May 17, 2011 (US) – Article by Yip Wai Yee (The Straits Times) from AsiaNewsNet.net that touches a little bit on Daniel’s new movie project, Americatown, a romantic comedy (yay!) and having to turn down some jobs because he wants to break away from portraying a stereotypical Asian role.
Korean-American model-turned-actor Daniel Henney will always remember a 2003 visit to Singapore as an ordeal – no thanks to bubble tea.
Then an unknown model, he had come here “for some fashion show in a mall” and had his first taste of the tapioca pearl-filled concoctions.
He recalls with a laugh: “I was just walking down the street by myself, holding my modelling book in my hand and drinking bubble tea. I guess I didn’t really know what I was doing because I dropped my bubble tea all over my book and ruined all the pictures, and it just became this huge ordeal.
“I had to go back to the modelling agency and get it fixed.”
He has since returned to Singapore “at least 10 times”, and his most recent visit here is a far cry from that fiasco.
In town last week for a private event held by luxury label Prada, Henney is ensconced at the St Regis Singapore late Thursday afternoon (May 12), looking comfortable in a crisp white shirt and chic black-framed glasses for this interview.
The Michigan native, born to a mother of Korean heritage and a father of Irish descent, has also risen several notches in professional status.
Having made his acting debut in Korea in 2005 on the hit television drama My Name Is Kim Sam Soon, he has gone on to make his Hollywood debut as Agent Zero in X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009.
That year, he also landed a regular role as a womanising surgical resident in the now cancelled American medical drama Three Rivers.
His next Hollywood project Americatown, a romantic comedy, begins shooting in Shanghai next week. Further film details are yet to be confirmed.
Says Henney, 31: “I was filled with trepidation when I first went to Hollywood because I didn’t think any doors would be as open as they have been for me. But I’ve actually been meeting with directors and producers, and I feel this very positive and great energy all around.”
So much so that he can afford to shun a certain type of roles: dorky tech geeks.
Such roles, he says, are too “pegged to Asian stereotypes”.
“It’s hard having to turn down roles – and pay cheques – but sometimes you just have to because as an Asian-American actor, you don’t want to play that certain type of guy,” he says.
“I don’t want to be playing that same old type of role that you see on detective shows, where someone called something like Agent Steven Cho is just this smart Asian guy who fixes your computer when it breaks down.”
The industry, he says confidently, is however changing.
“A lot of them are very well-educated in Asian films and culture, and they understand that they need to be, too,” he says. “Because the future will involve more Asian, whether Chinese or Korean, sides to everything.”
Despite speaking no Korean at the time he made his Korean drama debut (he played a handsome doctor who spoke only English in My Name Is Kim Sam Soon), he started learning the language soon after.
Appearances in other Korean television dramas such as Spring Waltz in 2006, as well as films such as the romantic comedy, Seducing Mr Perfect (2006), had him speaking both English and Korean.
These days, the actor says his Korean has improved a lot and is as good as “a 14-year-old’s”.
“I can’t talk politics but I definitely have enough vocabulary to get around and talk to my friends without too much trouble,” he adds with a chuckle.
He made his return to Korean television screens in September last year on the show The Fugitive: Plan B, an action drama which also starred Korean superstar Rain.
Getting along with Rain turned out to be a cinch because, as Henney explains: “We bonded over the fact that both of us had to go through the heaviness of learning a new language.”
Rain’s venture into Hollywood, starring in American films such as 2008’s Speed Racer and 2009’s Ninja Assassin, required him to pick up English swiftly.
Asked about Rain’s competence in the English language, Henney says with a good-natured laugh: “He’s actually getting quite good. But sometimes it’s really quite funny because he starts throwing in all these hip-hop terms that I don’t know where he gets from.
“His English has got an interesting swagger to it.”
Meanwhile, Henney says he is keeping his focus on American projects. He will continue to do more Korean, and possibly other Asian, projects in the future.
If he leaves his current base in Los Angeles for too long, the bachelor adds, Hollywood may forget him altogether: “It may eventually become an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ thing, which is something that I don’t want to happen.”