As the son of an immigrant family, Chase Tang never imagined he would find himself on the world stage. But the Bedford-raised 25-year old has not only landed a lead role in the upcoming Netflix series Jupiter’s Legacy but finds himself featured alongside some Hollywood heavyweights in the United Nations Act Now project, “The World is in our Hands.”
“I was never interested in theatre or acting classes,” says Tang by phone from Toronto where is currently shooting the Netflix superhero series. “None of that stuff really interested me.”
What did interest Tang, though, were movies. An avid movie buff growing up in Nova Scotia, before the advent of streaming services, Tang found himself at the local Blockbuster on many Fridays. Renting six or more videos at a time, he would spend his weekend watching them all. “I never felt like I was wasting my life away,” he says, “I just really enjoy watching movies.”
It wasn’t until Tang was 12 years old that he would first consider acting as a career. It would eventually replace his dream of becoming a professional hockey player as his mother took him back to Taiwan.
“During those trips, a lot of people approached me and said, ‘you should consider modelling or acting because you’ve got a good look that fits television,'” he says.
But while a career in film and television may have been planted initially as a tween, Tang decided on a more traditional path by attending the University of Guelph to pursue a degree in commerce.
“My game plan initially when I went to Guelph was to do four years, and once I was finished, I was to go back to Halifax and find a job,” he says.
This plan was also sidetracked as Tang dropped out of university after two years. Finding himself pursuing a job in the corporate world, he eventually went back part-time to finish his degree. It would be several years of working in corporate Canada before Tang finally heeded his call to be an actor.
“It was the combination of being told at a young age that maybe I could do well in this industry and my love for movies,” he says of his decision to transition to acting.
Tang remembers his first professional acting gig in a POM juice commercial before going on to be a background performer in the Kiefer Sutherland television political thriller Designated Survivor. “And after that, I had a string of other things that kept things progressing.”
That progression has led Tang to his most prominent role yet, that of supervillain Baryon in the Netflix superhero-drama Jupiter’s Legacy.
It is also the reason Tang is currently in Toronto, where filming for the series is now underway. But if you’re looking for insider information or spoilers, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Despite our probes, in true Canadian fashion, Tang found himself repeatedly apologizing for not being able to reveal anything as a result of a strict non-disclosure agreement.
What he can tell us, though, is about his love for the superhero genre. “I don’t think there’s a superhero that I have not heard of or know which actor plays,” he says.
Tang is really on the phone though to talk about his participation in the United Nations Environmental Programme’s “The World is in our Hands” initiative.
Launched at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, the initiative was spearheaded by photographer and director Justin Wu and Hollywood charity master Todd Krim. The idea was to team up with high-profile personalities to shine a spotlight on the global climate emergency.
“They first heard about me from the attention and press I was getting as an up-and-coming Asian actor,” says Tang. “But I never thought I was qualified because I saw the faces they had already like Joaquin Phoenix, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, and Antonio Banderas.”
Wu and Krim saw things a little differently, though, with diversity very much on their minds. It is an area that Tang also sees as making some strides in Hollywood recently.
“I came at a time came at a time when it was a lot easier for people of Asian descent,” he says with some modesty. “Crazy Rich Asians had already come out, and Fresh Off the Boat was doing well, so I came at a time when it was a lot easier for people of Asian descent. I didn’t face the same type of hardship as other minority actors who came before me.”
Tang credits streaming platforms like Netflix as helping to create a more diverse entertainment industry.
“I think the audience is getting more diverse now, and the executives recognize this change,” he says. “I think that’s why there’s a wave starting now where they realize they need to serve all markets.”
It is why Tang believes he was approached to be part of the UN initiative in the first place. “They thought I’d be a great fit because of my representation in the Asian community, as an Asian in Hollywood, and my upcoming role [in Jupiter’s Legacy],” he says.
Considering himself a typical eco-friendly guy, once Tang found himself involved in the environmental initiative, he discovered there was much more he could do.
“I was the kind of guy where my recycling bin would be full of water bottles, and I thought I was doing the environment a favour by just being a good recycler,” he says. “But I didn’t realize that I was contributing to the problem even though I was recycling.”
It is this educational aspect that is the lifeblood of “The World in our Hands.” Tang hopes to influence people’s mindsets with simple changes to their everyday lives, like travelling more sustainably, saving energy, or even eating less meat.
By lending his image to the initiative, Tang hopes it will encourage others to think about what they are doing individually for the planet.
“It’s all about education. It’s not about starting to recycle, but about the other things individuals can do to benefit the world with some straightforward adjustments.”