Hi Samantha, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I’m from Sydney, Australia and grew up in a beachside area called the Sutherland Shire, also known as ‘The Shire’. Growing up, I’d been introduced to the performing arts at a really young age, starting out in gymnastics, physical culture and dancing. My mum always took me to the local Musical Theater Society auditions to try out for a role or the dance ensemble. I’d never had formal training in singing or acting at this stage, but this ended up being my training ground. I remember being cast in my first musical The King & I and having a solo dance performance as the ‘fan dancer’. I became so in love with performing that from then on I spent 90% of my life outside of school in as many of these local musicals as I could. My first lead was in High School Musical as Taylor McKessie which completely changed my life as an actor.

At first, I always thought I’d become a professional dancer as I was training nearly every day of my life. I danced all through high school and after graduating, I was accepted into a full-time dance course at ED5 International (Australia). I thought I’d have a career on broadway, or in a contemporary dance company or touring as a backup dancer, but somewhere deep down there was always the hope of working in film and television.

Originally, film and TV seemed so out of reach and although I’d had stage experience and formal training, it just didn’t occur to me that I could actually go out there, get an agent and audition for the things I wanted to see myself in. I’ve mentioned before in a previous Voyage article how I started a degree in psychology straight after high school. I’m fascinated by human behavior and used to obsess over roles in film/TV that I would want to be cast in. I still don’t know if I can pinpoint one exact moment where I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but I knew that I had to change my career from psychology to acting.

Looking back, I’ve been so fortunate with the opportunities I’ve been given. Thanks to my first singing teacher Patricia Oertel, who encouraged me to take this career path seriously, I not only got a BFA [Hon] in Musical Theater from LaSalle College of the Arts (Singapore), I worked on cruise ships, toured South East Asia as Mulan in the live stage show, filmed my first feature Beyond Skyline, and now get to call Los Angeles home. I still feel like my journey is just beginning. I love living in LA because it feels like you’re somehow in the thick of it all the time. The opportunities are endless, you just gotta keep searching, find the right support system, do the work and enjoy the process.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It always feels like there have been struggles along the way to get to this point in my career like any artist. But in all honesty, I’ve been blessed with a relatively smooth road. I’ve been fortunate enough to always have had a side job to support me financially. I’ve bounced between a lot of jobs in hospitality and catering, to working as an apartment manager. All have come with some sort of skill or lesson and I’ve met some truly great humans who are now lifelong friends. I definitely struggled crossing the bridge of getting my US Greencard. The paperwork and money requests seemed endless but it eventually worked out and I can now call the US home.

I think one of the biggest challenges has been learning to create my own work. Not waiting for the phone to ring or relying on other people to give you a job. During quarantine, we all had to stay creative. I approached my good friends at The Knights Young to help me create my first short. I had an idea but didn’t know how to start. Thankfully, they were on board and have a lot of experience producing and developing their own work. I’ve been so lucky to have been a part of creating three films over the past 2 years with them since the pandemic hit. I’m still learning and figuring out how to get things in motion. A huge lesson I’ve taken from this process is patience and how to be confident in asking for help. That sneaky feeling of imposter syndrome never quite goes away but since we work in a collaborative industry and everyone wants to be a part of something, I feel like we’re all in the same boat creating together.

I’m extremely grateful where I’m at. I took some mindset courses during the pandemic to help with negative thinking because lord knows it’s a part of this creative job. I think it’s natural to suck up the energy and words of those around you and sometimes you can’t help but compare. Everyone has their own journey, their own experiences and it doesn’t have to dictate your path or mindset on what’s to come for you.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m an Actress and Producer based in Los Angeles, but of course I would love the opportunity to work at home in Australia again.

I recently produced and acted in a short called Other, which is very close to my heart. Other is the story of two sisters who, growing up in a bicultural Chinese/American household, struggle with identity in a country that is constantly trying to define them by their looks.

Growing up mixed Chinese/Australian, I wanted to share some of my experiences and open a discussion about what it means to have a sense of identity and belonging in life. I had so many conversations with my brother Adam Kwok about his memories and daily experiences growing up. What broke my heart was his constant feeling of not belonging in your own backyard, which is something myself and a lot of other bi-racial friends could relate too.

When I approached The Knights Young with this story, they introduced me to writer/actress Mandie Cheung and Director Jay Arcansalin who all shared similar experiences growing up mixed in America. Within three weeks, we had created, filmed and completed Other which is now circling festivals worldwide. We premiered at Mixed Asian Media Festival 2021 and have since won awards at multiple other festivals. I’m so proud of this project and the team of creatives I got to collaborate with. I feel so passionate about telling female-driven stories that champion women to create their own paths & embrace their strength within, so collaborating with Mandie on this project felt like we were able to do just that.

I’m currently working on another film called Vesper with Chadwick Hopson (Co-founder of The Knights Young), which looks at the fragility of relationships and the power of communication to create change. This film is our quarantine baby, and I’m so proud of the work we achieved safely during lockdown.

You can still catch me in Beyond Skyline & Skylines on Netflix and other platforms. I will forever be proud of this film and the opportunity it gave me to work here in LA. If you love an action/sci-fi, make sure to look out for the pregnant one!

What makes you happy?
Quality time and new adventures make me happy. I love simply catching up with close friends/family over food and drinks and listening to their stories. I’ve been so fortunate finding a friend group in LA that feels like family. We all make time to check in and get together on a regular basis. It’s nice to find a support system of genuine people who are interested in creating, who are positive and are always rooting for everyone’s successes.

I love quality time with my husband and quality time with myself. A good book, a good wine, a good coffee, a good film or tv show; it all counts as my type of quality time. My reading habits since quarantine have gone through the roof. I recently read the book ‘ The One Thing’ by Gary Keller and it puts life in perspective. It highlights prioritizing our ‘one thing’ across all areas of our life. This includes our careers, our relationships, our health, our happiness, etc… finding quality time to prioritize what’s important in each area of our life is so necessary and forges a path to your own success.

Contact Info:

  • Twitter: @iamsamanthajean