Kevin L. Lee takes a deep dive with Ke Huy Quan on his journey from forgotten child star to Oscar favorite and everything in between
When I was finally able to show Everything Everywhere All At Once to my family, my mom recognized Ke Huy Quan immediately, not just by his face but also by his voice.
“哦！他是不是關繼威?” (Oh! Is that Ke Huy Quan?)
“Wow. 好久沒有看到他了。他最近有演其他的電影嗎?” (I haven’t seen him in so long. Has he acted in other movies recently?)
And it took me a while to explain his journey to my mom, because the more it went on, the more it sounded like the film we were watching. It sounded like we were talking about Waymond.
I brought this gut feeling into my conversation with Quan and asked him if it would be fair to say that a lot of Waymond’s character is him playing himself, to which he agreed, adding that had none of his early life struggles happened, he wouldn’t have been able to play Waymond.
“All the different versions [of Waymond] that you see up on the screen is an accumulation of my life experience,” he says confidently.
Making Sense of Everything During Awards Season
Everything Everywhere All At Once recently made history as the film with the most wins ever at the Screen Actors Guild awards, winning Male Actor in a Supporting Role (Quan), Female Actor in a Supporting Role (Jamie Lee Curtis), Female Actor in a Leading Role (Michelle Yeoh), and Cast Ensemble. Quan himself became the first Asian actor to win not just his SAG category of Male Actor in a Supporting Role, but any film acting category at SAG. Before that, he earned the most critic’s awards of any supporting actor of the year, the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice awards and he can now forever be known as an Academy Award-nominated actor Ke Huy Quan. Furthermore, the film is nominated for 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, more than any other film this year.
“Every time I talk about this, I get really emotional,” he stated. “Never in my mind did I ever think I would have this prefix. I’ve seen it every time I go watch a movie in the theaters, watch all the trailers, and it always says, ‘Starring Academy Award-nominated so-and-so.’”
“For many, many years, I would dream and fantasize about being on that red carpet and being in that room with all those wonderful talented people that I grew up watching and admiring. And never did I think that one day I would get to do exactly that. And so I’m really excited. I’m really happy. I’m very grateful that we got this recognition from the Academy, all the recognitions that we have received so far.”
“To tell you the truth… when we were doing this, none of us predicted this. All we wanted to do was just make a good movie. We thought we had a very solid script. We thought the Daniels were super talented. They had a very clear and unique vision. Also we all wanted to work with Michelle Yeoh. And that was just our goal. And then for me personally, I just wanted to act again. I just wanted to be in front of the camera, and that’s all I wanted.”
“I was afraid that people… I didn’t expect the audience would remember me. So I thought I would have to start anew and hopefully the audience would just embrace my acting, and sooner or later, knowing that I started out as a child actor, would embrace my return. And ever since our movie came out, all the positivity, all the kindness that everyone has shown me is very heartwarming. I’m overwhelmed with emotions.”
And no one is having a better time this awards season than the SAG, Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe-winning Quan. He has been everywhere, graciously taking it all in and sharing his excitement and gratitude every step of the way. A quick look at his Instagram would make one think he’s the world’s biggest fan of movies – his pictures are full of selfies with A-list actors, like a Greatest Hits collage, each one with a big smile and a finger pointing, as if to motion to us “Oh my gosh, look who it is!”
The energy and sincerity is palpable just from looking at the pictures, and we can all understand why. Every ceremony, every event, has been a chance for Quan to meet someone that he was only able to admire from a distance. It feels exciting, surreal, and unbelievable, as if Quan is finally welcomed into a world he never felt he was a part of… at least not for a very long time.
But the best part is that everyone also wanted to meet him, to talk to him, to hear from him. And all of it came from a little story that spoke to him and a role that he felt he must do.
From Everywhere to Nowhere
One would think, based on Quan’s early filmography, that his journey wouldn’t be so difficult. He was one of the most iconic young faces in the 1980s. He was only 12 years old when he was cast alongside on-screen legend Harrison Ford in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and a year later starred in The Goonies, a child-ensemble adventure classic that still remains culturally referenced. But even after his early successes, Quan struggled to find more acting opportunities.
This was something that I wanted to talk about with Quan. He was in two of the biggest movies in the 80s that are still beloved today, yet he still could not find work. We talked about how confusing it must have been for him to experience that sort of obstacle at such a young age.
“I was very lost. I was very dispirited for a long time,” he says. “And it’s horrible when you are young, when you’re 18, and you just graduated from high school and you’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I have this long road ahead of me. I’m just starting.’ For a lot of people, the road is long and wide and far into the distance. For me, it was a dead end.”
“I had a lot of things going against me. And of course, when I was much younger, I didn’t have the maturity to think it through. I was really in the moment at the time. But first of all, when you’re a child actor and as you make that transition from child actor to an adult actor, that alone is a very difficult process. History has shown us, not a lot of child actors can make a very smooth transition. That’s one. And second, being an Asian actor at that time made it even more difficult. So I had those two things going against me.”
