A 20 year detour

When Ke Huy Quan was 12 years old, he made his film debut starring in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Millions of viewers would know his character, Short Round. Yet as he got older and decided he wanted to act for a living, he saw fewer opportunities to act. He couldn’t see a future for himself in this path.

While he still went to film school, he decided to pivot his career as a stunt choreographer and assistant director. While he was happy doing that, he said goodbye to his dream of being an actor. 

20 years later, Ke watched Crazy Rich Asians. He watched it in theaters three times, crying each time partially because he wanted to be on the screen with the cast.

For a year, he discussed returning to acting with his wife Echo. He saw meatier roles available, but it still felt like a lot to risk; he would be entering the industry again at 49 years old, and still risking rejection. 

His aversion to regret outweighed his trepidation, so he asked a friend to represent him. Two weeks later, he got a call about an independent film that would become Everything, Everywhere, All at Once

What stands out to me is Ke’s perspective on his career detour. There isn’t an ounce of bitterness, anger, or entitlement. It’s all gratitude. It’s this approach that enabled him to stay in the film industry all of these years, not on a path that didn’t suit him, but on a steadier path. 

When the timing seemed right, he was in a position to get back in the game. He says, “Much of what it means to have perseverance is to have patience. So be patient, and don’t give up.”

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