A true multi-hyphenate and journeyman through many aspects of the film industry, including acting, writing, directing, producing, and stunt work, Peter Jang is the up-and-coming talent to watch in 2023.
Coming off a big win for his award-winning short film MASK, which he starred in and directed, at the 2022 Marina Del Rqey Film Festival for ‘Best Narrative,’ Peter is now ready to tackle his next slew of projects, including his recently wrapped production of SHADOW FORCE directed by Joe Carnahan and starring Kerry Washington, a feature film that is currently in development, as well as a screenplay titled SIMULATION. Along with his current projects, Peter will most recently be a featured panelist at this year’s Los Angeles Comic Con for their “The Art of Action – AKA How to be a Badass in Film” special panel.
Peter moved to California from Columbus, Ohio, to pursue his BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Once finishing his time at university, Peter moved to Los Angeles and began pursuing a career in acting/stunt work and absorbing as much information about the industry as possible while getting started. With a background in Taekwondo as a junior Olympian fighter with 5 US National Taekwondo Championship medals and 3 Ohio State Champion titles, Peter was naturally drawn to stunt work as a fight specialist. Peter also excels in wirework, high falls, parkour, air rams, and weapons training (firearms and blades), to name a few. Over his time in the industry, Peter has acted and performed stunt work on multiple big-name projects, including THE SUICIDE SQUAD, THE FOREVER PURGE, BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE, “NCIS: Hawaii,” “General Hospital,” and “American Horror Stories,” to name a few.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Peter to discuss his journey in the entertainment industry, and here’s what went down:
Can you tell us more about yourself? How did you get started in the entertainment industry?
I was born in Columbus, OH, and grew up in rural Delaware, OH. While earning my BA in Economics from The University of California, San Diego, a friend of mine showed me a casting call for extras on a TV pilot being shot in Ocean Beach. I ended up working on the show and had a great time, but I still did not quite understand the industry and that there are real career paths within it.
Years later, I moved to Los Angeles to work at a market research firm, doing extra work and music videos on the side for fun. I started taking acting classes and eventually earned my SAG card by doing extra work. With that, I earned more per hour than my Market Research job and learned I had a passion for acting and filmmaking, so I took the plunge and became an extra full-time.
While on set, I took them as learning experiences, carefully watching every position from lighting to directing, how the crew talked to each other, and how the director talked to the department heads and actors. I fell deeper in love with performing and filmmaking in general. I got to work on everything from no-budget short films to 200 million dollar blockbusters, in every position, from Production Assistant on a fitness video to standing in for months on huge films by JJ Abrams and Michael Mann. In my acting school, I also got to take seminars and Masterclasses from greats like David Mamet and Jim Belushi, as well as winning international screenwriting contests, to which a prize was a screenwriting seminar from Robert McKee. But my largest break in the industry has been through the amazing stunt community. As I started working on bigger and bigger projects, I’ve had the honor of working with amazing talents within the stunt industry and found a family through blood and bruises.
Finally, I have become a filmmaker myself, and since 2016 I founded and am CEO of Simplicity Pictures, Inc. With four short films and my first feature film on the way, I am just getting started.
What do you like most about acting?
Oddly enough, I see acting as the last leg of my martial arts training. People tend to look at the physical side of martial arts as what defines it, but for me, the way of life, philosophy, and system for self-improvement and enlightenment defines it. I have been a martial artist since eight and have even achieved five national championship wins in Taekwondo. What I love about martial arts is that it has taught me mental toughness, discipline, hard work, and control over mind and body. But what martial arts, and really nothing else I have found, can teach is emotional control. With acting, I love pushing the boundaries of my psychology and emotions and coming back to the center. While entertainment for audiences can inform and change perceptions, it can be transformative and enlightening for the actor, allowing us to embody another person’s psychology, learning about our own. I love acting because it allows me to learn about myself and the world through another’s eyes.
Can you tell us about your role in Mask?
I play the role of Nick, a combat veteran who suffers from severe PTSD. We find Nick in the boxing gym trying to escape his symptoms by working out while being on hold with the VA and avoiding calls from his wife due to his shame. As the story progresses, we see that Nick’s mental illness is causing him to have fits of crying and rage and that he is suicidal. When a mysterious man in the gym confronts him, his worst fears are brought to the forefront, and we watch him struggle with his inner demons.
What sort of person is going to relate this character?
