From comedic supporting roles to romantic leading man, Jimmy O Yang’s time is here. The Hong Kong actor moved to the US when he was 13 years old and did a number of jobs to support himself, including stand up comedy which he still loves to this day. Like other immigrant stories, Yang initially pursued economies, hoping to work in a big company like Morgan Stanley but found interest in acting and gained roles where he became a frequent scene-stealer.
He started off as a guest star on the show, Silicon Valley and was quickly promoted to a series regular. What followed are a series of roles including his first dramatic role in Patriots Day, Bernard Tai in Crazy Rich Asians and Dr Chan Kaifang in Netflix’s Space Force. Already establishing himself as a comedic actor, Yang ventured into chartered territory for his film romantic lead role in Love Hard. Both subverting the stereotypes of a classic leading man and highlighting Asian representation, Yang’s portrayal as Josh welcomes a new milestone in his career, ushering that it’s time to fall in love with him—if you haven’t already.
In this exclusive interview, Yang sits down with Tatler and gets candid about his memories of Hong Kong, being a romantic leading man for the first time and online dating.
You were born in Hong Kong and stayed there until you were 13 years old. What fond memories of Hong Kong do you have growing up?
Yes, my childhood—they’re very fond memories. We went from a couple of different apartments, I think from Causeway Bay to Tin Hau Temple Road though. I grew up on the 20th floor so there was that memory of walking down the street able to get food everywhere—great barbecue, great, amazing food. I went to Pun U Association Wah Yah Primary School and I think that it’s a very prestigious school given that my parents had to put a lot of strings to get me in there.
And my childhood is just growing up just like a very normal Hong Kong kid. I grew up playing ping pong, soccer, learned violin and just have a lot of fond memories of Wah Yah Primary School and Victoria Park and of course, all the great food down the street right there.
Have you been able to visit Hong Kong often since moving to the US?
I want to come back more often but at the same time, there are so many other vacation spots that I want to go explore whenever I go somewhere. And of course now with the quarantine, it’s not quite possible which is sad. The only time I really spend a meaningful amount of time coming back was after Crazy Rich Asians. The layover was in Hong Kong and I actually flew my parents out so they spend the last week in Singapore with me and to watch the shoot and meet everyone. They’re very excited, especially to meet a megastar like Michelle Yeoh and everybody got a kick out of them being there.
And then, I went back to Hong Kong with them to show me some old restaurants that I used to go to, and things like that. I even get to reconnect with a couple of friends from primary school thanks to the power of the internet. They saw me on YouTube, I think for the Arsenio Hall Show or something, and then they looked at the name Au Yeung and went, “Oh, that’s very familiar” since not a lot of people have that last name. They looked it up and it was me and they reached out on Facebook. It is a very joyous week, getting to get in touch with some more friends and to go back to the old stomping grounds.