Yin Chang - From Gossip Girl to the Prom
Yin Chang is most recognized for her role as Nelly Yuki on CW's "Gossip Girl". Chang finished filming a feature film for Walt Disney Pictures as a lead character. Her movie "Prom" will be released in theaters nationwide on April 29, 2011.
Chang was born and raised in New York and is the eldest of three daughters. She is of Taiwanese and Chinese, Malaysian ancestry and is raised as a Buddhist.
Chang writes during her free time with plans of publishing novels, memoirs and children’s books in the future. She hopes to write scripts one day and see her finished work come alive on screen.
Her artistic endeavors are inspired and encouraged by her maternal grandfather, the highly respected and world-renowned artist Dr. Teng Beng Chew. According to Chang, she considers herself to be a family oriented person, “I have a large but very close knit family; we’re the Asian version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I love spending time with them.”
Until recently starting her professional acting career, Chang has spent all her vacations traveling around the world with her family and relatives. Her hobbies include jewelry making, playing piano, traveling, reading, baking, cooking, fishing with her father, paper crafts, photography, sketching and sewing among other things. Yin was also a classically trained pianist.
ASIANCE chatted with Yin!!
ASIANCE: What was your favorite part about playing Nelly Yuki on CW's "Gossip Girl"?
Yin: Nelly Yuki! I can never say her first name without saying her last name! She was a great character to play around with. It was awesome how the writers started her off as a helpless, naïve bookworm who minded her own business and was sabotaged for no reason. Then as the series progressed, she observed her surroundings and quickly learned how to try and get her life back. She finally grew a pair and became rather manipulative and ultimately defeated Blair with the Yale acceptance. Just knowing how Gossip Girl fans juggled a love-hate relationship with her was my favorite part. It was incredible getting some type of reaction from the loyal fans!
I have so much respect for Sandra Oh. Margaret Cho is another Asian American who is just freaking awesome.
ASIANCE: Do you follow or aspire to any other Asian American woman’s acting career?
Yin: I have so much respect for Sandra Oh. She is a phenomenal actress. I find her confidence and quirkiness to be absolutely beautiful and inspiring. Margaret Cho is another Asian American who is just freaking awesome. I love her honesty and no-bullshit attitude. She definitely inspires me to stay true to myself. If I can have a combination of their careers, I’d probably have an anxiety attack from being too content.
ASIANCE: Tell us about your Disney movie called "Prom" and how you landed the role.
Yin: PROM is a very authentic and honest coming-of-age movie that really captures teen life without having to venture on the topics of sex, violence, drugs and use of profanity. I’m so proud to be a part of this movie. I can finally enjoy watching a project that I worked on with my sisters without having them close their eyes or muting the volume! I’m pretty strict with them. I never let them watch full episodes of Gossip Girl, only scenes that I was in because Nelly Yuki’s storyline was rather mild compared to the others. Everyone will be able to relate to PROM because our characters experience the same adventures that they do in high school and in life overall; insecurities, downfalls, excitement, decisions that impact the future and falling in love. Tweens will be excited to see what lies ahead in while adults will be reminiscing their high school memories. I play Mei Kwan, an artsy senior in high school who’s one of the core members of the Prom Committee. She’s also the other half of the school’s “perfect couple”. Mei and her boyfriend Justin have their whole lives planned out together but she gradually comes in conflict with herself and explores her own individuality. I hope a lot of adults who had high school sweethearts or even college sweethearts will strongly connect with Mei and Justin’s storyline. I landed this role through the normal process of auditions, callbacks and screentests. It was a grueling two month long process from the initial audition to the final screentest to the phone call with the decision. All my energy was focused on this project which was not good! My eating and sleeping habits were all thrown out of order. I felt like I was having a panic attack every day for those two months. When I got that phone call, I screamed like I would in a horror movie. I’m still surprised my roommate didn’t barge into my room and throw me off the balcony. Once my throat started hurting, I stopped screaming completely and started bawling. I went through this crazy roller coaster of emotions in that ten minute phone call. I couldn’t wait to tell my family but I had to wait several hours till my sisters got home from school to tell them the news. I’ve never been so anxious in my life.
ASIANCE: Are you writing a script? What story would you want to tell the world?
Yin: I worked on a script for a short film that was inspired by a song. I hope to one day make that short with my best friend. My goal isn’t for it to be a big, lavish production. I just want share a story with the world, or even just one person, and hopefully garner some type of reaction whether it be positive or negative. I hope to publish a novel someday as well. I have plenty of inspiration from my amazing family and their beautiful and heartbreaking stories. Hardships, hard work, success, family values, love and heartbreak, it’s all there. I grew up reading quite a few of Amy Tan’s work. There was not one book where I didn’t laugh out loud or cry through loads of tissue. I felt the pain and experienced the joys through her storytelling. It’s all about the storytelling. I would feel so accomplished if I could touch the hearts of readers the way Amy Tan did with mine. I would also like to write a novel about Asian Americans in the entertainment industry and have the readers experience what it’s like. I currently write in chunks. Whatever pops up in my mind, I just write. It’ll be completely out of order, chapter wise. But I’ll worry about putting it in the correct order later on. And maybe someday even further down the line, I’ll hopefully publish a children’s book.
ASIANCE: What do you do in your free time besides write?
Yin: Man, I wish I could feel cool by saying that I hit the gym everyday but I’m not thrilled about exercising at all. I’d rather stay home and eat a tub of mac n’ cheese with a bucket of fried chicken. I know that it’s not the healthiest thing to do, so I try to be active by hiking. I honestly enjoy that. I room with my best friend and we’re very laid back people who find the fun in almost anything. So it’s like we’re character acting every day. I don’t watch much TV but thanks to my boyfriend, I’ve been catching up on some movies and TV shows via Netflix. My boyfriend got me addicted to Nip Tuck. So recently, you would find all three of us glued to the TV during our free time on weekends. I feel it’s rather necessary to mention that my Grandpa already finished all the seasons of Nip Tuck. He’s pretty gangsta!
