Rising Star Megan Le: “I used to think empathy was the thing that impeded me the most; But I think if we all practiced more empathy we’d just be happier people”

I would want to inspire a movement towards empathy. It’s so funny to me that I say this, because I used to think empathy was the thing that impeded me the most. I would see everybody’s point of view and not develop my own. Or I would see someone asking for money on the corner […]

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I would want to inspire a movement towards empathy. It’s so funny to me that I say this, because I used to think empathy was the thing that impeded me the most. I would see everybody’s point of view and not develop my own. Or I would see someone asking for money on the corner and imagine how difficult that had to be and just cry so hard. But I think if we all practiced more empathy, we would end wars, prevent genocides, have less road rage, create better, heal faster, build closer relationships and just be happier people.

As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Megan Le. Beginning in January, Megan will shine as the deadly villain, ‘Agent Tran,’ in the highly anticipated Netflix series, “Medical Police.” A spinoff of David Wain and Rob Corddry’s Emmy-winning Adult Swim series, “Children’s Hospital.” Megan will star opposite Erinn Hayes and Rob Huebel in this action-packed dramedy. You can also see Megan co-starring in the digital series “No Matter What,” a project that was co-created/written and produced by her. The smart and introspective series follows two best friends as they maneuver life’s obstacles then and now as two very different women. Megan, who is of Vietnamese and Scottish decent got her start at the tender age of ten in equity theatre in her hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. After graduating college, she moved to Los Angeles where she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and with that education, began working on commercials, television, and film not only as an actor, but in stunts as well. She can be seen starring in the 2018 independent film, Rumor from Ground Control, the dance-fighting cult film, Battle B-Boy, and as a master stunt performer in Spiderman: Far From Home and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. In addition to her work, Megan is passionate about her family, her husband of six years and 20-month-old daughter as well as the charity she co-founded in 2010, Artists in Motion. The organization brings artists together by giving back to the underserved local community. With a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwando and a lifetime of professional dance training and experience, there isn’t much that Megan cannot do, and do exquisitely.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in 1984 and raised in Indianapolis, IN. The oldest child and daughter of a Vietnamese man and a Scottish/German woman. I began dance lessons at the age of three and continued throughout my twenties. My specialty was tap, though growing up we had to study all that was offered at Dance Magic Performing Arts Center including ballet, modern, hip hop, jazz and pointe. I was also involved in musical theatre, gymnastics, show choir and modeling growing up. I toured and performed around the world at venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Winter Olympics in Sydney, Australia and on Equity stages in musicals in the Midwest. During my senior year of high school, the director of a musical I was performing in, recommended I consider The American Academy of Dramatic Arts after I told him I was serious about studying acting full time. By this time my parents had been divorced for ten years and my father was living in Orange County, CA. So on my next visit to California I auditioned for AADA and was accepted! Two weeks after high school graduation, I moved away from my family including my younger brother to pursue a career in acting. I graduated two years later from AADA and booked my first film that very summer, which demanded I learn martial arts from the stunt people. I believe this film set the stage for action, drama and stunts-all of which are central in my career at this moment.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve been a dancer my entire life, but after I attended The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, my first film required I learn some martial arts, as I just mentioned. I kept training in martial arts then stunts on my own time, because I found it was the perfect avenue to combine my dance training and acting as well as explore my tougher side. Turns out having the soft dance side combined with the strong martial arts side perfectly highlights the soft and strong character traits that I exhibit as a woman. So those dualistic characters which I’ve been playing are now my gold.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I stunt doubled Cobie Smulders on Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and during that shoot she and I had a very touching conversation about having kids. Even though I wanted kids one day, I was nervous about losing myself and throwing away all I had built for myself. She convinced me that having a child was not only completely possible while having a career in the entertainment industry, but that if I wanted it, it would open everything for me. To keep pushing for all the things I want and it will all work itself out. It wasn’t even her words so much as it was her own knowing of this, her grounded, strong, authentic female energy that spoke to my same energy that was buried inside waiting to be freed. Four years later I had an 18-month-old daughter and I’m acting beside her, and actually fighting her on her new show “Stumptown” on ABC. She totally remembered me and we end up having a similar conversation about having child number two! I just think that is a serendipitous anecdote that I will never forget.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I wish I had a funny mistake to share, but the ones I’ve learned the most from are still not that funny. At AADA one of our classes was dance. My last year there our dance final was to choreograph and perform a dance involving mask work. And because I had been dancing all my life and professionally, I thought I had it in the bag. Turns out I didn’t really take on the mask work of the assignment and instead created a pretty piece of choreography. I wanted to stand out and be good where I knew I could instead of diving into the unknown and seeing what came of it. I failed my dance final and that was the first time I publicly failed at anything. My dance teacher at AADA, Theresa Hayes, will always remind me of that great lesson of failure and to not be embarrassed about it or fear it. I’m sure I’ll write that into a comedy one day and find the funny in it somehow.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I play an extreme version of my soft and strong dichotomy in a new action thriller comedy that comes to Netflix Jan 10, 2020. It’s called “Medical Police” and it’s a spinoff of the Emmy-award-winning Adult Swim show “Children’s Hospital” from Rob Corddry and David Wain. I’m very excited for it because I am such a fan of these creators and actors and I dig the humor. It’s the kind of funny that I would write if I could write comedy. The show is so unique and I’m really proud to have been able to really bring what I do best to the world they have created.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

