Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, my name is Bryan and my name is Maggie. We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
Maggie: (00:00:00) Today we have a very special guest with us. His name is Brian Yang and his production credits include a late-life Jeremy Lin, documented Linsanity, Shanghai, international film festival award-winning biopic. And the upcoming snakehead Brian has also produced documentary specials for ESPN and Fox Sports. As an actor, his phone credits include saving face. The Jade pendant and laundromat and TV credits include The Path, Westworld, blacklist, and Hawaii Five-O, in which he played the lab tech Charlie Fong for five seasons. This past year, he joined the Andrew Yang 2020 campaign in a role as a regional fundraiser director, Brian, welcome to the show.
Brian: (00:00:52) It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Maggie: (00:01:00) Awesome. We are very excited for you to be on the show today we want to get to know a little bit more about you and your background. Can you tell us a little bit about your background, how you grew up, and your relationship with your parents?
Brian: (00:01:17) I had a pretty typical, I guess second-generation Asian American upbringing. I was born in Columbus, Ohio, my parents immigrated to the Midwest from Taiwan in the seventies, or late sixties, I guess and my father, eventually he’s an architect. He got a job on the west coast, so he moved us all out to California. Well, the three of us, my mom and myself, and then my sisters were born there, here in California.
I have twins, one of whom you’ve met Stephanie and yeah, we grew up in the Bay area. I went all the way through college at UC Berkeley in the Bay. And then after I graduated, I left not immediately, but a year after I graduated, I was trying to figure out what I want to do in my life.
And I wound up kind of, doing the conservative thing. I went off to grad school at the time. I was a bio major at UC Berkeley, but I fell into the dramatic arts department and started to do plays and enjoyed acting up a bit by the acting bug, and then I did the good Asian thing and went back to school.
That’s what got me up to the east coast, where I moved to Philadelphia, where I was pursuing a master’s in physical therapy. So, I was using the bio degree to do a health science thing, apologies if you hear my daughter in the background and yeah, I quickly found out I didn’t really like what I was studying, so, or that wasn’t so much what I was getting, but just the idea of becoming a physical therapist.
So, because I, once I started to do some rotations and like intern work, I didn’t see myself in that field. So, I always had that yearning to be in film and television, but I also had a very conservative sort of like, conservative side of me that also was hammered home by my parents in that I had to like survive and live on my own and do something, that provided so pursuing film and TV was not that. So, I wound up moving to New York City after Philly. I left school. I took a leave of absence and I; this is life comes full circle. I got a job. My first job in New York was at a .com startup with a guy named Andrew Yang. This was the late to date myself.
This was in the late nineties and that’s how I wound up getting to know Andrew, getting to know him quite well. And so, many, many years later, sorry guys, Bodie, please. So many years later, he winds up calling his friends, myself, included to say he was running for president and we can probably get back into this later, but I wound up going to work for him for the duration recently. But my background was that, and yeah, that’s what got me. I guess up till right after school.
Bryan: (00:04:42) Wow that’s, awesome to hear how light comes on full circle. One of my curious questions is as you are moving towards your passion and moving to New York and pursuing film and working at a tech company in the media, what were your parents thinking about this? They’re like, wow, how do you feel about you doing leave absence, follow me, your ambitions and dreams, how they feel about that?
Brian: (00:05:08) They were not happy, to say the least. I worked so hard to get into grad school and then for me to say, I think I’m not happy here and I’m going to leave. They were like, what? It was, cause I did work hard to get into grad school the year after college, I had to go back to school and take some more pre-recs that I didn’t send to finish. Yeah, I had to take the GRE, I got some work experience. My parents were elated. I got accepted into a couple of programs and they’re yay.
We can stop worrying about you. They assumed everything was good. I was on track. And then for me to just turn around and say what, I don’t want this. I dropped it. They’re like what? So, we had some battles. I remember vividly, but I think the thing, it wasn’t so much that day was their dream for me to go in that field?
It was a respectable stable, sort of normal career that they would not have to worry about me putting food on the table over kind of thing. And so, say, I wanted to go into the wild wacky world of media. They just, they couldn’t wrap their heads around it. Yeah, we had, there were many tears and arguments and I, but the thing is when I landed on my feet and said, hey, I’m moving to New York and I’m working a nine to five job, mom and dad, don’t worry. I’m going to have a paycheck that kind of allayed their fears because that to them is the most for my parents.
At least that was the most important thing. Again, they didn’t care what I was necessarily doing. They just figured trying to act and be in that film and TV world did not mean a steady paycheck. And they’re right but yeah, so I was able to kind of double-dip in that. I got myself a steady job, but I was there too, moving to New York city to be around the world of Broadway.
