MAY 2, 2011

Catch Privy Member Brian Yang on CBS's Hawaii Five-0

member interview - brian yang   |   By Privy Editor

Occupation: Actor

Based in: Shanghai

Last Education: University of California Berkeley


Privy Interviews Actor Brian Yang

Raised in the Bay Area, where he attended the University of California, at Berkeley, Brian Yang splits his time between the United States and China and has his hands in many different things.  He works as an actor, producer, host, model, and occasional event planner. Last summer, he produced Frexh Shanghai, a showcase of innovators in the fields of fashion, music, art, and food. He will look to do it again in late 2011. He was the host of Shanghai Rush - soon be available online at - which ultimately gave way to what is now The Amazing Race China.  Recent acting credits include Universal Pictures' The Man With the Iron Fists and the CBS series Hawaii Five-0 where he will be in two of the first season's last three episodes as the character Charlie Fong starting tonight (5/2) at 10pm on CBS.  Brian is a partner in 408 Films, a film production company that produced The People I've Slept With (now out on Netflix) and FOG (now available free on

Privy: Was acting something you always wanted to do?

Brian: Basically, yes. In high school, I had a taste of the modeling world after my mom submitted my photo into a Macy's back-to-school contest and I was somehow selected to do a campaign for them.  From that, I was exposed to agents and castings and such. At Cal, I got involved in the theater department after I worked for 2 days as an extra on The Joy Luck Club.  My friend was in charge of casting background then and as a poor college student, I thought getting paid $50 a day to be on Hollywood film set sounded great!  I observed what Russell Wong did on the set then and from there, decided I wanted to explore the world of acting.


Privy: How was the transition coming form UC Berkeley to landing in entertainment overseas?

Brian: When I was a sophomore, I actually had an offer to move to Hong Kong with a manager who repped Anita Mui at the time.It meant dropping out of school and basically becoming owned by this agency who would not pay me anything but would house and feed me for a year to start as they groomed me. My mom wasn't having any of that so I finished school and then had a period of my life where I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I knew I always wanted to stay involved in entertainment so I did whatever I could to stay engaged.  In LA, I got an agent so I could act and I got a summer internship at Brett Ratner's office to see the other side of the business. It's complicated, but I wound up in New York a couple years later, started working in business and fast forward many many years later, am now a full-time actor/producer working between the US and Asia. The transition only took a decade plus, and it was hardly smooth, but I'm going to go ahead and say I wouldn't trade anything for the world. Oh, I've tried to look up that manager from Hong Kong, but I think his company dissolved.


    Privy: In February we wrote an article in Privy Magazine about production for "The Man With the Iron Fists," can you give our readers any updates on this highly anticipated movie and tell them a little more about your role?

Brian: TMWTIF is in post-production at the moment and I think they are anticipating a late 2011 release.  I ran into producer Eli Roth in February at an Oscar's party and he had just gotten back from Shanghai that day. He told me he was looking at footage on the plane ride back, so I'm sure they are hard at work in cutting it up. This is RZA's first feature so no doubt he's eating, breathing, sleeping it.  I play the character of Blue Hyena.  It's a pretty fantastical story with a lot of different characters. When I say different, I really mean different.  Fists is going to draw in a ton of different fans from different demographics. If anyone out there is familiar with the name Cung Le, let me just say: Bad Ass. 


    Privy: Besides upcoming movies, we hear you've landed on the hit show Hawaii Five-0 this season. That's pretty amazing, how has the experience been?

Brian: To borrow your words, it's been pretty amazing. The story of how I landed on the show is amazing in and of itself.  It was a right place at the right time kind of thing. I was vacationing in Hawaii when they just happened to be casting the part. What was supposed to be a one week trip turned into nearly a month extension after I was booked. I've shot two episodes so far and now the show is on hiatus. It's been a pretty successful show in its first season so I've just been completely lucky and in awe to be a part of that. The crew was a joy to work with and I will be the first to say that Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim are not only crazy talented, but so down to earth and kind. I'm pinching myself all the time. I hope you guys will be watching May 2nd when Charlie Fong is introduced!


  Privy: It's been said that you're an avid Jeremy Lin fan, can you tell us about the video project you're doing with him and fellow Privy Member Christopher Chen?

Brian: I'm sure a lot of people say this but I am Jeremy Lin Fan #1. Okay, I'll give his family a higher rank than me, so make me Jeremy Lin Fan #5 or 6. I'm up there though. Jeremy grew up up the road from me in the Bay Area. Of course he's more than a few years younger than me, but when I was home one time at my parents', as I always do, I cracked open the local paper and opened the sports section to find a huge article about this Asian-American kid who led his high school to the state championship and was boy's basketball player of the year. I'm a huge hoophead, and you just don't see many Asian-Americans do what he did, so instantly, I latched onto his story and started following his career at Harvard. I interviewed him his freshman year for something and then later approached the Lin's about doing something together on camera. We're in motion, Chris has been integral to the process, and we are looking forward to eventually sharing what we put together with the world.


Privy: With so much on your plate acting and producing you must be pretty busy. What are some things you like to do for fun in your free time?

Brian: Well, fortunately for me, what I do as a career is also fun. I've been very lucky and I know that this is an ongoing journey so no way can I rest on my laurels, but from my different projects, I get to travel the world. This year already I've been in Shanghai, Hawaii, New York, LA, and the Bay.  I'll probably get to go to Taipei, Hong Kong, and other parts of Asian again this year.  My works keeps me shuffling back and forth so while I'm in each city, of course I get to enjoy the various things each place has to offer. The lounges in Shanghai, the beaches in Oahu, the music venues of New York, and the restaurants up and down the coast of California, I'm in love with it all.  One thing I'm looking forward to unrelated to work is getting to go to Alaska this summer for my good friend's wedding. I've only laid over in Alaska at the airport before so I'm really looking forward to stepping foot on Eskimo-soil for a relaxing and gorgeous week!


Privy: As someone who travels to China often, what are some of your favorite restaurants in Hong Kong?

Brian: I get to Hong Kong a couple times of year and have gotten to experience some awesome spots.  I'm really partial to low-down gritty gutty street stuff. I absolutely love love love this place called Tung Po Seafood in North Point. It's off the beaten path and is a place that's always crowded, noisy, and a bit dirty. But the local foods they serve there are great and the atmosphere just makes you feel like you're in Hong Kong. I dig that. If I want a nicer, classier joint - it's Isola Bar & Grill at the IFC. It has a nice waterfront view of the harbor, if you're into that kind of thing. Sometimes, I am.


    Privy: What's next for Brian Yang?

Brian: I don't know exactly. Everyday has been an adventure as of late.  his week for example, I shot an AMEX print thing Monday, worked with Jeremy Lin on Tuesday, attended a bunch of things at the Tribeca Film Festival all week, and then had a conference call with the team behind an indie feature I was just cast in being directed by an incredibly talented emerging AFI graduated named Nadine Truong. I'm psyched!

If you'd like to know more about Brian Yang, check out his
Privy 5 for Shanghai.






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