Victoria Loke talks “Crazy Rich Asians,” and life after the box office hit
If you don’t yet believe in love at first sight, you definitely will after watching “Crazy Rich Asians.”
The box office hit was the first (yes, you read that right) audition that movie star, Victoria Loke, got sent to from Asia. As Elvis once sang, “some things….are meant to be-e-e-e-e.”
Speaking of romance (kind of) “Crazy Rich Asians” is the modern day romantic comedy we kind of knew we needed but definitely knew we wanted. The story surrounds an Asian couple who come from glaringly different socio-economic backgrounds (to put it frankly, one is filthy rich and one is not, obviously among other things).
And you probably don’t even need a synopsis, given that everybody and their mom (I literally went with my mom) has been out to see it already: the movie has made over $180 million worldwide, as reported by Box Office Mojo.
This was a perfect first film for Loke — and not just because the film’s success has launched her into her acting career headfirst. After being born and raised in Singapore and moving to New York City in her teen years, Loke was extremely proud to have contributed to the portrayal of multi-faceted of Asian American identity and characters on screen.
We spoke with Loke about everything from acting, to NYU, to travel, to cognitive neuroscience, and everything in between (which, as you might imagine, is quite a lot).
Read below for the exclusive interview and photos!
How did you land the role for Crazy Rich Asians?
It was truly kismet: I had just moved back to Singapore after graduating, looking to build a career as an actor in Asia, and “Crazy Rich Asians” was the first audition that my agency in Asia sent me out for!
I wasn’t expecting anything other than a memorable audition experience considering how I was (and am) a newbie to the industry, so when my agent called to tell me I had been cast as Fiona Cheng there was a long pause when I first let it register and then I screamed into my phone for probably 10 seconds straight.
What does it mean to you to be in the film like this? What are some of the things you learned?
The most meaningful aspect of this film to me personally has been the conversations that the film has now catalyzed about the various articulations of and contradictions within Asian identity. I was born and raised in Singapore but I moved to New York as a teenager where I came into political and cultural awareness through my involvement in the Asian-American community.
This made me both native and stranger to the two worlds that collide in “Crazy Rich Asians.” To be a stakeholder in these conversations has been such a rewarding learning experience for me, on how I am positioned in this world and how I can play a part in furthering these conversations.
What’d you think when you first read the script?
The script was an absolute page-turner, even in its early incarnations. I immediately thought about how this would translate into a cinematic vision, and when I first walked onto set I was blown away by what an amazing job our art department had done in bringing these scenes to life.
Eddie and Fiona’s living room was shot in the lobby of a condominium in Kuala Lumpur, and I was stunned by the creativity in its execution. One of the best things about working on a new project is seeing how those scenes you’d imagined in your head while reading the script would come to life: with “Crazy Rich Asians,” the team took my breath away every single time.
How and when did you get into acting? Did you always know it was what you wanted to do?
I was very shy as a child, and I mean so shy that I would literally hide behind my parents if a stranger approached us. My parents signed me up for a Speech & Drama class with the hopes of helping me get over this fear, and ever since then being on stage or in front of the camera felt like a safe space for me.
I never thought of it as a professional pursuit, but when I reached adulthood and had to decide what it was that I wanted to do with my life, I couldn’t think of anything that would make me happier than to be able to be an actor every day.
What are some of your other interests and passions aside from acting?
Music and travel come hand in hand for me: my litmus test for what is a good song and what isn’t is its ability to transport you into another world. I spend a lot of time exploring music from different parts of the world for this very reason, and I love it when friends introduce me to songs that they grew up with and listen to with their family: a close friend with North African family put me onto the music of Algerian singer Rachid Taha recently, and so right now I’m listening to a lot of music from the Maghreb.
A trip to North Africa is definitely in the works for me! Last year, I was introduced to Hindustani classical music through a visiting family friend, and it had me packing my bags to Punjab in a heartbeat.
Are there any upcoming projects you’re excited about?