Anyone that has experienced trauma in their life will relate to this character. The human tendency to withdraw and isolate ourselves when we deal with trauma and put on a mask to our friends and family to not be a burden is an experience that most people share, and this piece emphasizes that we should not choose to suffer in silence, and even the strongest of us need help sometimes. The deepest hope of this piece is to let people know that they are not alone and that their lives are worthwhile.
How is this character like you? Different?
In the film, Nick hides his struggle from his wife. The reason the film is called Mask is because Nick hides behind a mask of strength and feigned happiness in an attempt to protect his wife and child from what he considers his true nature. In my life, I have also made this mistake, pushing away those who love and care for me so that I can suffer in silence. Many people can relate to that sentiment. Nick and I are also similar in that he has a fierce dedication to his family and a strong internal urge to protect them, just as I feel. We are different, though, besides the fact that I am not a veteran, nor do I have a wife and child, in that I am more optimistic and hopeful in my life than in the place where we are introduced to Nick. If the story were to progress after the short, however, Nick would be on the road to recovery, bridging the gap from where he is to where I am.
Besides yourself, what celebrity would you like to see tackle this character?
Currently, I am a huge fan of Michael B Jordan and the great work he has been doing. I think that the depth he brings to his characters would fit this role. I also think Dev Patel, Stephen Yeun, or Yoson An would be phenomenal in this role.
Besides yourself, which actor/s in this short film is going to blow people away?
There are only two other actors in this film, and both did an amazing job. Gabrielle LaJudice’s portrayal of Fiona, Nick’s wife, grounds the piece in a loving reality that has moved audiences to tears. It made Nick’s struggle that much more heartbreaking to have such a loving and earnest wife being what ultimately saves him from himself. In the role of Tyler, Tim Neff also lights up the screen with his malicious performance. He does a fantastic job personifying the internal struggle of Nick. Both of these actors were vital to this story, and I am so lucky to have them be a part of this passion project of mine.
What’s the biggest challenge to taking on this role?
Directing and acting on this project was the most challenging aspect since it was so emotionally charged. Going from a complete emotional breakdown, taking off my actor’s hat, calming down, and then asking to see and critique the shot was an exercise in emotional control that I love. I live for these kinds of challenges.
If you could play any other character in this short film, who would it be?
Getting to play Tyler would be a great challenge. Tyler is the embodiment of Nick’s fears and self-hate, so finding the malicious humanity in that character would be a great learning experience for me.
What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?
Writing, directing, and starring my own films has the most rewarding experience of my life. It has allowed me to explore the inner workings of my mind, objectively craft those explorations into emotional experiences for my audience and play them out on set while collaborating with artists that expand my perspective. The combination of catharsis and teamwork is addictive, and I am so humbled to be able to commit my career to something I am truly passionate about.
Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?
I absolutely love meeting all of the crew members whenever I work on projects. Everyone from the production assistants to the artisans building the sets to hair and make-up people, and everyone in between are so varied in how they found the film industry and have fun stories to tell. The film industry at large is so interesting to me because every one of us have decided to do something with our lives that most people give up at some point because “it isn’t practical”. I know I play dress-up for a living, so I never try to take myself too seriously, but the magic we create, and the ideas and changes that we inspire never ceases to amaze me. I’m not sure who said it, but I love a quote I heard once: “We may not be curing cancer, but we’re giving the person who is the night off.”
How active are you on social media?
I go in and out of being active on social media, but I am most
consistent with Instagram and Facebook. I try to use them like photo and video diaries of my life and have a lot of fun scrolling through my pages every once and a while to remind myself of the details of my journey so far.
What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.
I’m looking forward to shooting my first feature film this year, as well as publicly releasing Mask and entering an action short film called Boss Uzi into festivals. Beyond this year, I look forward to further developing my production company Simplicity Pictures, and continuing to make the library of films I have and will write. I hope my work will help change how people see the world and inspire positive change.
Aside from my own projects, I am excited to see what opportunities will arise as an actor and stuntman in the years to come. This year, I will appear in three TV shows, one feature film as an actor, and one feature film stunt doubling. I’m looking forward to expanding myself as an artist and look forward to continuing to collaborate with amazing artists around the globe.
Outside of my work, taking care of and creating memories with my parents, sisters, and friends as best I can, travelling around the world, learning at least one other language fluently, getting married, and starting a family are the goals I have for my life. We only get one life, and I plan to live mine to the fullest!