Donald Heng chats about playing “Christian” in The CW’s “Two Sentence Horror Stories” and other roles, such as “Tim Kwon” on CW’s The Flash.
Donald Heng appears in two upcoming feature films; Sight, which stars Greg Kinnear and Terry Chen as well as American Dreamer featuring Peter Dinklage, Matt Dillon and Danny Glover. We discuss these projects and much more!
Read on for Donald’s interview with Courageous Nerd. Or, alternatively, check out the video version on YouTube, which is linked below.
Acting and the wider entertainment industry in general can be quite precarious. Who or what inspired you to follow this path?
Donald Heng (DH): I did it throughout high school and I think that’s my first taste of it. Just really enjoying it. I’ve said this many times before where I felt like I got attracted to it for the wrong reasons. I liked the applause and making people laugh. It isn’t a bad reason, I guess. I did crave that egotistical reception from the audience kind of thing.
I didn’t full-on pursue acting professionally straight out of high school. Although I wanted to, I didn’t know how to get into it. 2-3 years into my University degree, I just thought “I have to give this thing a try.” So, I looked on the Internet and found a course. They recorded auditions for you and sent them to agents.
At the same time, I enrolled myself into an acting class. I think that was where I really fell in love with acting, so to speak. The whole method of really taking your life experiences and showing that through the screen. In particular, finding the bad moments in your life, taking that and applying it as a career. I thought it was the epitome of taking the lemons in your life and making lemonade.
For Chinese parents, mine were on board – my Dad in particular. He was like, “Yeah, do it.” Amongst my Asian peers, I don’t know many parents who were that supportive. Some even hide their careers from their parents. Even after they’ve kind of made it. I’ve been really fortunate in that regard.
You have several credits under your belt, but what does being a working actor mean to you, Donald Heng?
Donald Heng: There’s a lot of actors who don’t watch their own work. Even really well-known actors don’t like watching their own work. I actually enjoy it, I do think it’s fun. My parents and family get a kick out of it. We definitely sit down and watch it.
In fact, I would say before I started acting, I did extra work. So, I was in the background. As 2 actors were talking, I’d walk through. I’d sit down with my family and find those moments. Also, we’d be like, “There it is!” We get excited about watching stuff that I’ve done.
You’re appearing in an episode of Two Sentence Horror Stories on The CW. As the show is an anthology,Is it challenging to convey a character’s full arc – beginning, middle and end – in just one episode compared to an extended run?
DH: Initially when I got the role, I did find it daunting. Not just the size of the role and how prevalent he is. A lot of the episode was me interacting without another actor. I was worried and a little bit scared. The whole experience I think went better than I anticipated. I liked working with the director [Vera Miao], who also created the show.
In the end, I guess I worried about things that didn’t end up being a factor. It wasn’t too much different compared to any of the other shows I’ve worked on.
As of when we’re conducting this interview, the episode isn’t out yet. What can you tell us about it?
DH: As you mentioned, it’s an anthological series. Personally, I describe it as “Goosebumps for adults.” Each episode is a half-hour, a new story and new cast. It dabbles in the paranormal and mystery. Ghosts, monsters, those kinds of things.
In our story, it’s a double episode. We’re in the second episode and it’s called “Plant Life.” I play a character named Christian. who is very obsessed with his work, really relies on technology. His best friend is probably his virtual assistant. He’s dating this guy named Ben, they have a great relationship. However, his obsession with work often hinders things,
On their third-year anniversary, his boyfriend Ben gifts him this mysterious plant. Unexpected things happen after that with the plant. That’s pretty much all I can say, I guess.
Another upcoming project, Sight, is a feature film starring Greg Kinnear and Terry Chen. How would you describe your character and his role in this movie? Where can people catch Sight once it’s out?
DH: Sight is a biographical film, based on the life of Dr Ming Wong. He’s probably the world’s most renowned eye surgeon, performed probably tens of thousands of surgeries and helped restore sight to people. Including Dolly Parton, he performed surgery on her.
The story flashes between the present day and the past when he grew up in the 1960s-70s China. Living in that uncertain world where they didn’t know what the new Government meant. Or, what changes were going to happen.
I play his young father, who guided him through that tumultuous period. They gave him the opportunity to come to America and find the American dream. Terry Chen plays Dr. Ming Wong in present day, Greg Kinnear is his best friend.
He’s developing these new methods for people to restore sight. From that, he follows his path in the present day. It also flashes back to when he was a child and how his father had that influence on him.
In your opinion, what makes Sight stand out compared to films in a similar genre?
DH: I don’t think there has been a Hollywood film that really focuses on a Chinese protagonist – I think that’s what sets it apart the most. As a whole, I feel we’ve been given more opportunities in the last couple of years to tell our stories. This certainly adds to the pile. I think that we’re witnessing one of the biggest changes for our generation and generations past.
This is for Asian-Canadians who want to have their story told. This is one of those films really pushing the forefront of that.
In addition, you’re also in American Dreamer alongside Peter Dinklage, Matt Dillon and Danny Glover. What can you tell us about the film? Where can people see it?
DH: I just have a supporting role in it. All my scenes are with Peter Dinklage. So, when I got the role, I knew he was in it. I saw him on the call sheet. Yeah, I had just finished watching Game Of Thrones and he’s most people’s favourite character, I would say. He certainly was mine. I was pretty excited to be working on that.
Actually, I didn’t know that Matt Dillon and Danny Glover were in it until after I’d finished. They weren’t announced until after then. I didn’t even get to meet them or anything but it’s certainly an honour to be part of a call sheet like that.
You were also in The Art Of Racing In The Rain, opposite Milo Ventimiglia, who was just awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Could you discuss your time working with Milo on that film?
DH: Yeah, it was great. I will say that out of every celebrity I’ve ever met, he is the nicest. As far as his celebrity and whatnot. He’s every bit the persona that you see in This Is Us. Not Gilmore Girls, because apparently, he’s a bit of a d**k in that. He was a very, very nice guy. My wife has a crush on him, my cousin has a crush on him. It was cool to tell them, “Hey, I just worked with Milo Ventimiglia.” He was a great person to work with.
Lastly, what are you hoping to accomplish with the rest of 2022? What can people epect from Donald Heng?
DH: I guess just to build upon a successful last year. Hopefully, work on projects that I enjoy working on. Work on things that people watch and [play] characters that I and other people find interesting. It’s pretty generalised, sorry.
Thanks again for taking the time, Donald! Take care and stay safe.
DH: Thanks a lot man, you too.