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Meet Sharon Zhang

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sharon Zhang.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I went to boarding school in Australia, this is where I found my passion for storytelling. I remember going to see a play of Windermere’s The Way of the World and even though I didn’t speak much English then I was completely drawn by the colors and the language and the energy. Growing up in the country there was a lot of freedom to explore and become a really weirdly interesting person without judgment. I think that’s why a lot of Australians succeed here in LA: the isolation refines creative freedom, you could say.

The first time I came to LA was an accident; I was in college in France and came to LA to visit some friends. By coincidence, I met some really great filmmakers and got the chance to audition for people who were so interesting that I decided then I’d come back.

It was years in the making, and in that time I developed my career in China, which is where I’m originally from. Things are very different here from China: despite this notion that LA is homogeneous and superficial, I’ve found it instead to be somewhere where you can really find your tribe if you’re confident in your voice. And it’s such a melange that there’s something for everyone and every mood in life and creatively.

Has it been a smooth road?
Speaking of roads, I was on the road with one of my mentors Jackie Chan, and he out of the blue says “being an actor is very difficult”. I’m sure a lot of my peers in LA and elsewhere can attest to this. You could say I’m a sort of masochist for liking it but it’s never been a smooth road and even to get to where I am today, there’s been a lot of roadside emergencies and assistance.

The first time I was in LA, I recall being at a lunch with someone whose career I really admire, and it was Cafe Gratitude. So the waiter comes and presents the question of the day “what makes you happy”? I said something like “the sun”, while my colleague said “setting a goal and getting there, step by step”. I realize now how important that is, to have a goal in mind and to measure your progress against yourself only.

I’ve been very lucky to have had the opportunities I’ve had, my goal is to portray interesting characters, and also real-life figures like Yoko Ono or Anna May Wong, whose stories haven’t been told in a truthful enough way. As someone who’s lived a longer life in the time I’ve had, for a variety of good and not so great reasons, I’m blessed to have perspective, which ultimately will let me tell a good story.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I think as an actor, or any artist, our job is to communicate. My background is unique and polycultural, and I think that’s relevant right now when everything is so connected (pandemic) and separate (nationalism) at the same time. My passions beyond storytelling are also based in sharing ideas and intimate things like food, homeopathy and little cultural things.

I’m proud of the work I’ve done in front of the screen but equally content with the stories I’ve helped develop, translate and acquire from one of my cultures to another, for example acquiring films at Cannes to show in China. I think I am very sensitive to a strong opinion or voice and when I see something I like, I have an immediate desire to interpret that and communicate it in a way.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I love LA. It’s one of the only places where you could go from neighborhood to neighborhood and there’s such a wealth of culture. Sure it doesn’t hit you in the face like the bright lights of broadway or the scent of freshly roasted sesame candy in Beijing, but there’s something interesting about peeling back the layers and getting to know the city, and yourself, more.

I think the key to thriving in anything – in life – is to have a positive attitude and not lose that perspective. Even during a quarantine the energy of the city is here, and we just need to close our eyes and feel that energy.

There so many platforms for artists now – Tik Tok was huge in China before it got here and there are a few like platforms which will probably emerge strongly. To be creative is a life choice, and we don’t let life get in the way of that, and LA is an amazing place to be while that creative life is being lived.

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