Such challenges and stifling of dreams reminded me of my own personal fears and uncertainties when it came to pursuing a career in the movie industry. It’s not just about whether you think you’re good enough, but also whether you’re good enough to get noticed. But there’s the concern of what to do “in the meantime.” How do you make a living? Is the thing you’re passionate about even a realistic thing to pursue?
For Quan, not only did he have to endure so many rejections and lack of auditions and callbacks, but he would constantly think about his family and their ongoing concern for him. Fortunately, they have always been supportive.
“They were here the whole time.” He goes on to describe how they are all very successful. “They all have their own business,” he says. “And when they saw me struggling as an actor, they would constantly ask me if I wanted to step away from the business and go and join the family in Houston, Texas. You know, I have eight siblings! My parents have nine kids! And every single one of them is very successful in business. I’m the only one that’s in the arts, in the movie business.”
“So they were worried about me. We grew up in a family where we don’t vocalize or share our struggles. That’s our culture. So there were a lot of small gestures or things that I would hear without them really saying it out loud, I knew they were worried about me. I knew they loved me, they supported me with all their hearts. But at the same time, it was painful for me. Because watching them worry for me… it’s not an easy thing.”
Working Behind the Camera and Suppressing the Dream
But it is as Quan described, we do our best to make it work. We internalize, and we try to correct our thinking. Maybe even make the problem about us, because that’s easier to understand. And then we try to move on. For Quan, he shifted to working behind the camera. After graduating from USC, he began working as stunt choreographer for multiple productions in Asia and the United States.
“我還記得 (I still remember) when I didn’t get any opportunities in Hollywood, Taiwan reached out, Japan reached out, and Hong Kong reached out for me to have a chance to continue to work. And that’s why 我去台灣拍了一個八點檔的電視劇，然後拍了兩部電影 (I went to Taiwan and filmed a primetime TV drama, as well as two movies),” he says.
Quan then went on to work as assistant director for Wong Kar-wai on 2046. To this day, he carries many lessons learned from that experience, but the biggest one is about perseverance. Quan then mentions that him coming back this time to be in Everything Everywhere All At Once is a testament of how important it is to never give up.
At the same time, much of his appearance in the film calls back to his days behind the camera, when he suppressed his original passion to be an actor. It seemed like no matter what his role was on set, no matter what kind of hat he would be wearing for the production, the work would somehow always remind him that he is not in front of the camera.
He then refers to the version of Waymond in the movie star universe, saying that, “that performance and all those emotions stem from my years working for Wong Kar-wai and standing behind the camera and watching Tony Leung do his thing in front of the camera, while I’m standing just a few feet away from them. But behind the camera, I was looking at him being, one, in awe of his performance and two, envious of him being able to do this.”
“And for many years, I worked so hard to suppress my passion for acting because there was just not … the opportunities just didn’t exist for me. So I buried it very, very deep. And every time when it tries to call out, I would bury it again.”
The Acting Bug Returns
Even though Quan has made peace with leaving the acting scene, it’s a fire that never goes away. All it needs is a spark for all of it to reignite. Because dreams don’t really die, they’re only compromised, forgotten about, or let go of.
In 2018, when the film Crazy Rich Asians was released, everything changed. For Quan and many other Asian Americans (myself included), it was an overwhelming range of emotions that are often confusing, maybe even contradictory. We talked about how during the film’s marketing and promotion, we were both uncertain, even fearful, of how well it would do.
“You have a big studio picture, a romantic comedy, which we’ve never seen a romantic comedy with an all Asian cast before,” he exclaimed. “So initially, my fear was, ‘Oh my gosh, if this movie fails, then we would never have another opportunity again.’ That was my fear of watching it. Because I mean, up until that point, we’ve only had one movie, which was The Joy Luck Club.”
“Now, I need to go back and say that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were the first filmmakers to put an Asian actor up on the screen in a big movie. It was a sequel to one of the biggest movies. So they were the first ones to do it. And Steven not only did it one time, he did it two times, with The Goonies. But after that, there were no other filmmakers or studios that really did that. And then of course came Joy Luck Club, which we were all very proud of.”
“So when Crazy Rich Asians came out, I was initially very worried that it wouldn’t do well.”
The film went on to be a massive hit, bringing in $230 million worldwide at the box office and was celebrated by both critics and mass audiences. Most of all, both Asian American audiences and non-Asian audiences turned up. As Quan himself said, you can’t get to $230 million without everybody coming out.
As I’ve mentioned before in my past writing, I recommended Crazy Rich Asians to everyone I knew not because they should support the movie for its representation but because it was actually a good romantic comedy. It was a well written, well acted movie that managed to make me cry. It just happened to also have an all-Asian cast.
