…Weekly one-on-one breakfasts with those that we consider “other” in order to break through mutual misunderstandings and skewed preconceptions. This could be a sponsored event as well as people choosing to do it on their own. We are so polarized, right now, and our minds are constantly fed by the media across the spectrum of what to think about and how to view others. These breakfasts could help us to start using our own minds and instincts, again, and to trust our gut by forcing us out of our insulated bubbles of daily life in order to enjoy one of our favorite past times…a nice friendly breakfast with others. No politics allowed. Just hang out, talk, eat, interact, and be reminded that we’re not so different from each other. We could call it “Breaking Bread” or “Munch & Mingle” or “Open Up” or whatever. If we listen to each other without judgement — force ourselves to see each other without filters — we might truly get to know one another, find unity and compromise, and possibly make this a much better world…simply by starting with the most important meal of the day.
As a part of my series about the rising stars of TV, I had the pleasure to interview Tim Lounibos. Tim co-stars on the hit Amazon series, BOSCH. Lounibos first entered the biz in the 90’s. He was branded as part of an “exciting new breed of Asian American actors with widespread mainstream appeal” and went to work immediately on such shows as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Suddenly Susan, and The Nanny, as well as recurring guest stars on Beverly Hills, 90210, The Practice, JAG and The West Wing. He also starred in the feature film Erotique, which was one of the first US films shot in Hong Kong. Eventually, Lounibos entered what one network executive termed the “tweener stage” — too old to play the young buck, too young to play the dad — so Tim made the difficult decision to leave Hollywood to provide for his growing family. As fate would have it, Tim’s acting would be greatly enhanced as he learned real-life experience running a business and supervising hundreds of employees, all the while striving to be a good husband and father and gaining a newfound sense of groundedness and gravitas. Then, as onscreen diversity began reflecting the face of society, Tim realized his mixed-race combination of German/Irish/Asian along with his seemingly unlimited acting range made the timing right to leap back in. So far it has proved to be quite successful as Lounibos has quickly stacked up a new set of credits, booking such shows as A.P. Bio, Criminal Minds, Doubt, The Real O’Neals, and The Young and the Restless. In 2019, Tim guest stars on Hawaii Five-0 and NCIS and recurs throughout the fifth season of Amazon Studios’ Bosch.
Thank you so much for joining us Tim! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was at Cal, planning on going to grad school and getting my MBA, and was also a teller at Bank of America — naively basing the idea of a future career in the corporate world on that school-job experience. Wasn’t happy with that prospect, so I went to breakfast one day with the intention of figuring out my future. My mom always wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer or some type of “professional,” but I had a different way of thinking. I figured I was young so could pursue something creative which meant three things to me: writing, singing, or acting. Well, my favorite teacher in high school (who taught me English, French, World Lit, Shakespeare, & Russian Novel) once commented that it’s almost impossible to make a living as a writer, so that was out. There were no successful Asian American pop singers at that point, so that was out. That left acting. I had grown up seeing African Americans and Latino Americans breaking out with their own shows and knew that Asians made up a huge portion of the global pie, so it seemed logical that the industry would go global in a big way. I concluded that Asian American actors would be the next to pop (again, naive! — studios would go after international stars to ensure foreign box office sales). By the end of that breakfast, I had made the decision to put five years into acting and then reevaluate as needed — a bit of a pragmatic dreamer. Day 1 of my first class, I knew it was the right decision. I had more passion and love and a sense of being home in that first day than in all the years I’d put into my previous passion — basketball! At the five year mark, point was mute. I was already making a living.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your acting career?
