In the second season, he does get some more agency and independence, but his development is still intrinsically tied to Klaus. He has the potential to be the most powerful member of the family, but that can never be fully realized because he’s essentially trapped.
I could sit here and talk about a million different scenarios where, if Ben was alive, what would he do? How would he interact with different siblings? How would he react to different circumstances? I think it would be so interesting to explore what life would be like for an Asian male in the 1960s, if [Ben] was actually visible. But the story is what it is. And I think there is beauty to this inextricable bond that he and Klaus have. In a lot of ways, he serves as a moral compass for his brother. So I’m glad that they continue to explore that this season. I think it would have been a slight cop out just to suddenly make him fully visible and alive.
In your bio, it says you took speed reading classes as a child and I was wondering how anyone gets into that.
I don’t know! I would like to know the answer myself! I think my mom got a random flyer for it. It was a summer break in elementary school and my mom was like, “I’m sick and tired of you being at home, you should take this speed reading class.” So she signed me up—and I instantly fell in love, not only because I enjoy reading and I like the idea of being able to read faster, but it was also very competitive in those classes. There were 20 of us and there was a ranking and depending on how many words you read a minute. I obviously wanted to be at the top so I worked really hard. But it’s a lot about pupil movement, so one of the main exercises that we would do is they would give us these huge sheets of paper just with dots and lines on them. And you would have to quickly move your eyes from left to right, and we would have competitions to see how many of those lines and dots you could read in a minute. It was all very competitive and crazy. Looking back I’m back, “why were people paying for this?” But here we are now. I don’t think I read as fast as I used to because I haven’t done my pupil exercises in a while—but relatively speaking with other people, I read a bit faster so… thanks mom.
I feel like if she’s trying to get you out of the house, being able to read really fast would have an adverse effect. You could just sit at home and read more.
Exactly! It all backfired on her because from that day, I never left the house again.
Although you’re still writing now, you were working in journalism before you made the transition to acting. What motivated the career change?
I don’t think that there was any specific catalyst for when I transitioned to acting. Towards the end of my college career, I was getting really interested in journalism and storytelling. And I actually worked for a couple of magazines right after college. They were great, but I was writing about the lobster festival in town, which is not necessarily the type of piece that I was most interested in writing. And after speaking to a number of mentors of mine and fellow writing colleagues, I began to understand that you have to put in 5-8 years in the industry before you’re at a position where you can pitch your own stories. And I’m an extremely impatient person so I wasn’t sure if I could write about eight more lobster festivals before I was able to pitch something that I wanted to write about, so that was when I came back to LA after living in New York for five years, and I thought to myself, “Okay, if it’s not writing and journalism, what else can I do?” And through a long series of existential crises and making pro/con lists, I sort of stumbled into acting.