We had the good fortune of connecting with Sue Zen Chew and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sue Zen, how do you think about risk?
I left a secure full-time job at a film production company about five years ago with no plan, and that was a huge risk. For the most part, I’m a largely risk-averse person. However, when it came down to what I could see myself doing for the rest of my life, it made sense that I felt the risks involved in pursuing an acting career was worth it. It took me awhile to gather the courage to fully dive into acting, and though there have been small wins here and there, that risk hasn’t paid off in the way or in the timeline I expected it to. In that sense, every day I choose to keep pursuing this career is a risk, and every investment I put into my career is a risk, because I never know if it’s going to pay off. It’s non-linear. However, I do know I love it, I believe in myself, and I owe it to myself and the people who support me to work as hard as I can. The risks make me nervous, which tells me I care deeply about what I do but risks also light a fire under my ass! Sometimes you can only achieve something great with a little fire under your ass.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In order to fund my pursuit of an acting career, I was fortunate enough to land at a small company as a graphic designer with little design training in my belt. I am so thankful for the chance I was given to grow in the position, and the cool events I got to be a part of where I was forced to pivot quickly and learn on the fly. I’m proudest of our presence at Coachella’s Revolve Festival; we jumped into it with plenty of unknown factors but pulled off an aesthetic for our booth that was not only on-brand but got a lot of people talking (and laughing!).
As a creative in a small and growing company, I have to remain flexible and recognize that there’s so much I may not know about the business side of things. It can be difficult working with executives, but you must possess some level of humility and know that there will always be aspects of somebody’s job or factors in their decision making that you don’t know nor can control. When you recognize that, it changes the way you communicate and understand each other, for the better!
If there’s one thing about my personality, it’s that I always want to keep learning. I’ll spend days on Skillshare, I’ll doodle on ProCreate and honestly, I’ll make bad art! I started to not be shy about my work and I started daring to fail. It’s so similar to acting, in order to improve, you have to dare to suck. So, my biggest lessons thus far are to take risks and always strive to be better in what I do.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a huge Disney fan, so a Disneyland trip is a must. I also LOVE food. Anybody who has ever traveled with me has seen a Google excel sheet filled with cafés and restaurants I want to visit. I also love a good stationery store or any store filled with knick knacks from local or international artists. During the summer, my favorite outdoor events to attend are Hollywood Bowl and Street Food Cinema events!
Here’s a brief one-week itinerary of my favorite things to do, foods to eat & places to visit:
Day 1 (Monday) | Surf Lesson @ Zuma Surf & Swim; breakfast burritos at The Country Kitchen; visit the Getty Museum; dinner at Monty’s Good Burger then dessert at Magpies Softserve
Day 2 (Tuesday) | Breakfast at Lou, the French on the Block (their croissants are to die for); morning stroll at the Venice Canals; shopping and explore Abbott Kinney; splurge on an omakase dinner at Sushi Bar in Encino
Day 3 (Wednesday) | Disneyland!
Day 4 (Thursday) | Breakfast at Proof Bakery (coffee and pastries, but pick up a salted choco chip cookie for later!); hike at Griffith Park (hike any trail that takes you to the Griffith Observatory, the earlier the better!); lunch at Mama Musubi in Pasadena then visit the Father of the Bride house if you love the movie as much as me (on S El Molino Ave); end the night with a movie at the Mission Tiki Drive In. Bring a dinner! My recommendations: Howlin’ Rays for dinner and 7 Leaves or Mr. Obanyaki for dessert.
Day 5 (Friday) | Açaí bowls for breakfast at Amazebowls; shopping @ Kinokuniya & explore Little Tokyo; lunch at Wax Paper, explore Chinatown; sunset hike at Glendale near Verdugo Park, at the end of Sunshine Dr; dinner, shopping and hang out at the Americana at Brand.
Day 6 (Saturday) | Breakfast tacos at HomeState; morning coffee from Kumquat Coffee (Cloudy iced coffee, pricey but yummy); visit the Huntington Library; lunch at Bone Kettle; get lost in Vroman’s Bookstore; end the night with an outdoor movie or concert @ Hollywood Bowl or Street Food Cinema
Day 7 (Sunday) | Start early at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, grab a breakfast burrito at their food court; pick up some local produce and keep eating at the Studio City Farmers Market and then at Smorgasburg LA
Other Grab and Go Foods I love: Treat Yo’self Bakery (ube and pandan cookies – order ahead), Modo Donuts, Sidecar Donuts
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My fellow boba & food-lovin’ UCLA peer (you know who you are!) who has been extremely generous and supportive in helping me grow as an actor. My in-laws, who are some of my biggest cheerleaders. My family in Malaysia who, even though not 100% sure what I do, continue to support me and cheer me on. Last but not least, my husband, who is my main advocate and continues to be an incredible example of love and strength.
Kelsy Lua, Katie Brown Photography