To preface my argument for the importance of diversity in film and television, I must say that I walk a fine line everyday between being an idealist and a realist. But even with that awareness, I strongly believe in the bold statement that ‘art will save the world!’ With film and television being such a massively and globally consumed art form, its messaging helps to shape our beliefs and values. The more that people see themselves represented in film and television and the more that people see representation of the wide array of humans out there, the more we will build compassion for ourselves and compassion for our brothers and sisters. And that compassion will save the world.

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. I wish someone had told me how important and fun the business aspect of this entertainment business is. I spent too many years dreading the administrative and networking part. I was so naive that I thought my dance agent would be helping me with theatrical work too. I didn’t look for the appropriate representation and took all the indie work that came my way. I am grateful for those projects, but I had this young, romantic idea that I would just take my acting class, do theatre and train and the work would just find me. I enjoyed every minute of it for the sake of my art, but the business side was definitely stalled for at least ten years!
  2. I wish someone had called me a coward for avoiding the business aspect of this entertainment business. And this is NOT the same as #1. Honestly, I was so afraid of stating to anyone, including myself that I wanted a career in the arts. I was afraid that if I said it to someone else, I would seem cocky or superficial. I had this theatre background and at 19-years-old I wanted to be taken seriously as an artist and not be written off as just another sweet girl from the Midwest who wanted to be famous. But I think more so, I didn’t want to state it to myself for fear that I would fail. It’s always safer to stay at an arms distance than to jump in head first.
  3. I wish someone had told me not to buy so many headshots at one time! I wasted so much money and paper while maintaining the hopeful attitude that these pictures would start getting me so many more auditions! Embarrassing.
  4. I wish someone had told me that my physical talents (dance and martial arts) could be an asset as an actress instead of a crutch. Because somewhere along the line, I started believing that I couldn’t be taken seriously as an actress AND have this very athletic background. So I tried hard to separate the two and in doing so I was not accessing a very important and authentic part of myself.
  5. I wish someone had told me to take the work seriously, but don’t take myself seriously. I had way too much reverence for the art and a “good soldier” attitude that got in the way of just having fun and playing. I lost a sense of the creativity and joy that I had before I moved out to Los Angeles. Once I realized that, so much more opened up for me.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I think it’s important to slow down, take in the world and fill the well. Learn about things, ask questions, read and write and develop your opinions. As artists we are so connected to ourselves and inspired by the world around us and that is what drives us to do this work. When we lose touch with those things, the work becomes about the result, the accolades, getting the next job. And focusing on those things will burn you out fast!

I also think that having friends who are not in the entertainment industry is a great way to stay worldly and humble and interested in the industry.

Lastly, a healthy physical practice is so important so that we have actual energy. Work days can be long and boring until we get called to set. Keeping our machine finely tuned will help us be ready when they call “action.”

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂

I would want to inspire a movement towards empathy. It’s so funny to me that I say this, because I used to think empathy was the thing that impeded me the most. I would see everybody’s point of view and not develop my own. Or I would see someone asking for money on the corner and imagine how difficult that had to be and just cry so hard. But I think if we all practiced more empathy, we would end wars, prevent genocides, have less road rage, create better, heal faster, build closer relationships and just be happier people.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I certainly agree with that! Everything I’ve done has been in conjunction with or due to the help of another person. So many people! I would have to say I am so grateful for Stuart Rogers, who I’ve been studying acting with for the last twelve years. His acting philosophy is more like a life philosophy. And surrounding myself with other actors in this studio who share the same philosophy has been integral to my positive relationship with my art. He is very interested in evolving his philosophy as he evolves as a human and that evolution depends on collaboration. Until I decide that acting no longer serves me, I will study with him because I learn something new about life with every scene I put up or watch on that stage.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ve long been a fearful person, but I think I pursued acting in part to help me fight my fears. One thing Stuart Rogers always says about acting is “Let’s find out.” He means, instead of playing the scene, let the scene play you. Instead of having an idea of how everything is going to happen, get interested in finding out. I’ve taken on this quote, not only as the most exhilarating part of acting, but also as a mantra to beat fear and inspire curiosity in life. I mean, I’ve literally taken it on. I had it tattooed on my right foot.

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 might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I know I would be forever changed if I could have pancakes with Michelle Obama. There are many people I am inspired by, but not only is she basically the definition of inspiring, but seems so easy going, supportive, powerfully vulnerable, honest and just really fun to hang with. I feel like she would listen and want to learn and put in her two cents as well. All that over coffee and a short stack makes for a good day in my eyes!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am on Instagram @missmeganle

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


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