I didn’t work on Broadway, but off-Broadway, and I like the independent film and television scene because New York is a great city as well second to LA in terms of production and stuff, but it’s a great place to be as well. So, I was able to have it weirdly. I was able to have my cake and eat it too.
I mean, it was challenging to have a side hustle like trying to have a career but I was at the time young and trying to figure it all out and it took a while eventually I did, but yeah, I was able to that’s just kind of how I dove into it and got going.
Bryan: (00:08:04) That’s awesome to hear, and your story about double-dipping. I think that appeals to all of us, specially grown as Asian-Americans or Asian around the world. The first concern for our parents is knowing that our kids could provide for themselves, which is the reason why they push us to go to a traditional sense, really hard.
I want to be a doctor, a lawyer engineer. Yeah, in the medical field, that’s because they want us to be, he would be able to provide ourselves, but I like the double dipping idea because I feel like an Asian Hustle Network, that idea pertains to everyone, right? The reason why the hustle, the word hustle is so important in our network is that it means side hustle or working on other passion projects away from your nine to five jobs.
Everyone’s always talking about that in the community, in you. You’re a clear example of that working, we want to hear your story more and see like, and learn from you. And that sense falling eight, nine, the nine to five jobs. What was your first big break into your side hustle that you’re like, oh, wow, this could be a real hustle now, this could be my full-time gig. What was that first realization?
Brian: (00:09:04) Well, it didn’t come quickly. I can tell you that. I would say I was. I remember in New York I had 1, 2, 3, 4 different desk jobs in my, almost about 12 years of living there. And I would say the first eight or nine years of those 12 years was working at it at a desk job. And I some of one or two of those jobs, I had to wear a suit and it was very buttoned up. They didn’t even know I was pursuing other things, because that would be frowned upon.
I was always like ducking out during lunch or making up some excuse to be oh, I got a meeting, et cetera, and going to auditions and so whenever I would get something, I would I landed a part. I’d call out sick or use a vacation because it wasn’t I was working 200 days a year as an accurate, that’s just not, I’m not in that position.
So, it was very sporadic and so I was able to balance it and I got, I don’t know that I ever had a moment in those eight years where I was oh, I can just leave my job and rely on this side hustle now. I was involved with some fun gigs, some I don’t know if recognizable as the word, like one movie that I was in God went to Sundance this film called Saving Face, which was directed by the director of the half of it.
I don’t know, for those who are listening, who might be on the younger side, Alice Wu. They made a recent movie on Netflix called the half a bit, her first movie many, many years ago, was called saving face. And I had the privilege of being in that. And so, we went to Sundance and I remember having to use a week of vacation for that.
And so, but I didn’t, I certainly didn’t come back going. I made it, I quit my job, it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t until 2008 that there was, there was this big economic crisis and that the global economy kind of came to a screeching halt. And I got laid off from my last corporate job.
I was, there’s nothing, no one’s hiring right now. I was getting more and more I was building up my confidence and just the passion in this industry and I was you know what, I got one life; I’ve got this momentum going. The universe took away, my cushy day job.
But I am just going to use this time to focus on what I want to do and pursue this all out. So, I did and I have to say that was a silver lining for me because I’ve been fortunate not to have to look back cause I was looking, if worst comes to worst, I’ll come back and look for a job.
I didn’t have to and, the shackles came off and I was able to dive in it’s crazy how the world works I was petrified. I had no idea what I was getting into, but the fact that I didn’t have to look over my shoulder or worry about I got to deceptively live this double life.
Like free my mind up and focus on just this one industry I wanted to be in. And that’s when things started to happen. And obviously, it was a struggle and it’s still a struggle there’s no question. It’s not I’ve made it by any means. I, as a freelance actor and film producer, you’re always looking for the next job I have liked to walk down this path, so I’m not complaining, but I’m always having to reinvent the wheel, but at the same time I’m at a point now where I’ve built myself up to, I know how it works.
I have great partners all over the place. I’ve done a couple of things. So luckily you build up your resume and you just get the privilege of working over and over again on different projects. So, I would say I like backed into it because I wasn’t bold enough to just cut those courts.
But since the universe provided that for me, I was okay, thanks. Thank you. I don’t know if, I mean, I’d like to think at some point I would have quit and just totally went all in, but when it was taken from me, I had no choice and I was okay, so here we are. So, that was once the courts were cut as I said, it wasn’t like right away.
It wasn’t right away. My, um, my career started to flourish, but little by little, I build myself up on projects. I went out to Asia to explore the industry out there and I got involved. I wound up booking this show as a host of a reality show called Shanghai rush, and just your network builds up, the hustle just proliferates.