Some of my most interesting times occurred early on when I’d been cast as the lead in a film that took me all the way out to Hong Kong for a month (hadn’t traveled much as a kid): for the very first time I was surrounded by a bunch of mixed-race kids who looked just like me; was enthusiastically compared to Michael Jordan when playing basketball with chants of “Jordan, Jordan, Jordan!” (I was good but not that good); ran into my uncle’s best friend from college and eventually reunited them…but the most interesting thing was that Hong Kong was preparing for their Chinese takeover. I was told, in no uncertain terms before heading out there, that prejudice was high against those who were of mixed-race Asian/Caucasian ethnicity and was instructed to only go straight from the hotel to the set and back to the hotel for the entire month and not dare to deviate from that. Well, first thing out there, Clara Law (a great director whom I’d love to work with one more time before it’s all said and done) wanted me to get in better shape and get rid of my Cali tan lines because I had love scenes to shoot. This forced me to take the train to Central District, which meant being among the people and interacting. I absolutely hated it! Everyone kept staring at me wherever I went and I was getting pissed at all the prejudice directed at me. So by the third day of heading from Kowloon to the Central District gym, this one guy starts periodically passing by me in the locker room, the weight room, the bathroom, all the time just staring at me. No nod, no smile, nothing…just an unwavering stare. All that pressure from the perceived prejudiced directed full-blown at me was bubbling up, ready to explode, and I thought, “If this guy crosses me one more time, I’m gonna crack him!” Fast forward and I’m trying to figure out how to use their tanning bed (a completely comical process) when a voice behind me asks, “Need help?” I turn around and it’s THAT GUY (and HE’S SO NICE)!! In an instant, I realized how wrong I had been due to complete and utter misunderstanding. They weren’t staring at me due to hate but height. I was just so frickin’ tall to them (on the train at a straightaway, a sea of black-haired heads always surrounded me)! Well, that changed everything and the rest of my trip was wonderful — best experience I’ve had to date working on location. Also learned to take any similar advice with a huge grain of salt! 😀
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Most recently worked on Hawaii Five-0 for which I’m currently being considered for an Emmy® nomination for Outstanding Actor In A Drama Series. This is a first for me so it’s exciting and a lot of fun. We’ll see where it leads… Also, I’m recurring as Ed Sung on the Season 5 of Amazon Studio’s Bosch which recently dropped. My partner (played by Bianca Kajlich) and I are investigating Bosch throughout the season. Can’t say enough about the Bosch family…and that’s truly what they are. In front of or behind the camera, everyone is so cool. Love these guys! Interestingly, there are only a handful of shows that I’ll binge-watch consistently and this is one of ’em (my favorite cop show before I ever worked on it). It’s character-driven, reflects the world we live in, great writing and acting and production value. Not a shoot ’em up popcorn cop show but one that’s thought-provoking, soulful, and so damn compelling. Absolutely love it!
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Well, a recent one is Titus Welliver (Bosch). There are a lot of interesting intelligent people in Hollywood, but Titus is a rare one, indeed. He’s sincere with his respect and generosity to others, a true family man, intelligent to the point where there’s never a topic that he doesn’t seemingly have a wealth of info to pull from. He’s an actor’s actor and so frickin’ funny, which goes a long way in keeping the mood on set free and easy. Another actor, who was like a father and mentor to me (and also uber intelligent, shamelessly flamboyant, and so un-PC) was Roy Brocksmith who passed away in 2001. So much fun, so irreverent, and one of the most talented character actors I’ve ever met. Finally, I’ve gotta include Jacqueline Bisset. Early in my career, I played her assistant in a May-sweeps movie called “Leave of Absence.” She was a lot of fun to work with. We worked together for about a week in North Carolina. After my last scene, I went by her trailer to say goodbye. She opened the door and it took every nerve in my body to keep from looking agahst. She was one of the most beautiful actors I’d seen on screen and now reality set in because she looked horrible. I was seeing firsthand how good her personal make-up artist, Edward, truly was…because, away from the set, she was not what we were used to seeing on the screen or whom I was seeing on the set! Once home, I shared my shock with friends and family — didn’t hold back — until the movie finally aired…when I realized her horrible looks was actually due to the make-up for her deathbed scene! 😛 Hahaha, I Iearned a very important lesson (or two or three) that day…
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
This is the question where so many people will answer with famous figures like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Mother Theresa, General MacArthur, Abraham Lincoln, Madame Curie, etc., but I’m not going there. I find that I’m most inspired by those people who have overcome adversity to achieve unexpected success as well as those people who significantly support others with little fanfare (i.e. sponsor a class of school kids, pay for their education through grad school, and mentor them throughout) just because they can and know it will truly make a difference. Also, my mom…gotta say that. Can’t tell you why though because it’s an incredible story and I’m writing her script — mum’s the word!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