ASIANCE: Is there an ultimate role for you that you would like to play?
Yin: Not much of an ultimate role, but any kind of role that portrays women in an empowering light. I’m drawn to characters that are passionate, endearing, respectable and strong. I think characters that have a heartbreaking past, or something similar, are the most intriguing. At the end of the day, I would just want a role that I’d be proud of. If I can make the audience emotional at any level, I’d be one happy camper!
ASIANCE: Tell us about your grandfather, world-renowned artist Dr. Teng Beng Chew.
Yin: I love my Grandpa! It’s because of him that my parents finally gave in to my acting bug. My parents never wanted me to be an actress because it’s a very unstable career. Thankfully, my Grandpa is an artist and understands what its like to have a passion for the arts and to really go after your dreams. My Grandpa was born and raised in Malaysia and is referred to as the most qualified artist of his country. Besides his breathtaking works of art that challenges your imagination and senses, he’s also internationally known for inventing a specific way of making handmade paper art and is dubbed “The Malaysian Genius of Papermaking”. He earned a Fulbright scholarship to study art at the Cranbook Academy of Art in America. Then he earned his BFA and MFA at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. My Grandpa continued on to complete his PhD at New YorkUniversity. Then he was conferred an Honorary Doctor of Arts by De Montfort University Leicester, England. I’m always in awe of his endless achievements, accomplishments and awards. He has a very impressive and extensive resume filled with honors and awards, international exhibitions, one-man exhibitions and inclusion in collections, to name a few. I think it’s really amazing that some of my Grandpa’s art was auctioned at Christie Auction House. It’s one of the most prestigious auction houses that showcase some of the finest art in the world and was founded in 1766. He loves sharing his knowledge with the world through his teachings and his art. I think the coolest thing about my Grandpa is how generous he is. My Grandpa left a very successful career in America to help his country establish the very first art department at a university level in all of Malaysia, with the rest of the universities following suit.
ASIANCE: What other actresses of your generation do you admire or want to give a shout out to?
Yin: I’ve always admired Natalie Portman’s acting skills. But after seeing her intense performance in Black Swan…WOW, just, wow. No words. Her educational background is actually what made her stand out the most to me. I have a lot of respect for actors and actresses who make time for education. Julia Stiles is another fantastic actress who I also admire and she attended a prestigious university as well.
ASIANCE: Are there any younger Asian American actresses that you would want the public to take notice? Perhaps some up and comer?
Yin: My younger sisters Lelina and Melora. I have to say, they’re not bad actresses at all. The short time that my mom allowed them to audition during school breaks, they always did a great job at the auditions. Lelina’s expertise was in commercial acting and Melora’s was in feature films. My mom stopped them from acting for a while because, understandably so, she wants my sisters to focus on school, sports, instruments, after school activities and clubs. As much as I’d like them to jump back in the acting world, I agree that their schedules are busy. Both my sisters were the only Asians to ever represent their middle school as President. They’re basically like the MVPs of all the sports they play and compete all the time. And yet they still manage to maintain their high grades in advanced courses. I’m so damn proud of them. They’re like my own kids because we’re nearly ten years apart. Lelina is extremely dedicated to the science and research field and feels it’s her true calling so I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t return to the acting world. But my youngest sister, Melora, still has the love for acting. The very first movie she auditioned for, she booked the job. Coincidentally, her movie’s main character is Ally Sheedy who starred in “The Breakfast Club”, which was one of the main inspirations for my movie “PROM”. Trust me, when the time is right and Melora gets back into acting, she’ll be one to watch out for.
This pilot season, especially, I’ve noticed several castings specifically for Asians. Whereas, I am generally seen for “all/open ethnicity”.
ASIANCE: How is/has the entertainment industry opened up for Asians and what advice would you give to girls who want to follow in your footsteps?
Yin: It’s still an uphill battle, but I definitely see an improvement from the time I first started working. This pilot season, especially, I’ve noticed several castings specifically for Asians. Whereas, I am generally seen for “all/open ethnicity”. Networks and production companies are more flexible with the castings now. I screentested for a medical drama for a FOX pilot recently and the character specifically had a Jewish last name. The role ultimately came down to me and a young, beautiful African American woman. Frankly, I think it’s great that the casting directors, director, producers and writers stepped out of the box and gave chances to actresses who were out of the character description, looks wise. I loved that they were being so flexible and open minded. I didn’t end up getting the role because they were “going for a different look”, but the network told my agents they were impressed with my work and wanted me in the pilot. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but my agents called me about two weeks later and said it was official. They specifically wrote me in and created a character based off of what I auditioned with. I felt so blessed and so proud when I heard the news. This experience reminded me there are roles out there who will be given to actors and actresses based on talent and not the politics. So for those who aspire to be in this industry, know that it’s not a fairytale. For every success, there will be difficult roads. It’s important to set a high goal for yourself and be positive. It’s good to audition for as many roles as you can that you find suitable, but don’t allow yourself to be molded into someone that you can’t relate to at all.
ASIANCE: What is your favorite thing about New York City?
Yin: The FOOD! The energy, the air, the skyline, the cultural melting pot are all my favorites. NYC will always be my true home!
ASIANCE: What is your favorite think about Los Angeles?
Yin: I love the weather. And I really love that you go to the beach year round.
credit photographer ADAM FEDDERLY
Apr 2, 2011 @ 03:37 pm Ginny (not verified) said:
I love Yin,she's a sweetheart and those pictures are gorgeous! wish all the best for her career!