And after a couple of years of doing that, I was, I think, I dunno, this feels right. And so, there wasn’t a moment per se or a project, but it was just the aggregate of all of these things after I was I had got myself into a position, even if it wasn’t necessarily the plan to be able to just focus and dedicate myself to.
Maggie: (00:15:28) I think it’s really interesting because a lot of people have their side hustle, right. But they don’t have the 100% confidence to leave their nine to five to fulfill, their side hustle full time right. And they always have their nine to five to fall back on or cushy day job.
But it seems you, along the process, you gain that momentum and you gain that confidence, and you were given that opportunity to focus 100% on your side hustle. So, you were okay, let’s just do it, right. I think that’s interesting.
Bryan: (00:15:59) Your story is a great inspiration for me to hear as well. Cause that’s kind of, it’s very relatable to my life a year ago when I was working a software engineering job. I mean, I was trying to start but real estate business, I was trying to start the origins of Asian Hustle Network. And your story is relatable to me because my last meeting me to do someday I’m new to a doctor’s appointment right now.
So that’s relatable and I fully believe that everything happens for a reason and I fully believe that. I think there’s a lot of fear going to a new venture that you can see the outcome of, but the way the universe works. I just said before, it’s funny how it works because if you want to do something automatically the opportunities and the doors kind of opened up for you to kind of continue connecting the dots by all means not an easy task at all, because you’re always constantly fear is you can’t what if you can’t connect the dots in the future.
But the funny thing is there’s always a way out as always, a new opportunity to both moves forward. And as you keep looking for your network grows your knowledge grows, your confidence grows and everything just makes sense a lot of people will have trouble getting to that realm it’s not easy to round to get into because it’s a huge opportunity trade-off like, what if you have a huge mortgage, we just have a new family. These are things you can’t trade-off. So, props to you for making that jump, that your story is super inspirational for me to hear because it’s so relatable. After all, sometimes I think, wait, I’m the only one that goes through this crap.
Brian: (00:17:49) I think that where there’s a will, there’s a way and sometimes you can’t write a playbook on your life and follow it so, it’s when you’re put in an environment with the circumstances presented themselves, you have to improvise definitely. Your, determination, the intelligence, and the hustle there’s that wording will work out because your will is greater than the opposition pushing back against you. So, yeah, your hustle. I feel like I think that as long as there’s the will and a determination to make something happen, you can’t draw up how your life’s going to play out. You can’t blueprint it and it’ll work out perfectly and follow the straight path.
I think it’s the circumstances that present themselves, the environment you’re in, and just the determination and the hustle that someone has will more often than not open doors, present opportunities, and lead to results so it’s just about being there and applying yourself and, anyone who’s got the wits and the wherewithal also I think just putting out good energy, being a good person, making smart decisions, like all those things.
The biggest obstacle is always your fear and your own like just sort of doubts. So, yeah, I don’t, I think it’s the Asian hustle is real and everyone has it within them too, to accomplish what they want to do. And it’s just about doing.
Bryan: (00:21:20) Yeah, just on top of the Asian hustle too, we understand your involvement with the Asian community and want to hear more about the organizations that you helped start and help run because it’s so interesting. It’s so parallel to our mission Asian Hustle Network. So, do you want to hear more about it?
Brian: (00:21:35) I’ve always been involved pretty steeped in the Asian-American community growing up in the Bay area around a large, population going to obviously UC Berkeley and even Cupertino where I’m from is a town that’s full of Asian Americans.
So, I would say been instilled in me to always advocate for Asian Americans and, be part of the affinity groups on so many levels. I played a lot of sports growing up. I particularly love basketball, so I was involved in Asian-American basketball leagues. I’ve found it in Asian American basketball league in New York when I lived there and ran it, I was the commissioner for almost eight or nine years.
And I was always volunteering or being a part of different, nonprofits, community-focused organizations and I guess more recently, I mean being involved in different professional associations having worked for Andrew Yang is like has also given me a lot of, I guess, entree into, into the community and sort of pitching in helping out getting actively involved. Yeah. Asia, so I’ve always been steeped in the Asian American community growing up.
And the Bay area, in Cupertino, with a large Asian American population, UC Berkeley and I’ve always been involved in different affinity groups and organizations, everything from sports-related Asian American basketball leagues, which is a large thing in the state of California, Asian American nonprofits. Then more recently having worked for Andrew Yang, the Asian-American presidential candidate he founded something called the all of our campaigns which I’m involved in along with a couple of other organizations, nonprofits, and individuals. We formed a coalition to come together to help combat xenophobia and racism.