I have just gotten my team together in the US, so now that I’m all set up I’m looking forward to bouncing back and forth between Asia and America a lot more! I’m excited about doing a lot more projects internationally, and I have my eyes set on doing something on the festival circuit in the coming year.
You attended NYU’s Gallatin school of individualized study: what exactly did you major in there? How has your time at NYU helped you navigate your career so far?
This is going to be a mouthful: broadly, I pursued a self-proposed curriculum built around an analysis of literary history and contemporary global cultural phenomena, in order to hypothesize the application of recent research in post-colonial philosophy and the emerging field of cognitive neuroscience as a foundation for building more inclusive and accessible cultural platforms.
More than anything it has helped me understand the significance of my unique subject-position in this world, and how I can use the platforms I have access to speak up for those who have been under-represented.
Damn, that’s incredible. How was it moving from Singapore for New York for school? Do you still balance your time between the two places?
I was 19 and fearless, so New York was perfect for that restless energy. At that age you just want more of everything and you want it faster, and I wasn’t satisfied with the pace of my life in Singapore. I dove in immediately to the depths of New York’s underground scene, and I met so many interesting people and had so much fun I actually never once felt homesick while I was at school.
Although technically I wasn’t in school all that much, I attended my classes but never stuck around campus; it’s New York! These days I can appreciate the slower pace in Singapore, though I always find myself back in New York when it’s go-time.
What’s your favorite thing about New York? How about Singapore?
There’s something about the energy in New York that you just cannot replicate elsewhere. Everyone is there with a purpose, with their hearts set on doing something incredible and that is something so valuable, especially if you are a creative person.
With Singapore, I would have to say it’s the creature comforts, like being able to take the train home without first having to witness a group of rats get into a death-match over a slice of pizza on the tracks.
Are you living in LA now? How’s that been?
First of all, I have to say that the selfie-game in LA is on a whole new level. It is impossible to take a bad picture with that California sun! I don’t live in LA all year round, but for Instagram purposes I just might. I will need to learn how to drive though, I’m such a city girl that I’ve never ever gotten behind the wheel! It seems like once you have your own a car in LA, anything’s possible.
Okay, so your skin is amazing: how do you manage to keep it so flawless? What are some essentials in your skincare routine?
I am 100% dedicated to taking care of my skin, and at night I have a 12-step skincare routine that I stick to no matter how tired I am. A skincare trick I learned recently is to ice my face: trust me, it works! If you have sensitive skin like me that is prone to redness and inflammation, icing your face is going to be a game-changer for you, especially in the summer.
After cleansing I run an ice cube all over my face before I put any of my products on (some people steep their faces in a bowl of iced water but this is more economical). I do this primarily to lower the surface temperature of my skin, which tends to be high, and I find that this has helped me control any inflammation significantly.
Photographer: Reuben Foong
Any advice for young international women trying to break into mainstream Hollywood?
I mean I’m still working at it myself, but so far I’ve learned two things: Let the right people come to you, and stay true to who you are. There is an intense pressure to shed your unique cultural background to try to assimilate into certain categories that people want to classify you into, but I think our individual quirks and contradictions are what helps us bring something refreshing to the table, and I feel that those things will draw in the right people.
What do you want audiences to take away from the movie?
The allure of the rom-com is that it takes you into this fantasy universe where everything is beautiful and works out perfectly, which is a great respite from the chaos that is going on in the world right now. With something like Crazy Rich Asians, it kind of straddles both these universes: it is a delightful and entertaining love story about overcoming the odds, and it is also something that has so much deep cultural and political significance for so many people.
I understand how the over-saturation of news and hashtags and think-pieces can lead us into a state of news fatigue, but I want audiences to come away with a sense that those two universes can and should co-exist: we can learn to engage meaningfully with the pop culture what we enjoy.
What are you most excited about for the future?
I just got an astrological reading done for the first time and they said that Uranus is going to be a huge influence in my life for the next decade or so, which means I should expect a really unpredictable ride: I’m an Aquarius so that is right up my alley! Bring it on! I cannot wait to see what the universe throws my way, and I want to bring everyone along with me on that ride.