Spotlight on Alumni: Tina Jung
Tina Jung is an alumna of the Acting Conservatory in York University’s Department of Theatre (BFA 2013). Since graduating, she has been busy working mainly in television and film. She has a recurring role in CBC’s Kim’s Convenience and in Nickelodeon’s Make It Pop. Other selected screen credits include Saving Hope, Man Seeking Woman, The Expanse, and Beauty and the Beast. You can also see her in the horror movie Saw: Legacy, directed by Michael and Peter Spierig, slated for release later this year.
What attracted you to York in the first place?
York was the only school I applied to and auditioned for. It was definitely a bold move because if I didn’t get in, I didn’t have a backup plan to get into a post-secondary school. I remember talking to my drama teacher in high school about what programs I could pursue and of course there were also Ryerson, George Brown, Randolph School etc. so I did some research and found out that York’s Acting Conservatory offered an intense curriculum that touched base with various acting styles and techniques that I wouldn’t get anywhere else. I went to the Ontario Universities’ Fair and began talking with people from York’s Theatre Department, and they invited me to come see The Bewitched, which was a fourth-year production of their Acting Conservatory that season. By then I was already sure that this was the place I wanted to study. I applied, I auditioned and luckily I was accepted, and after going to see the play, I was further sold on what York had to offer me. I knew I had made the right choice.
What was the most challenging aspect or experience of training/studying at York?
Being afraid to fail and to be okay accepting that. That was incredibly challenging for me to get used to. It was something the professors wanted me to work on throughout my years at York. I was the typical student who aimed to do well, who was a perfectionist and wanted to just make everything ‘pretty’ and ‘organized’ and ‘contained’. The four years was a process of getting me to be ‘messy’ and ‘dirty’ and throwing paint on a white canvas without a paintbrush. It was uncomfortable nonetheless, but without doing that and getting out of my safety zone, I never would have been able to take risks, discovering more that lies beneath, and overall not being shy or apologetic for expressing myself. You need to fail to get up again, otherwise where the hell are you going to go when you can’t see where you’re going? Now I embrace failing; it’s one of those eureka moments in development.
What did you do in your first summer after graduation?
The first summer out of theatre school I joined the Guerrilla Ruffian Shakespeare Squad (a.k.a. Shakespeare in the Ruff). We performed Shakespeare shows in parks and in various farmer’s markets throughout Toronto. It was a great opportunity to showcase classical theatre to a wide range of audiences. I also was fortunate to sign with an agent right after the Theatre Ontario Showcase, so as soon as summer hit I was going out for auditions with a fresh-out-of-theatre-school mentality. I booked my very first voice over gig for a CBC documentary on The Fifth Estate and our graduating class remounted our fourth-year production of The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui at The Great Hall, which landed us a Best Ensemble nomination from My Theatre Awards.
What was your favourite place at York, and why?
When I was at York, I loved going to the York Observatory. Not sure whether this is still the case, but they used to have public viewing times all year round, rain or shine. I always had an interest in astronomy and whenever I needed to take a short break or had some free time, I found myself at the observatory gazing at the stars to clear my head and enjoy a quick escape into space.
Can you tell us a story of a moment where your training at York was clearly useful?
In fourth-year voice class we learned how to talk in accents that would be an asset to us. Being Asian, I took the advantage to learn a several different accents like Korean, Chinese and Japanese. After graduation I soon found myself getting certain calls for auditions that would specifically require my character to have an Asian accent – although of course not everything I go for requires these accents. However, being prepared for this, I had no problem whipping out this skill from my back pocket to prepare for the roles. Whether it was a voice over audition, video game audition, television or film audition, I had York to thank for preparing me to be ready for accent-specific roles.
What did you learn at York that has been of greatest value?
In second year, at the beginning of every acting class, we would all sit in a circle to have life/industry chats with our professor, Paul Lampert. He told us something that I held onto throughout York and I still remember from time to time when I need a reminder: “Actors are like a flower garden — everyone blooms at different times”. When you’re a theatre student, you try so hard to be the best and always try to get everything right. You’re afraid of failing, you have doubts about your progress, and you become easily frustrated and beat yourself up for it. When you compare everyone’s progress like a flower garden, it becomes easy to visualize that it’s your own process as an actor to grow. You do your own work, at your pace, at your own development so you’re not forcing it, or faking it, and or are overall untrue to your craft. Witnessing a flower grow is beautiful. It takes time but you can see the tiny sprout reaching for the light rising into a stem, extending its body, developing a bud and finally blooming into a colourful showcase of petals. And once that cycle is done, you start again – actors are constantly developing, growing and learning. It’s a rewarding process.