As well as raise money for COVID relief and this is all done the coalition is comprised of different Asian American, people or organizations, and we are using our resources or professional resources and experience to produce PSA videos we just hosted a screening of Be Water the Bruce Lee documentary directed by my friend Bao Nguyen when we had a conversation that followed it, that was about black and Asian allyship.
We have a bunch of t-shirts that are for sale, and the money proceeds go towards different COVID relief and social justice organizations. So, that’s something very near and dear to me so both professionally and sort of on a personal level volunteering, very active in the community and things around ours.
Our community uplifts our voices by being advocates. So yeah, that’s defined my life. I would have to say from growing up in the Bay to living in New York, being involved in different organizations and different pockets of people in our community. So, I’m very strong on that.
And honestly a good deal of my own personal, my own professional endeavors producing, namely is champing Asian-American stories, stories that put the camera on characters or themes that come from our community or are told by Asian-American storytellers because representation matters. Diversity matters and, in our business, right now fortunately it took a long time. And it’s still not anywhere near perfect or ideal, but Hollywood is becoming more open-minded to stories from the Asian American storytellers, just because as there’ve been shining examples in the last two, three years, they’re marketable and profitable.
And at the end of the day, that’s the thing that they determine they use to determine whether the green light things, the market’s means. And so, we’re seeing a rise of that happening and that’s encouraging too, and yeah, so that’s, it drives me every day and it always will. So, it’s great too, yeah, it’s great.
Great time right now for Asian Americans in I thinks facing out in terms of different industries and having our voices.
Brian: (00:27:48) Shout out to Bao Nguyen he was our episode one of the Asian Hustle Network podcasts.
Maggie: (00:27:53) We recently interviewed him, and yeah, his story was amazing as well.
Brian: (00:27:58) I think he’s been on he’s doing a run of so many podcasts right now and yeah, he’s a great guy. Great story an amazing storyteller, mad respect for him. Glad you guys got him. That’s awesome. I’ll have to go back and take a listen to that one episode.
Bryan: (00:28:24) Just hearing more about your store, your involvement with the entertainment industry, and what kind of initial barriers did you face? As facing a lot of racism, and setbacks. What was life like entering the entertainment industry also, to talk a little bit more about, you’re highlighting the Asian American story, we seem to publish a lot of documentaries? How’d you got involved with that as well? And what kind of mission and purpose did you want to highlight these types of documentaries?
Maggie: (00:28:53) I like to add on top of that too, I love that you explained all of your initiatives and your passion for amplifying Asian voices, all over the world. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do in the Asian Hustle Network as well. And a lot of people, especially in Asian culture, are very reluctant on sharing their stories or sharing their voices, right. Because our parents always told us to stay quiet, right. And to not share too much of ourselves with anyone else.
But in Asian Hustle Network that’s what we try to encourage people to do is to share their stories. And if we are all able to share our stories, we can connect on a deeper level and I’m also curious to bounce back on Brian’s question would love to know your perspective on the progress in America, starring Asian actors and actresses in leading roles in the industry. It wasn’t now like you might have a different perspective than us because you’re in the industry, but we might see it differently.
Brian: (00:29:51) It’s drastically different today than when I started and I’m mindful of the fact that my place in time or my entry point is very different than even those for me. So it has gotten better and better over the years but when I started I have to say racism, I don’t know that it was outwardly racist attitude against Asian Americans or anything from the industry. I think it’s more of a sort of systemic racism, which is the term that has been used a lot this year.
And people are finally kind of waking up to the mainstream and because yeah when I started all the roles that were, that I was being set out for a good deal of them anyways, were a delivery boy, martial art, immigrant, I can remember my first few television credits, Chinese soldier on a TV show called VIP again, to date myself, I appear on the Jay Leno show a few times in these really bad sketch videos, that were always poking fun of Asians. And you ask why would you let yourself do that? And looking back? Yeah, I cringed. And I think a lot of Asian American actors will tell you the same thing because we just, at that age, you’re oh my gosh, I want to, I just need to get experience.
I need to get reps and it also quite honestly paid pretty well. And then it also allowed you, entry into the union, which is everyone when you start and you’re I just got to get my sag card and be able to kind of click that, check that check box.
right. So, I would say I was in a way, I was fortunate that I wasn’t stereotyped or pigeonholed too badly as far as like, only doing roles like this, because I don’t do martial arts anytime it was like a foreigner accented part. I usually would either not go or the few times that I did go to the audition room and I was asked to do it, it was clear that I wasn’t very good, or I would maybe have a conversation with the casting person about it and they would be open-minded to try and get a different way. So, sort of case by case, but it was you just, the point is you just would see a rash of really bad rules being written, right. Usually, always concocted by a non-Asian screenwriter who thought of an Asian character as a prop, essentially.
