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Meet Tina Huang

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tina Huang.

Hi Tina, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I am the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants and was born in Dallas, TX., but raised in Chinatown of New York City. As a little kid, I always loved disappearing into make-believe worlds. I was curious what it would be like to be someone else – to feel like someone else. I thought it was impossible to become an actor since I did not see many people that looked like me on stage or in TV & Film. My parents hoped I would choose a traditional/stable career and become a doctor or a lawyer. Becoming an artist was my secret wish and this desire came from a place within me that I cannot articulate. It was strange that I could feel like I was destined to be something AND feel so much self-doubt. I was lucky that in public school, I had some amazing teachers that saw some talent in me and encouraged me to apply to art school. I didn’t yet have the courage to audition for acting schools – I was especially not ready to compete against other New York City kids that had been acting since they were toddlers. Much to my parent’s chagrin, I got into LaGuardia High School of Music and Art & Performing Arts – the “FAME high school” – with the portfolio my teacher helped me put together. I studied fine arts for the first year but I couldn’t stop thinking about acting – my dirty secret. Finally, I got the courage to audition for the Drama department without telling anyone. I was accepted and quietly transferred departments. I ended up getting cast in the senior show as the leading character. The first and only play my grandmother ever saw me in.

I auditioned for NYU Tisch School of the Arts at Playwrights Horizons and ended up graduating with a BFA in acting, directing and design. Shortly after graduating, I moved to San Francisco, California. I grew a lot in the Bay Area because I had the pleasure of being a part of some “out there” or alternative narrative theatre. It was a kind of grad school. One of those shows also brought me on tour on the West Coast and eventually on a tour in France. I ended up getting cast as the lead in a feature film which brought the natural next step of joining the Union and moving to Los Angeles.

Many people warned me about LA and how much I would hate it. I was nervous but what I found in LA was a wealth of culture. There were so many very different people and food in one place, so many adventures to be had – With 20 million people, I thought, “if I cannot find something to like, if I don’t proceed with curiosity and find something I’m interested in, that’s on me.” I had some distant relatives that let me crash with them until I could get my bearings until I moved into an apartment with college friends. I ended up interning at a casting office, a workshop studio, working part-time and checking out the theatre scene at night. I made a business plan at the advice of a working actor friend and did five things a day for my career. I even started submitting myself for projects with my distant relative as a fake manager on made up letterhead.

Flash forward, I was able to get real agents and a wonderful manager. I am currently recurring on DAYS OF OUR LIVES as D.A. MELINDA TRASK and am voicing several voice-over projects. I am a member of two incredible local theatre companies: Ammunition Theatre for which I am a founding member and served as Artistic Director for its first five years, and IAMA Theatre Company. Dear to my heart is my production company, 1:1 Productions, that I Co-Founded with Karla Mosley in 2016. Our mission is to champion Women of Color in front of and behind the camera. We have produced and have had successful festival runs for our multiple projects including the short, XIN, which I wrote, starred in and dedicated to my mother. We are very excited to be heading into post-production for our newest project we shot during Labor Day weekend.

The pandemic has really highlighted how much community means to me and how much I need it to thrive. I’m really looking forward to safely re-emerging, re-connecting with, engaging in, and contributing to all that culture that LA has to offer.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I feel very fortunate for all that I have and have achieved but I wouldn’t be honest if I say it was a smooth road. I struggled a lot with doubt. This sneaky destroyer-of-joy not only stems from my own neurosis but from my parent’s earnest worrying about me: they just didn’t believe an Asian American could have a career in acting. This was further reinforced by the lack of representation of Asian Americans in media. It truly is a daily practice not to be deflated when thinking of all these things. But the trick is to stay engaged. If you don’t see the representation, make it happen. There are so many interesting artists and storytellers doing this and making change which is encouraging.

Another personal challenge is that my mother was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disorder when she was in her early 50s. Over the years, she declined and I ended up becoming her caregiver for the last four years of her life. We lost her when she was 64 years old. The experience with the health care system and how we as a society treat the aging was enlightening/enraging. Though it was the most challenging time of my life and such a profound loss, I would not take back any of the precious time I had with her, especially in the quiet moments. She left me with some big lessons which I’m sure I will continue to mine out for the rest of my life. She wanted me to seek happiness. She wasn’t disappointed in me. She was proud of me. She loved me and wanted me to continue to build the life I wanted for myself unapologetically.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m primarily an actor and right now, I am having a great time playing the deliciously mean Melinda Trask on Days of Our Lives. I am also a voice-over actor, writer, director and producer. I’m proud of being a part of the theatre community in Los Angeles. I am a founding member of Ammunition Theatre that supports inclusivity, underrepresented artists and local activism through philanthropic partnerships and a member of IAMA Theatre Company. I am proud to have Co-Founded 1:1 Productions with Karla Mosley and our mission to champion women of color in front of and behind the camera. I am very much looking forward to moving into post-production on our current project, UnClaimed. I’m excited to keep growing our list and meeting women of color filmmakers to collaborate with.

I am proud of the artistic community I have cultivated around me – proud of my artistic community’s resilience, it’s willingness to learn, evolve, grow, challenge the status quo, and ask the uncomfortable questions. I am constantly inspired by the artists–the people around me. They encourage me to strive to do better and to stretch myself even when I think it’s impossible.

What sets me apart? I’d say: follow through and deep commitment to work and collaboration. If I say I’m going to do it, I do it.

How do you think about luck?
I grew up in a household where having luck or not having luck was always talked about. My parents often saw fortune tellers or Feng Shui practitioners regarding how best to arrange our home to bring the most fortunate. Some of the things these practitioners had to say scared me but most of those things never came to pass. I suppose I grew into a person who is simultaneously a skeptic and superstitious.

I feel lucky/fortunate for so many things. I do what I love for a living. I surround myself with people I love. So many of my peers are fiercely talented, inspiring and incredible human beings. I am a working actor. I have a great partner in life with a wonderful family. I have my colorful family. I have two super cuddly cats.

But luck or feeling unlucky has been a trap in the past for me. There was a sense in my childhood that I was unlucky. I’m ashamed to admit this but when my mom got very ill and I became her caregiver, I sometimes thought it was ultimate dealing of bad luck. I thought my career might be over. I thought I was losing valuable years of building momentum. I thought, whenever things started to feel like they were moving, something terrible would set me back. I felt sorry for myself. All that, on top of battling the fear of losing my mother and witnessing the suffering she endured. I was full of anxiety and in a deep depression. In many ways, I was ready to give up on my dreams because I thought the bad luck was telling me that I didn’t belong.

Through the help of therapy and the beautiful people around me, I could see my way through. The flip side of the experience with my mom is it left me with such a rich life experience. Left me with such strong memories of her. It gifted me more intimate moments to get to know the person who brought me into existence. This time with her gave me so much perspective and context for who I am. I got to learn about her hopes and dreams. I got to laugh with her for a little longer.

So, was it really bad luck?

…And as luck would have it, it was during this time I got a call from my manager at the time that I had been offered the role of Susie Chang on Rizzoli & Isles. I would go on to work on that show for many years.

Yes, luck plays a part in succeeding in any industry – right time, right place. But that’s not all there is. I have to acknowledge that I have worked hard for the things I have achieved as well and be proud of how far I have come and what I can overcome. Luck doesn’t define me.

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Image Credits
Dana Patrick, Dana Patrick, Mickey Pentecost, Shannan L. Reeve, Unknown

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