We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeff Chen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jeff, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I’ve learnt that it’s important for me to force myself to take a break from time to time. I can be intense when it comes to my career: I get bursts of energy to really work on my craft and the business, but burn-out also happens from time to time. It’s easy for me to slip into a place where work is the only thing that I focus on and I would feel guilty even if I am just taking a small break. Overtime, this mentality just took a toll on me and I realize it’s not sustainable if I can’t take care of myself first. Taking care of myself includes making time just for me; explore my hobbies and spend time with my family and friends. Now, I have a rule that is I will eat out at least once a week and I will at least save a day for myself once a month.
Personally, maintaining a work/life balance really comes from the understanding that my work is not who I am and what my life is depsite my passion and love for it.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
If 13-year-old me took a glimpse into the future and saw what I am doing right now, he would say this is exactly what he wants for himself when he grows up. I moved across the globe for my pursuit and I am living my childhood dream. I am proud of myself for that. I am really excited about what’s happening in Hollywood with the rise of representation. I am so happy to see people that look like me appear on the screen and take on leading roles. We are developing a voice of our own and it’s gonna get louder.
I wouldn’t say this journey has been easy for me. It’s challenging for sure but passion will take care of it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would start the trip in the East LA area: a boat ride in Echo Park, a visit to Clark Street Bakery (They have the best Olive/Rosemary focaccia), and a walk in little Tokyo. Depending on the season, I might suggest Hungtington Garden for a half-day trip. While we are in the area, I would check out Pasadena on the way. One of my favorite milk tea spots, Cha Redefine, locates there. LA also has some crazy movie theatres. I would definitely take my friends to TCL Chinese theatres for a movie. Griffith Observatory is an oldie but a goodie. Often your friends want to go to Santa Monica pier, but I always recommend Malibu for a beach experience. Malibu Farm Pier Cafe is actually a very nice place to dine in with a great view. If we are feeling a road trip, I would certainly take my friends on Pacific Highway into Road No.1. We can check out Big Sur, Carmel by the sea, and Monterey. If we just wanna a short trip, Topanga or Santa Barbra is also a nice option.
LA is also a wonderful place for foodies like me. My list includes Sapp Coffee Shop in Thai Town, Szechuan impression, Tsujita noodles in Santa Monica, Jon and Vinny’s… The list goes on.
At the end of the trip, I would always try to persuade my friends to move down here cause one week is just not enough.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Andrew Huang and Kelly Yu are two amazing Asian directors I had the pleasure of working with. I am proud to see Asian filmmakers speak our unique voices and I am so glad to be part of these journies. All of my personal friends are super important to me. In China, there is a saying that goes “You rely on your parents at home and you rely on your friends when you are out in the world.” Being in the US on my own for almost a decade, my friends are my family. They offer me a lot of support whenever I am at my lows. And I am at my lows a lot frankly haha.
Chris Holder is my acting teacher/ mentor who helped me a lot along the way, especially when I first moved to LA. Rebecca Dumaine and Lena Hart are also two amazing teachers that made me not just a better actor, but a better person.
Personal Portrait Shot by Matt Kallish