So, forget about being the center of a story, forget about having to be a lead much less a fully formed character there were a couple of examples in my time well actually this was, I didn’t even start. I started after the all-American girl came out.
Joy luck club would be the movie that I think was the one that when I was coming up was the big Asian American film fun fact. I was an extra in that movie. It was my first time on a big Hollywood set and just being a fly on the wall was, was interesting but look fast forward 25 years later obviously, we have all these great examples of big films and TV shows that are happening.
I like to say, I try not to be bitter and sound like the old curmudgeon and be oh man you kids have it so easy. I everyone’s you can be shy you can be like the Marvel superhero today, which is happening right. Obviously with Shang Chi but I’m just glad that I’m alive to be able to see this and to perhaps reap some of the benefits.
As I said, I produce as well. So, putting on that hat has been empowering because I’m able to create and develop stories and pitch stories into the industry with the Asian American voice, either front and center or a significant part of the story.
And they’re being met with, it’s tough getting any soul, or set up or finance, but at least they’re listening and they’re seeing that they’re viable products and that’s a 180 from when I first started. And so, what you see is probably what I see and feel like right now it’s, we’re thriving in a way, it’s never enough and you still see, you still see some stereotypes out there every once in a while. And you’re oh, how did that one get through, the police, right? Then, the vetting who missed that one. Why aren’t we still seeing that? But I think the big picture is we’re moving in a positive place, a direction. I think it will only get better. I think it’s, what’s been great to see is the, honestly the social media and the digital age, right.
That came about the YouTube creators the social media influencers, hashtag movements, all these things have just broken the doors down. They just literally kicked the doors down and were bombed rushing in because back in our day, if we tried to raise a ruckus, we had to write letters. We had to go stand in front of like a studio in Pickett, right.
Or something right and no one cares about that. The only people that see that are the people that are trying to go in and out of their front door, or maybe in the mailroom, they’re oh, here’s a letter about offensive stereotypes and now you put it online you get a few thousand people behind it and you keep resharing it and it becomes a movement.
Yeah, and the studio exacts is, are listening, going, oh, wow I didn’t realize we were offending Asian Americans all these years. Okay. So, I think it’s cool. It’s great. It’s helping all of us and we got to keep on precedent. So, Twitter, Facebook, you came 40 years too late, but that’s okay.
We’re here today we’re going to reap the benefits and move forward and just keep telling some great stories. So, I’m excited and optimistic about what’s happening and I forget some of the other parts of your questions, if I find missing them if you want to,
Bryan: (00:37:16) We kind of talk and ask you a little more about your involvement documentary how’d that kind of start?
Brian: (00:37:22) I came up in a very narrative world just trained to read feature scripts and television scripts. And so, acting and producing scripted work was always that was it? That’s all I cared about and then in 2010 a group of friends of mine, and we were tracking this relatively unknown basketball player from Harvard University named Jeremy Lin, who, was blown up the courts and the Ivy leagues and we decided, hey at that time, YouTube was starting to pop they had all these experiments and the creating, like the first sort of wave of web series and just digital content right and, so this group, we decided, hey, why don’t we do like a little mini-documentary series on Jeremy?
And so, we, we approached him and he was at Harvard at the time and he was just, there were no gatekeepers around him. It was super easy to get in touch with him. You’d go to a game and you could talk to him kind of thing. Cause it’s the Ivy leagues. It’s not some big arena with security and thousands and thousands of people around.
So, we just asked them, hey, would you be interested in having a documentary made on you? And he was like, I don’t know what that means. So, we explained it and the idea was to just make like a very simple, like three episodes, docu-series about him and put it on YouTube and call it a day.
That was it and it took him a while. He didn’t say yes initially he was resistant to the whole thing. He finally came around when he became a professional on the golden state warriors, his first year in the NBA. He’s, I think his mindset shifted because once you become a pro player, you have to market yourself.
You have to, you’re now a brand, so to speak. So, we got together very quickly and we jumped in and started filming and we tracked him for a year basically kind of through his first year in the NBA, into the off-season. And, if you guys from the bay area, I don’t know how well, the story, you remember the story, but not a whole lot was happening.
And we were thinking, okay, we’ll just put this online and it’s fine. He made the NBA, that’s an amazing feat for an Asian American and then he of course winds up, going to New York. And then our story was oh, where do we end it now? Or do we just keep following him and see what happens?
So, we elected to keep following. He graciously, let us keep following. Cause we had to find sort of a natural ending point because by the time you wrap the documentary and put it out. in real-life stories ready to different people are going to be well, that we already know what happened.
