Since her days on "The Real World: San Diego" in 2004, we've seen Jamie Chung kick major ass in movies like "Sucker Punch," "Dragonball Evolution" and television's "Samurai Girl," to name a few. But what we haven't seen? Chung handling mouthfuls of dramatic dialogue or "something smart," as she calls it.
Until now, that is. The gorgeous starlet is front and center in "Knife Fight," which isn't the action movie its title implies. The drama follows a political strategist (played by Rob Lowe) and his assistant (Chung) as they navigate a trio of election campaigns rife with cheating husbands, blackmail and even an actual knife fight.
For someone who began her career in reality television, Chung found she had much in common with her on-screen counterpart. She spoke to us during the Tribeca Film Festival about that connection, her favorite New York hotspots and if we'd ever be seeing her grace a certain MTV reality competition again.
Between Rob Lowe, Richard Schiff and the subject matter, how was being in the middle of a major "West Wing" reunion?
Oh my God, it was like watching geniuses play. It just happened so naturally and it was fun to just sit back and watch the flow. There's something so normal and comfortable with their relationship. It's awesome to watch.
What I really loved about this character is she's kind of gung-ho, she's balls to the wall, she's all about it. She'll do anything to help Rob's character reelect his client. But then she starts to realize for herself, "Wait a second, are these really the people I want in office? Am I helping the right people?" And then she takes initiative and she follows her instincts and takes this chance on this woman Penelope [Carrie-Anne Moss] who really would make a difference and is someone she really believes in.
Do you think it's true this idea that bringing a gun to a knife fight is what makes politicians successful?
Yeah, but it's actually bringing a knife into a phone booth. It gets tight and it gets really close but it's still so violent.
Your character's parents are expecting her to go to medical school, but it's not necessarily what she wants. Your Wikipedia page, however accurate or not, says that your parents were also "traditional." Were there similar expectations for you, career-wise, growing up?
Absolutely. Especially with Asian immigrant parents who moved to California, they hear that they have this really cheap but fantastic education system, the UCs, and it's like the Harvard or the Yale of the West Coast. You have to go to UC Berkeley … They were hoping that I would quite possibly take my education further and become a doctor, lawyer or somewhat of an admirable profession, so I didn't tell them what I was doing for a year. I kind of fell of the map and told my mom I was figuring things out when in fact I was working on a soap opera and doing auditions. I chose not to tell her right away what my plans were because I knew she'd worry or disapprove. It's just not something you grow up wanting your kid to go through.
Now she still worries. She asks a lot of questions, but she's very proud.
Do you ever miss doing the "Real World / Road Rules Challenges?"
Actually someone called me the other day, and emailed me, and she's the talent wrangler for "The Challenge." She was like, "I'm just calling to check your availability" – she sounded very new – "so are you available end of May to do a 'Challenge?' It's this, this and this," and she gave me the details. And I was like "Uhh … hi. I'm kind of bound by contract right now for a TV show, but if that doesn't work out, I'll let you know."
So would you do it again?
No. But I was very flattered she thought of me. I'm super competitive by nature and I love physically, mentally pushing myself and that's what those "Challenges" are about, along with the sex, the drama and the alcohol that I don't want to be a part of, but I did like the physical aspects of it. And, to be honest, I still watch the shows. I'm obsessed. It's disgusting, but I love it.
Did you see the last one where the finale had them camping out on a glacier? Holy s**t! See, that's the kind of stuff I like to do, to see how mentally strong I am, and I think that's a cool experience. It's like a real true experience.
(Originally published on April 27, 2012, as part of our coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival)