Breaking down stereotypes and kicking his way through the entertainment industry
By Alexandra Bonnet
In a world where stereotypes take control and communities find themselves separated, Lewis Tan is the bridge which brings them together. Being Asian-American, the striking actor has taken the role of advocate and leader for the large Asian-American population. Having picked this career path, he feels that he can utilize his platform and influence to reach his audience and spread his truth. As he says, “I need to be responsible for this. I want to make sure I am an influence. I care about what I’m doing.”
Like most children, Lewis Tan dreamt of different career paths from astronaut to MMA fighter but he was always drawn to the world of film and television. His father, Philip Tan, a successful action director/stunt choreographer worked on many movies which allowed young Lewis to be on set of films like Batman and Indian Jones. How could he not want to be part of it? As he puts it, growing up is all about make believe which is exactly what he would do as he played with his G.I. Joes imagining a whole storyline. To this day, Tan hangs on to this child-like wonder: “To keep childlike creativity alive is powerful for an artist.”
Despite their differences, his father was very influential in his life as he introduced him to the “two greatest loves of (his life): cinema and martial arts,” shares Tan. His father came from nothing and built a life and career for himself and his family which implemented an important work ethic in his son. Between his imagination and the powerful role his father played in his life, Tan was already stepping into his true calling as a young man.
In Netflix’s “Wu Assassins,” with the release date of August 8th, Tan plays a flamboyant gangster named Lucien Lee. He takes on the persona of a man who is a lone wolf, has his hand in everything, is Asian American and deals with past trauma as his character grows.
The character of Lucien Lee among the other roles in the show find themselves dealing with identity issues. What makes this show unique is that it is a modern chinese story with many different layers of characters. Tan opened up about his thoughts on actors of color in the industry as he explains that they wish to be seen for their true stories, not stereotypes or as trends. As Tan shares, “The things that we deal with: love, pain, identity, betrayal, they are all universal. We can relate to them on a human level. Part of us wants to hold onto these ideas as it feels secure to be part of a group but really we are all one blanket of humanity.” Being part of this industry allows him to share his story but also discover many others.
In the upcoming show, there will be a lot of action and Tan just so happens to do his own stunts/action sequences. Doing so is important to him because otherwise, he feels as though he is cheating the audience of who he is and how connected to the character (after all, he has built a “rapport” with the character Lucien Lee). Evidently, there are certain legal restrictions to things he can do himself but overall what you see is what you get. There are only a few actors who do their own fights and stunts; like Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton, allowing the character’s expression to truly come out. Tan expressed how important it is to him for his stunts do be done by him and himself only: “There is a value in actors performing scenes in action series, it’s expression of emotion. Emotion is not always in the words, it’s the way people move, touch, walk, hold their head.”
Since he was a child, Tan’s life path developed right in front of him thanks to family and his unstoppable desire to dream and step foot into the film/tv industry. Integrity, spirit, and inspiration, these are all traits which he carries. With the interconnection between his body/mind/soul, Tan has been able to truly connect with himself, his culture and those around him. One specific instance amongst hundreds has proven that the mind is a powerful thing for Lewis Tan. He had done a photoshoot for a fitness campaign and a few weeks before he was driving down Hollywood Blvd and stopped at the Kodak Theatre. As he stood there, he was staring at this giant billboard, practicing visualization and picturing his face on the billboard. Not too long after this, he was at Trader Joe’s when someone came up to him and asked: “Hey, are you that guy on the side of the Kodak Theatre?” There was no way. Shortly after, Tan drove there and sure enough his image was there, on the giant billboard overlooking Hollywood. He was so shocked by what had happened: “It was a moment in my life I won’t forget. Not because my face was on a billboard but because I had zero idea that that was going to happen and I made it happen through visualizing and hard work and that stuck with me always.” This memorable moment reminded him to keep using those techniques in all areas of his life: if he wants a certain job, wishes to be more grateful…
As the years have gone by, Tan has continuously taken in the different lessons life has to offer and continues to do so everything. One key lesson he has learned is that your energy is something that you have to protect. For a while, he realized he may have been sharing his energy a little too openly, putting myself in very vulnerable situations because he felt like that was the main way to be honest. After trial and error, he has accepted that it’s ok to say no and it’s okay to guard your energy and to be selective with who you share it with. Tan dove in deeper reminding us that asking yourself questions is ok: “why do I want to share my time with this person? Why do I want to be seen doing this job and what are the real intentions? And if those intentions are not pure and connected to your destiny than I think it’s okay to cut those things off.” Finding your inner/outer balance is a challenge but with patience, love, and motivation, anything is possible.
Yes, indeed it is. Lewis Tan has stepped into his power and found ways to connect and integrate who he is to and with the rest of the world. Having played in film such as his role in DEADPOOL 2 or in Television, he has the power to do it all. Kicking down obstacles of life, Tan has been on an uphill track. But Tan’s acting career isn’t the only goal he wishes to accomplish: “ One of my life long goals is to have a chicken farm and raise my chickens” Tan shares with laughter. “ I want to open a chicken farm, and raise my chickens and have a vegetable area, grow my own wine. It’s very French of me.”
Lewis Tan: dreamer, artist, and voice for the voiceless is rising high in both the spiritual and physical world leaving his mark one day at a time.
Photography BEN COPE @ben_cope
Styling KYLE KAGAMIDA @kylekagamida
Grooming SHIYENA @shiyenaartist (Shiyena for Exclusive Artists using Leonor Greyl Paris and Emma Hardie)
Production @BELLOmediaGroup x @MaisonPriveePR_LA