So, it, you just don’t know until you hit something, right? And so, we wound up filming with him, and lo and behold February 2012, goes on this incredible tear, becomes the phenomenon known as Lin-sanity, which then took our little YouTube web series project into a whole nother dimension.
We wound up pivoting to become a full-length feature documentary that, we had phone calls and meetings up the wazoo from interested parties, studios, A list filmmakers, all kinds of craziness at the time his own life was crazy. Our lives were crazy, kind of behind the scenes.
And then we wound up premiering at Sundance and we sold the film and got theatrical and worldwide distribution and had the whole run of it. And so, thank you, thank you, Jeremy Lin, for creating the story, which helped us sell the movie much easier and to answer your question. After I made that and that experience, I was man documentary, that was kind of fun. And, maybe that’s something I will keep doing. And as fate would have it becomes one of them, it’s one of those things that becomes a calling card, right? Any business, any walk of life you pursue, you make something and people know you that person that was associated with that.
They’re like, oh, so-and-so, this person did that. And then I started getting connected to or pitched other sports-related documentaries or just documentaries in general. And then I think after I did that one, I forget exactly which one I did next, but I’d probably done a string of four or five different documentaries, type stories.
A lot of them are rooted in sports because, again, I liked sports and so I did something around baseball. I did something around auto sports. I’ve done several more basketball things and currently, I’m looking at doing a bunch of other sport-related stories in addition to a bunch of other non-sport-related things too.
But that’s how I got hooked on the documentary genre. And, then when it, as time went on here, we are 2020 documentaries are the hottest form of storytelling and content, out there like Netflix, Hulu, I mean, short-form, like even Instagram or Snapchat, those little things, anything that’s not scripted.
And that star’s actors are nonfiction, unscripted documentaries, right. And so, documentaries now are like, cool. There’s, they’re marketable. You could sell them there. They’re relatively inexpensive to produce compared to scripted content that requires hiring actors and like all these different moving parts.
And so, I’m really like rooted in the doc world now. I just think as docs have evolved in such a way that they are their great forms of entertainment or infotainment as a lot of people use the word. Cause usually it’s like a, it’s teachable, like a story that you learned something from.
But it’s also entertaining and so, I’ve got a bunch of different doc projects in development and but it all started from the Linsanity experience. So again, hats off to Jeremy for pulling me in a direction. I didn’t know. I wanted to go.
Bryan: (00:45:02) Congratulations on that success as well. I guess I want to hear a little more about your involvement with Andrew Yang and his campaign, and that’s how we first heard of you. And we’re curious to hear more about what was the process and was it super stressful for you?
Was there a lot of work involved? I mean, I heard some other snippets on your other interviews before how last new decision you have to drive to Indiana. I get some signatures. We want to hear more about what was being a part of the NGS campaign, right?
Maggie: (00:45:37) I guess what was the hardest part of being on that campaign that you guys faced as Asians as a team, as Asians, whatever.
Brian: (00:45:38) Andrew called me, it was honestly, it was the end of 2017 and he said Hey I just wanted to let you know I’m running for president. And, I say, I always say when he called me and said that my first instinct was to, of what, right because Andrew was not a career politician.
He’s never demonstrated an interest in politics. I knew him as a businessman entrepreneur. I worked for him, as I said before remain good friends with him over the years, but totally out of nowhere and so initially the biggest challenge was getting anyone to take them seriously. And so, after I hung up the phone with them, as soon thereafter read his book, the war on normal people, he had this big announcement in the New York Times.
I read this long article that introduced his candidacy and I started to just sort of, let it marinate. Cause I was, it’s really interesting that someone I know is running for president, but like, yeah, like, is this like, should I throw my weight into this? Is this going to be a waste of my time?
You want to have a natural inclination to want to support your friends, but sometimes when your friends are a little misguided, you don’t necessarily want. Put your good name and reputation out there and just burn all the bridges and cards that you have.
Right, So I thought about it. I was, well what he’s saying makes a lot of sense. All his proposals, there’s 180 some, I don’t know, different policy points he had on his website the flagship one being universal, a basic income and as it all sort of synthesized in my mind, I was like, man, Andrew was right about so many of these things.
And so, it didn’t take long before I was what, sign me up. I know this is going to be a challenge, but I’m into it. So, I wound up, starting just as a friend, helping him get the I changed my Facebook banner to like yang 2020. A lot of folks were but you running for president?
My friend, my brother from another mother, no relation. I always got are you his brother, obviously for we have the same last name, but I threw like I was, I co-hosted this, LA meet and greet with Andrew, and in 2018, that was the only way we got our friends to show up to was, we said there was free alcohol.
