent.

For the people who are yet to be tuned into this phenomenal project, what can you tell us about your character and the overall plotline for this latest season of the show?

Everyone needs to go binge this final season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" iiiiiiimmediately! Larry and my character build up a rivalry that spans over a couple of episodes, but it initially gets sparked by a very unusual but "classic Larry" type of situation that involves a struggling goldfish. Of course, things escalate, and hilarity ensues, but it actually leads Larry to a philosophical epiphany in one episode, and then in another episode, our run-in leads to a very embarrassing moment for Larry.

So if you haven't seen those episodes yet, I highly recommend them! They're "pretty... pretty...pretty good." Sorry, I couldn't resist.

You've also won a SAG Award for your stunt work in 'Marvel's Avengers: Endgame'. First of all, massive congratulations on this sensational accolade! What was your reaction like when you realized you were about to be bestowed upon this honorable title?

Thank you! It was a surreal experience and such an honor, but I don't like taking any credit for that win. There was such an incredible team brought together to make it happen, and I was just a small piece of the puzzle. So, props to the core stunt team for letting me ride their coattails, haha. But truthfully, it is a career highlight to be a part of one of the biggest and highest-grossing movies of all time, and it is still one of my favorite stunt jobs to date. If it wasn't for James Cameron re-releasing "Avatar," then "Avengers Endgame" would still be the #1 highest-grossing movie of all time! ;)

Who were your personal inspirations growing up? If given an opportunity, is there anyone specific on your radar that you would absolutely love to work with in the future?

I grew up the biggest Jackie Chan fan ever, and I still am. He's been such an inspiration and so influential on my career and childhood that I would absolutely love to work with Jackie one day. Hands down, he's probably the only person I'd get starstruck over. But I realized that I was really lucky to grow up watching Hong Kong cinema with stars like Jackie, Jet Li, Stephen Chow, Sammo Hung, and Chow Yun Fat because it was the only time I ever saw an Asian male on screen as heroic, funny, charismatic and badass.

We are witnessing a massive change within entertainment as much more prominence is currently being given to diversity, not just for the sake of it but to allow distinct perceptions and novel representations to come under the spotlight. Being someone who has made such a huge mark in this industry, what, according to you, is the significance of diversity in Hollywood?

Social media, TV, and film are the most powerful tools we have in shaping and influencing people's perspectives. Promoting more diversity in Hollywood and storytelling allows audiences to look more authentically into cultures and communities that they'd otherwise be clueless about. When you're only fed one stereotype about a certain community, that becomes your only impression of them, and that's not fair to anyone. We all have more in common than not, and Hollywood has the power to show those commonalities through different perspectives and hopefully create more empathy and empowerment in the world.

I have to ask you about your favourite on-set/off-set memory while performing your stunts or working as a brilliant actor. Are there any behind-the-scenes experiences you'd like to share with us?

One of my favorite memories is from a movie called "Escaping Las Vegas" which could've changed my life, but, unfortunately, will never see the light of day. This is another tough reality of Hollywood, but that's a conversation for another time. But I booked the Lead role, and it was an adventure-comedy movie that was shot in Las Vegas for two months. It was the first time I ever experienced being "#1 on the "call sheet," and even though it's everyone's dream to get the star treatment and essentially was a paid luxury vacation, I reminded myself of the responsibility of such a position and that I'm there for work and not a vacation. Even the weekends off were dedicated to breaking down the script, memorizing lines, and preparing for the following week.

But we also got to do so many cool and fun things in that movie... like race a bunch of high-end sports cars, run loose on a casino floor, take over major Las Vegas streets, do fight scenes in a bunch of cool locations, and work with a terrific cast and crew that made every day a blast. Also got to work with Billy Zane on it! Learned a lot from watching him on set.

Kindly walk me through the entire creative process pertaining to how you manage to bring all of these stunts to life. Did you ever face any kind of challenges while performing such intricate action sequences?

Oh man, that could take a while! But when I'm stunt coordinating a show/movie, it all starts with a concept meeting with the director during pre-production to figure out what their vision is and how I can bring it to life and elevate it with my creativity and experience. From there, I work with the other departments about what we each need for each particular scene, and then with the stunt team, we rehearse and choreograph any action sequences so that by the time production starts, everyone is on the same page and as safe as possible. So, the majority of the hard work is done during prep, but of course, changes happen on the day, too, so we adapt on the fly. Ultimately, a successful shoot is all about good communication and collaboration, from top to bottom of the crew to the end of production.

Thankfully, the majority of directors I've worked with have been very collaborative, and sometimes, when we get to the stunt portions of the day, they let me run the set. This means I'm running the rehearsals with our talent, making adjustments if needed, telling cameras where to set up, and even calling "action" when it comes time. It's a lot of fun but can be a lot of pressure, too, because all eyes are on you, and everyone's health and safety are in your hands.

In the recent Academy Awards, there was a novel section highlighting the immense work and dedication of the stunts-people within this industry yet there hasn't been a stunts category currently introduced within the prestigious awards. As we speak, there are still a lot of active, significant discussions revolving around the demands for establishing a separate Oscar category for celebrating the stunts-people at the Academy Awards. I'm very curious to know your personal stand and opinion on this?

An Oscar category for Stunts is long overdue, and the Stunt Community is more than deserving of an Academy Award for its contribution and influence on the filmmaking community and keeps the box office alive year after year. Not to mention, stunt performers are the ONLY people who show up to set, knowing that there is a chance that they could get hurt as part of their job. We're the only department that puts our bodies on the line for the audience's entertainment, and that gets overlooked way too often.

Also, just like any of the already-recognized Oscar categories, Stunts is a highly technical but also highly creative part of the filmmaking process, which is why I think the recent creation of the official credit "Stunt Designer" is an important step forward. (Speaking of which, huge shoutout to Chris O'Hara and the "Fall Guy" team) Every action sequence, from fights to car crashes, is carefully choreographed and constantly pushing the envelope of what's been done before. And when it's done right, a stunt sequence can be beautiful to watch and becomes a work of art.

What's next for you, Hymnson? Any upcoming projects in the pipeline for this year?

I'm still on the crusade of getting everyone to watch the final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm because it's so funny and a perfect farewell to a legendary show, so I couldn't be prouder to be a part of it. Also, maybe I could be up for an Emmys nomination for Outstanding Guest Star in a Comedy...? I do meet the eligibility criteria after all (wink wink, HBO!).

But I do have several things in development... including a film that I wrote and directed, which got accepted into a couple of film festivals recently! The official announcements haven't been released yet, so I can't give specifics yet, but I'm excited to share my work with audiences. It's an action thriller called "RISE OF CHOW" that reimagines an iconic Asian character, transforms him from a silly caricature of Asian stereotypes, and turns him into a relatable, layered, and badass anti-hero. It's a passion project that I've been developing for years, and I finally took the leap of faith and produced it myself in 2022 and finally finished up Post Production 2023, so hoping to get this out to the masses soon. This film showcases incredible AAPI talent both on camera and behind, plus the entire cast and crew was 95% Asian, so I'm very proud of my community for banding together and putting their blood, sweat, and tears into making this happen with me!

Ending Note: (Thank you for joining me and for taking out your time for this interview, Hymnson! Wishing you luck on all your future endeavours!) Lastly, I would love to know if there's any message that you wish to convey to your fans and supporters currently reading this interview?

The first thing that comes to mind is, "adopt, don't shop!" Adoption is the only way to go if you're considering bringing a pet into your life. We have two rescue dogs, Penny and Piper, and it was the best and most fulfilling decision we ever made... 

Secondly, in honor of AANHPI Month, support your Asian friends by Venmo'ing them a couple of bucks...kidding again! But I'd highly recommend looking up the history of influences and contributions that AAPIs have made to this country because I guarantee you'll learn something new... or if that's too much work, just follow me on Instagram (@heyhymnson)... And thirdly, just THANK YOU so much to everyone who's continually supported me through this rollercoaster journey, especially my family, and this is still only the beginning of bigger and better things to come!

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