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Young Sydney actor Zachary Wan has launched his feature film career with Never Too Late, co-starring alongside some of the biggest names in Australian film including Jacki Weaver, Jack Thompson, Roy Billing, Max Cullen and Shane Jacobson.
Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Zachary is a second generation Asian-Australian who found his passion for acting whilst performing in drama productions and school musicals at St Aloysius College, Sydney.
He is heavily involved in the school’s performing arts as a cellist, a member of the College Choir and a number of stage productions.
His ability to improvise for a variety of situations resulted in successful auditions for two roles in 2019. Zachary was cast in an ABC TV/Netflix Series, The Unlisted, a 15 episode children’s adventure production by Aquarius Films. This was immediately followed by a significant support role in a film with an all-star cast in Never Too Late produced in Adelaide, South Australia.
What is your earliest film memory?
The first time I remember watching films and being allowed to stay up late for ‘movie nights’ at home was about eight or nine years old. Dad would take my sisters and I to Blockbuster to rent movies to watch on weekends. One time, he rented Men in Black with Will Smith, the first full length movie I watched. I was fascinated with the effects and Will Smith being so cool. For me it was about getting lost in a super cool storyline that was unfolding on screen. Renting DVDs definitely holds a special place in my heart as my earliest film memory.
When did you realise you wanted a career in the screen industry?
When a theatre production came around at school, I decided to audition with a few of my friends as a fun experience. It was my first taste of anything related to acting and drama. When I had been given the lead role in the production, the whole experience of performance and expressing myself through different characters helped me to understand what I was truly passionate about. In my earlier years at school I didn’t have a lot of friends (mostly because I was too expressive about everything and honestly, people found me annoying!). I realised that being on stage allowed me to be so many different characters. When I saw what acting offered – that is, a chance to play different characters and express my feelings through screen and theatre – I knew it was my calling and it’s been what I wanted to do ever since.
Who is the one person that has influenced you the most as an actor and how?
Being quite new to the industry, I haven’t had many chances to meet a lot of people, but from the experiences I’ve had so far, I would have to say James Cromwell, my fellow cast member on Never Too Late. Jamie was a huge role model for me, fuelling my love for the industry even more. When first arriving in Adelaide for the shoot I was nervous, knowing the high calibre of talent that was going to be there. I was assured by Jamie that it would all be alright, and I didn’t have to feel nervous or pressured. He made my filming experience enjoyable and one that I will never forget. During our times on set he would teach me different things he had confronted in his long and amazing career, which has shaped my attitude towards acting.
What makes a great performance for you?
A great performance is one that you feel you have refined the craft of delivering that character or scene and have brought it to life for others. One thing that is most enjoyable as an actor is my ability to make others feel a range of emotions, at the same time, doing something that I am deeply passionate about. It’s a win-win situation. When I first told people that I was in a film and had some acting experience under my belt, many people from around the world sent messages of support to tell me how much they connected with my character. I love making people happy and performing at my best is what I find a truly great performance.
As an actor, what has been your most rewarding experience so far?
As an actor, the most rewarding thing that I still can’t believe is being able to have so much fun whilst learning so many skills. The experience with every job I get is awesome and does not feel like ‘work’ at all! It sounds crazy, right? I am happiest when I am working on set; I love to act and be a part of an entire on-set experience. And while I’m at home, my homework of watching films or practicing my screen acting with monologues and self-tapes is a whole life experience that is second to none!
As an actor, what has been your most challenging experience so far?
I think that the most challenging experience I’ve had is trying to remain professional at all times whilst balancing everything else that I have going on in my life. Being only 15, I still have to attend school and do my exams and study, whilst preparing for auditions and time on set. I find it difficult sometimes to balance my workload from school and the work from acting.
In your opinion, is the Australian acting industry a fair environment for all filmmakers?
I feel that the Australian acting industry still employs certain actors for their physical features and ability to cater to ‘acceptable’ social norms, rather than simply an actor for their skill. Being an Asian actor, I feel strongly about ensuring that talent from the Asian and BIPOC community have a place in the mainstream. I want to use my platform to show that an actor should be recognised for their skill and their devotion to the craft. I know that the landscape is changing and I am very excited to be able to contribute to this!
What is your favourite Australian film and why?
There are a lot of Australian films that I find worthy of mentioning, however, I have to say that the two that I love are Crocodile Dundee and Red Dog. For Croc Dundee, I found it so funny because it was the most stereotypical Australian film that presented us to the world. I also love Red Dog for one simple reason – I love dogs!
Never Too Late is in cinemas Thursday, 22 October.