Crazy Rich Asians star Chris Pang’s guide to making it big in Hollywood

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making it Hollywood, but Melbourne-born, LA-based actor Chris Pang has muscled his way into the spotlight and finds himself finally calling the shots.

But whether you can make it in LA comes down to determination, ambition and being in the right place at the right time – and in Pang's case, that meant doing the shitty jobs while saving money to buy a car because all roads lead somewhere eventually.

"I ended up in a casting agency trying to sell them mobile phones in Melbourne and they ended up putting me on their books," says Pang.

"I guess you could say that was the defining moment for me as I hadn't really given it much thought to that point," he says while trying to save money to travel at the time.

The company you keep

Pang also packed his bags and couch surfed – it's the ritual de lo habitual of those who want to try their luck in LA.

"You have to pool your like-minded friends together and stay in the same zone," he says of moving to LA in 2013.

"When you surround myself with other actors and friends trying to make it, it keeps your ambition in perspective and can also be helpful when you're going to and from auditions day after day," he says.

Pang's advice to others trying to break into acting is the importance of taking on roles you might not be that keen on at the start of your career.

"You can't call the shots straight away, you have to say yes to things you may not want to, even if it's just to get you in the door," he adds.


The luck factor

After the success of last year's feature film Crazy Rich Asians, doors have opened wider than before for the once door-to-door mobile phone sales man who studied graphic design at Monash University before relocating to the USA.

"It doesn't happen that quickly for many actors and there is no right or wrong way to get into the industry. It's timing, luck and many planets aligning," he says.

"I felt I had to leave Australia and give it a go abroad, it's about not being afraid and trusting your instinct. Unless you put yourself out there you don't know what will happen," he says of his own personal experience.

Pang is now able to meet with Hollywood directors before they announce castings, turns down roles that don't fit with his bigger picture and says the opportunity to do so has only happened since Crazy Rich Asians took his profile to a whole new level.

"I am now in a position to make things happen the way I want to," says Pang.

A credit to his name

His career breakthrough happened in 2010 via his lead role in the movie adaptation of the novel Tomorrow, When The War Began. He reunited with his co-star Caitlin Stasey in 2013 for I, Frankenstein and in 2016 appeared in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny while also doing a stint in Season 2 of Marco Polo for Netflix.

Last year he moved into producing and starring in the Manila-set independent film Empty By Design alongside actress Rhian Ramos. It was his first foray into filmmaking and plans to do a whole lot more next year.

"I am taking hold of every opportunity because that's how it works here – you just have to be careful not to burn out."

Opening doors to the future

Raised in Melbourne by his martial art instructor parents [with a distant relative connection to Bruce Lee, Pang says ethnic diversity on the screen is a big deal in Hollywood.

Growing up, he didn't see many Asian actors on television in Australia – dampening hopes that it was possible to make it as an actor at all.

"Diversity is huge right now so instead of thinking you can't make it because you're Asian there's a now or never momentum and it's important to ride the wave and hope it's here to stay," says Pang.

But while Crazy Rich Asians didn't make any Oscars nominations, the box office wonder with an all-Asian cast did raise the importance of diversity on the silver screen. He is happy to be a modern day role model to inspire others to take the chance.

"If we managed to achieve one thing it was just how relevant diversity is today," says Pang.