This is a simple one for me. I just make a point of treating others with respect, being warm, smiling, helping them when I can…just being real on a daily basis. Success is relative and can be fleeting at times but bringing goodness to the world is ongoing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Weekly one-on-one breakfasts with those that we consider “other” in order to break through mutual misunderstandings and skewed preconceptions. This could be a sponsored event as well as people choosing to do it on their own. We are so polarized, right now, and our minds are constantly fed by the media across the spectrum of what to think about and how to view others. These breakfasts could help us to start using our own minds and instincts, again, and to trust our gut by forcing us out of our insulated bubbles of daily life in order to enjoy one of our favorite past times…a nice friendly breakfast with others. No politics allowed. Just hang out, talk, eat, interact, and be reminded that we’re not so different from each other. We could call it “Breaking Bread” or “Munch & Mingle” or “Open Up” or whatever. If we listen to each other without judgement — force ourselves to see each other without filters — we might truly get to know one another, find unity and compromise, and possibly make this a much better world…simply by starting with the most important meal of the day.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Get away. Take time off. Maybe not seven years like I did but separate yourself from the business and live life. Get out of the industry bubble and truly experience the world around you. Then come back much more grounded and an enhanced perspective on…EVERYTHING.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Don’t say no just because you think the part is too small. I used to say no all the time. As an Asian American actor, there were definitely parts that I should’ve said no to (i.e. anything that was blatantly and ethnically exploitative, especially for cheap comic laughs); but I used to also say no to any part that seemed too small or insignificant. I remember seeing John Cho in “American Pie” and thinking, “Jeez, John, why did you do that part?!” BUT, that part led to a relationship with the Weitz brothers, which led to being cast as a series regular in their next pilot, which led to becoming more established and having a higher profile, which led to a wonderful career that continues on. Relationships are key in this industry; and if you keep saying no, doors might not open up and you’ll very possibly disappear…so choose your no’s wisely.
2. Use sunscreen! So Cal is murder on your skin. Actually, my mom (who was a cosmetologist) used to always tell me to wear it, and I ignored her. I’m regretting it, now (but possibly working towards a pretty cool character look).
3. Make sure to be kind and professional with everyone you meet (unless they’re absolute pricks, then be cool without losing your integrity). People continually go up and down the ladder in this business, and how you treat them — especially when they’re going down — will be remembered. Also, if you talk about someone in confidence, don’t be surprised if it’s shared with someone else either in or not in confidence, till it eventually gets to the person you’re talking about. Of course, this could be used strategically as well. 😉
4. Don’t do your own stunts. You might be athletic and it might seem cool; but, unless you have it in your skill set and it’s a big reason why you’re popular (i.e. Jackie Chan), it’s just not worth it. Only takes one injury to sideline you for an extended period and hold up production(s). Early on, I actually had been told this but still felt compelled to do a stunt where I jumped from above a doorway onto enemy soldiers who were coming into our quarters. The shot was set up, I got into position, and then common sense took over. I could see how easily I could break a limb or tear a ligament from that height and apologetically deferred to a stunt double. Thankfully, they were cool.
5. Write, write, write. I made a point of focusing on acting because I wanted to make sure I became the best I could be and didn’t want to distract from that — as if I would be less than as a result. That’s probably my biggest regret to date. Can’t imagine all the projects I could’ve created by now if I had started writing, then; but, I also don’t look back and dwell. Instead I focus on the future and am writing, now! To anyone reading this who is pursuing a career in this industry, write, write, write. Even if it’s bad but the idea is good, someone else can fix it for you and you’ll still find success.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Magic Johnson. I have so much respect for how he handled himself and included others on the court, dealt with adversity in life, and became an extremely successful businessman. Additionally, as a person of color, I’d be interested in hearing his story from that perspective and to download information from his brain and upload it to mine. I think that would be a very cool and interesting meal. (Who knows, he might learn something from me, too. 😉
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram and Twitter: @timlounibos