So, it was just, again, the struggle was just getting anyone to take them seriously. They’re whatever this is a stunt. It’s cute yadda even his friends, a lot of his friends were not taking it seriously and so it wasn’t until so if you guys were following closely, he went on the Joe Rogan podcast in 2019.
In early 2019, and I happened to be at that podcast because it was taped in LA and anytime you came to LA I pretty much linked up with him and I remember I so there were, being the good frugal Asians, right? His campaign early on was not flushed with cash. And so, I was I’ll drive you around LA man. No worries.
You would think like a presidential candidate was humming around in an SUV, a caravan, have a driver, that kind of thing, whatever. No, I was, it looked for the great Prius. So, I drove Andrew out to the valley to Joe’s studios and got to just sit there, like a fly on the wall.
We weren’t inside where he takes across the table, but out in the waiting room, but it’s on the monitor. So, I was watching it and it was about an hour and changed. I was you walked it out. I was like, man, that was good. Admittedly was not a Joe Rogan listener, like avidly.
I had heard a couple of big, bigger podcasts, but I didn’t realize I didn’t even, so I couldn’t appreciate his reach and popularity, I guess more just listened. It was some guests I was interested in, but I was Joe Rogan, the MMA guy, okay, that’s cool. But if you, again, if you followed, you knew from that day forward, I like to say there was before Joe and after Joe and for Andrew after Joe.
Immediately his popularity, just started to ascend, right? Millions of people listen to that, and reshared it like this guy, Andrew Yang is like onto something. He started getting more requests to join other podcasts, it was a meteoric rise and so, no question, Joe Rogan put him on the map.
And after that, you saw social media numbers, clients, and his donations climbed he qualified for the first bay. All these things just started to click. It was like, holy crap and then his little ragtag team started to grow you have money, and you’re able to start hiring people. We’ll get more resources.
His office grew the headcount of the staff grew. I was just a volunteer friend. They wound up getting invited to join officially part of the campaign. I was what I’m so in already I might as well just make it official, get myself an email address, and myself on the hook to produce stuff for them right before I could just be oh, I’m a friend.
I’ll do this in my spare time. Now I was you know what? I’m shoving aside my whole life. And I’m just going to be on the yang gang train and so I flew around to a bunch of the debates and held a bunch of fundraisers all around. I was regional meant the mostly west coast, but I did stuff in New York where I have a lot of network and friends also a couple of others, smaller cities.
And so, I got, I fully got steeped into it. And then I even wound up going to Iowa in January of this year to where the initial caucus was starting and so. I would say after, so again, pre-Joe, it was the challenge was convincing anyone to take him seriously post Joe.
I mean, there was still a degree of that because I think a lot of folks were still getting out of here, right? There’s no way this guy can win the presidency. It’s too far-fetched but then he kept making every debate. He kept getting onto some big night talk show and more media, more coverage, more breakout moments.
And suddenly everyone was can he? No. So, the challenge shifted a little bit more too, I guess the biggest challenge at that point was because people started taking him seriously, right. So that, that challenge was sort of addressed, was about just getting over that hurdle.
Can an Asian guy who is outside of the system take this thing a narcissistic reality show who has zero political experience dude in 2016, right? So, yeah, we’re taking his policies seriously. We love what he says, but man can, is my, can we vote someone that in and so it was just constantly trying to respond with evidence and persuading them to believe that that yes, we can.
We can have someone like that uniting the left and the right and leading us forward and obviously, we fell short we fell far short. I mean, I remember calling both in Iowa and New Hampshire, which for the first two states in the system, either phone banking or showing up in Iowa to different events and meeting people, and everyone at that point knew Andrew Yang.
Like he’s a household name now but just still being met with resistance around how realistic we could be. We could have not, not people wouldn’t necessarily say we can’t have an Asian guy be the president, but I think there was like that was always sort of like something that’s in the back of your mind I wonder what these Midwestern good old fashion valued people feel about this.
It’s, of, it’s not programmed in their heads. So, they’re just I don’t know what to think of this guy, right. So, and it very much reminded me of the Jeremy Lin story to be honest, which is crazy. Since I had, I guess the privilege of seeing that up close too, but just this outsider who no one had ever heard of before, like getting into some big arena and performing way above expectations and reprogramming everyone’s minds to think, wow, I didn’t know, an Asian guy could do this.
And even Asian Americans think this because we so seldom see people that see these platforms, or have the spotlight on them, shining bright as can be. So, it even takes us a second to recalibrate and accept that this is happening in front of our eyes.
And so yeah, unfortunately, things fell short in New Hampshire and suspended the campaign, but it was a great ride and I say today that I think it was a. It was all meant to be, it’s easy to say this now, but I do think that it was a stretch to have him win in his first go as a complete outsider.
