Chinese-Kiwi Actor Yoson An Talks About Life in Hollywood and 'Five Blind Dates'

A perfect movie to binge-watch with your loved ones this Valentine’s Day is Amazon Prime's newest film, "Five Blind Dates," a fresh romantic comedy that centres around preserving one’s heritage and finding true love. In a recent interview with the Asia Media Centre, Yoson An, one of the film's leading stars, opened up about his involvement in this film and his journey as a Chinese-Kiwi actor navigating Hollywood.

Lia, the lead charter in the film, took advice from a fortune-teller about her business and love life's success. Photo: Supplied.

Debuting as the first feature film produced locally in Australia by Prime Video, Five Blind Dates aims to capture the vibes of Crazy Rich Asians for its audience this love-infused season.

Chinese-born Shuang Hu pulls double duty by writing and also leading the cast as Lia Ling, a young Asian woman residing in Sydney. She finds herself in a bit of a pickle with her traditional teashop on the brink of closing down and her love life that’s pretty much non-existent.

Facing the awkwardness of showing up to her sister’s wedding solo, Lia follows a fortune-teller’s advice to embark on a series of blind dates, hoping to redirect her future towards success.

Lia embodies the quintessence of a bright and relatable individual who transitioned from her rural origins to the urban allure of Sydney. She utilised the inheritance of her grandmother to establish a Chinese teahouse, which served as a tribute to their ancestral heritage and the cultural customs that her grandmother had passed on to her before her demise.

Unfortunately, Sydney locals are more into Taiwanese bubble tea, leaving Lia’s more conventional offerings overlooked and putting her business in a tough spot.

When she heads back to Townsville for her sister Alice's (played by Tiffany Wong) engagement party, a fortune-teller tells her that finding true love and fixing her business woes means going on five blind dates before the wedding. Even though she's not keen on the idea, Lia agrees to let her sister and her estranged parents (portrayed by Renee Lim and Tzi Ma) set her up, and she starts meeting a lineup of bachelors, hoping to find Mr. Right.

Among these suitors is Richard, Lia's ex-best friend, portrayed by Chinese-Kiwi actor Yoson An.

Shuang Hu and Yoson An, played ex-best friends, Lia and Richard in the film, Five Blind Dates. Photo: Supplied.

An shares how it was playing the role, “You know, the one thing I love about playing the ex-best friend to Lia is the characters themselves. They already have a history, and we had the opportunity to explore that history in a subtle way for the audience to discover what their histories are. And as far as, you know, how they can amend the friendship from the fallout in the past.”

This is not An’s first role playing the love interest of the lead star. He already took on the heartthrob role when he played Chen Honghui in Disney’s remake of the 1998 film, Mulan.

The difference between the two films may be palpable, but An believes that an all-out Asian romcom proves that Asian culture, especially the Asian diaspora, can now become mainstream.

An said, “There are so many Asian people in Australia and New Zealand, and I feel like our media needs to reflect our community, right? And not only does that represent the community but also teaches other people who don’t know much about our culture, like in this film, the Chinese culture. So, showing this type of film brings people closer together.”

“Also, Asian culture aside, when you strip back Five Blind Dates, at the core of it is a love story, and that’s a universal message. So, I feel like this movie itself, which is universally based, everyone can enjoy it with their family,” he added.

Five Blind Dates official trailer

Personal Note: Navigating Hollywood

Currently, Yoson An is in Tāmaki Makaurau enjoying the New Zealand’s summer. He’s temporarily back home but will soon return to Los Angeles, where he relocated three years ago.

The actor openly acknowledged the challenges of chasing a Hollywood career yet feels fortunate for the company he keeps.

He explained, “moving to L.A. was definitely a bit of a culture shock compared to New Zealand. But you know, thankfully I have good group of friends. So, that kind of keeps me grounded and helps me find my circle of people, especially when the town gets a little wild. But aside from that, it’s a pretty cool place to live in, lot of fun things to do.”

He also confessed that he misses home a lot, and returns whenever possible, “I miss my family, I miss the sunshine here. There’s a lot of sunshine in L.A. But you know, I think the thing I miss most about New Zealand are the people, the greenery, obviously [because] L.A. can get a little smoggy sometimes.”

Mulan's red-carpet premier. Photo. Yoson An's IG account.

An was born in Macau and moved to Auckland at a very young age. His acting experiences began with musical theatre productions in high school. Although, he never imagined that one day he will be pursuing an acting career.

“I never dreamt of being an actor. It wasn’t like that at all. I went into university studying economics and finance, but I wasn’t happy with what I was studying. I didn’t really see myself working 9 to 5 behind a desk, especially in the field of economics and finance. So, in my second year, I decided to explore, and became a student in film, that one thing led to another.”

When he finally pursued acting, he was trained by Auckland-based American acting coach Michael Saccente, who specialises in the Meisner method.

Afterwards, his agent began booking him acting jobs, and he never looked back. Since then, audiences have seen An in several productions, including The Meg, Mortal Engines, and Plane alongside Gerard Butler.

People can see now the results of his efforts, but he admits it was not an easy journey at all.

An, as the child of Asian immigrants, acknowledges that his parents initially frowned on his career choice, “it was definitely tough to begin with. When I started, I had a lot of resistance from my family purely because they cared about my well-being and wanted me to do well in the world and can financially support myself.”

The actor continued to reminisce about his humble beginnings in the entertainment field, saying, "When I started, it wasn’t rainbows and sunshine. It was a lot of grind, and I just didn’t know when the next project was, and I had to do odd jobs, contract jobs here and there within the film industry, to keep myself afloat.”

When not in front of the camera, An keeps busy behind it, “I also have interest in camera and storytelling, so I started a production company doing commercials and directing commercials. That’s the avenue I am exploring, directing alongside with my acting.”

Behind the scenes of the production, New Gold Maountain. Photo: Yoson An's IG account.

From action to horror, drama, and romantic comedy, An seems to have explored all genres. When asked if there's anything else he wants to try, he replied, "I honestly love every genre, but I'm most drawn to fantasy sci-fi. One of the latest shows I love is 'The Last of Us,' which was a video game I played back in 2013 and has now been turned into an HBO Max TV series. I just love that story."

He added, "But regardless of the setting or genre, what matters is having a simple story with complex characters that the audience can invest in to."

And just like in his new film, Five Blind Dates, which can now be streamed on Amazon Prime, he believes the audience will find something in the story that they can relate to. He encourages everyone to "grab your popcorn, get ready to fall in love, and treat yourself or your partner to a Valentine's gift because it'll be a fun ride."

-Asia Media Centre