But now, as you know, Andrew is like cemented himself in the public’s eye, he has all kinds of things going for him. He started a nonprofit; the pandemic has underscored how right he was on so many levels and more and more people like his popularity have grown, right. Post-campaign he signed with CAA; he’s got a podcast.
He’s, a media maker he’s writing another book. He’s, Andrew Yang did not go under a rock and disappear. He is going to be very much a part of the conversation of helping America heal itself and move forward, hopefully, things go the right way, this fall and he’ll have a big say in things.
but yeah, don’t count them out. Who knows what will happen eight years from now? He’s still a young guy, relatively speaking. I think he, this first go at it, just put them on the map in a solid, legitimate way and now he can kind of, sort of figure out, steps as we go. But, he’s not a complete outsider anymore.
Now there’s this like experience and this confidence he’s instilled in people and they’ll make them more seriously the next time or whatever, the next thing he puts his mind to. So, I think it was obvious it was a great thing and on so many levels, and most importantly, is that he’s helping America wake up to a lot of the elements that we had just kinda been ignoring.
Yeah, so it was a fun ride again, just grateful and lucky to have known the guy and been a part of this and seeing him, and seeing him grow into this role never would have predicted it. But that just goes to show you what the Asian hustle can do.
Maggie: (00:58:58) That’s inspiring hearing you share that story and I think that as society as a whole, it’s very far from people to experience change and I think that’s what, that was a whole, the issue with people believe can we have someone like this as a president?
But like you said Andrew Yang has been put on the map and now we’d have people start thinking like, okay, maybe we can see something like that as a president. So, I think this is like a really good stepping stone and we’re headed in the right direction. We just need to keep at it. We just need to keep reminding people like Asians we are trying to put ourselves on the map and we are going in the right direction.
And this is our opportunity to amplify our voices. And now more than ever, people are prouder to be Asian, right. Especially due to like COVID and all the racism and xenophobia, Asians who were embarrassed to be Asian back then, when they were younger, they’re coming out and saying I’m proud to be Asian. And I think that’s, our generation has changed a lot in a couple of years, a couple of months, even a couple of months.
Brian: (01:00:03) I mean, 2020 is a sped along a lot of things, for better or worse taking 10 years of things and I think condensing it into 10 weeks. So, I guess if there’s a silver lining to all this that here we are experiencing this and people kind of being forced to it’s like a reckoning in terms of Hey, wake up and smell the coffee. You’re, you can’t shed the skin. You can’t shed your culture, your history, your family, if we don’t step up and be proud and do something, I think also underscored by the fact that there’s been this rise of Asian Americans in media, in politics led by folks Jeremy and Andrew.
It’s our community is the fastest-growing minority group right and I think it’s only going to continue to grow and so this awakening is it’s been very transformative and 2020, again, this it’s unfortunate the way it’s played out with the pandemic, but I think we’re going to come out of this stronger than before.
And, so it’s been encouraging to see a lot of the people in our community organizations, individuals galvanize and put together a response and call to action, both within our community also in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and then even in our own, in my bubble of media and entertainment, see things continue to proliferate grow.
I know a lot of shows and movies are being set up and I think once things get back to normal, we’re just going to continue to run with this momentum and demand grow into sort of our seat at the table that we’ve finally taken this proverbial seat. So, it’s a great time.
Maggie: (01:02:31) Love it, love it. Well, it was amazing hearing from you, Brian for our listeners. How can they hear and learn more about you and the type of projects that you have going on right now?
Brian: (01:03:41) Yeah. I guess these are ways it’s following me on social media. my Twitter and Instagram handle is both Brys and yeah, I post pretty frequently on both, especially. Twitter, Twitter. I don’t know, millennial or gen Z. People are a little less active on Twitter. I feel like, but I’ve gotten pretty, I fall into the Twitter-sphere because there’s, I think it’s, I mean, hey, it’s, I think Twitter is like the thing that is changing society for better or worse. I like to focus on the better, honestly, it’s what got Andrew, as close as he did to the White house but yeah, I’ll post about my projects and other random thoughts. So that’s the easiest way.
Bryan: (01:03:39) Awesome. All right. Well, thank you so much for being on the show. We appreciate your time and your story. It’s just, that it’s so inspirational to hear a lot of commonalities and different paths that happened in your life. And this is just the very beginning too. Can’t wait to check in the next couple of years.
Brian: (01:03:53) I appreciate you guys. Thanks for hosting this and doing this it’s so necessary to keep helping our stories get heard. So, I know you guys are doing a great service and we’ll, I’m going to like I said, I’m going to go back and listen to Bao’s interview and keep track of you guys. So, so good luck and stay safe at this time, and hope to run into you guys down the road.