Quan agreed with this sentiment wholeheartedly. To see his initial anxiety and fear for the film’s success become a cultural sensation was incredibly exciting to him. He’s seen the movie multiple times during its theatrical run and saw how everyone responded so positively to it, that he immediately felt proud of the movie.
And then suddenly, the dream he threw away came into focus again.
“My feelings, my emotions were very confused. Because one, I was very happy for this movie. And second… I was… I wanted to be up there with them,” he openly admits.
“That was the very first time I felt, ‘Wow. I miss acting.’”
“That was the first time that I actually allowed … immediately, I can feel it inside, that acting bug that I had buried for many years. And I just let it come right back up. And I missed it so much.”
“I said this before, I had serious FOMO, because I wanted to be up there on the screen. And ever since that day, I could no longer lie to myself. I could no longer hide the fact that I love doing this, that I want to do this. And when I started thinking about it, that wasn’t an easy decision. It was a decision that I had with my wife for a year, going back and forth. Even before I asked her about it, I was struggling with that idea for a long time. I didn’t even know I could do this.”
“Again, it was all that fear, all that insecurity. And when I couldn’t deny it, every time I pushed it away. I go, ‘Ke, come on. It’s been 20 years. Come on, get that out of your head.’ Every time I pushed it away, it would come back stronger and it would come back louder every single time. Until to the point where it was so loud, I go, ‘Wow, I need to really discuss this with my wife.’ And I talked to her about it, and the first thing she said was, ‘One. Do you really want to do this? And second, are you ready to face rejections again and again and again? Are you willing to go out there and audition for these opportunities?’ And she had no idea if there were opportunities for me! Neither did I!”
That conversation is one that many Asian Americans would understand. We’re unafraid to address the bitter reality upfront and ask about it openly. “Are you willing to live this kind of life?” Whether it’s with your partner, your parents, those kinds of questions can seem discouraging at first. But as someone who is too familiar with our culture, I know that everything is asked out of love and concern – they ask not to discourage, but to prepare and see if you truly know what you want.
Quan understands this perfectly, which is why when he was struggling as a young actor, trying to find a job, he always thought about his family and how they worry about him.
“That’s the other thing about our culture, Kevin, and I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with this,” he says, knowingly. “One of the things that we treasure most is stability.”
I agreed wholeheartedly.
“And with my parents, with all my siblings, they love stability,” he continued. “That’s why when we were growing up, we were taught to be a doctor, to be a lawyer or an accountant, because all those jobs… So if you look at the profession of doctors, whether it’s with a recession or not, when people get sick, they still need to see doctors!”
“So it’s the instability part that really worries them. Even when I was very, very young, I would have an active job, and then I would stop for an entire year, while everybody was going to work every single day. And they love that stability, knowing that there’s a sense of purpose, waking up and knowing what to do.”
“In our profession, we don’t have that. You work really hard for two months, three months or four months on a project, and then you don’t know when the next job is going to come, where and when.”
“When I was younger, it went from working on a project for four months or five months to being unemployed for an entire year… to working for two weeks and being unemployed for a year… then one week and unemployed for a year. And it was those days, those unemployed days, those were the toughest days for me.”
Quan confessed that when he decided to get back into acting, he didn’t tell his family. It was simply because he didn’t know if he was any good. After all, he’s been away from acting for more than twenty years.
That fear and insecurity was constantly on his mind, even when the Daniels trusted him with the role of Waymond. He saw it as such a big role that he was wondering if he would let the directors down and get fired within a week of principal photography.
“Maybe they’d realize that, ‘Oh my God, we have made a huge mistake! This guy can’t act anymore!’” he jokes.
It was not until the day before the trailer for Everything Everywhere All At Once was going to be released that Quan finally called every single member of his family to announce that he’s acting again. And when they finally saw the movie, they were so happy and so thrilled. But the best part is when they called Quan to congratulate him. The first thing they said was, “Wow, Ke, you are in this movie a lot! You’re like one of the main characters!”
Frankly, there could not be a more Chinese thing to say than that. We both know it’s purely out of love, out of joy and support. It’s just the way they say it is so typical!
“他們說的是… 什麼… 他們說 ‘你戲很多吔! 你是大主角來的!’ (What they said to me, they said, ‘You have a lot of screen time in this! You’re like a main character!’)”
“I said, ‘Yeah, I am one of the main characters!’ ‘Oh, wow! We did not know that!’ Yeah, very typical Chinese!” he laughs.
Achievement Unlocked: Asian American Representation in the Modern Era
Fortunately, much progress has been made today. Since Crazy Rich Asians in 2018, Hollywood has released small indie dramas like The Farewell and After Yang, big tentpole blockbusters like the live-action Mulan remake and the Marvel hit Shang-Chi, and Oscar-nominated animated films such as Turning Red.
With each milestone comes decades of hard work and heartbreaking stories. Everything Everywhere All At Once not only features a predominantly Asian cast, but a cast that spans three generations of Asian American actors, from James Hong being the oldest, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan sharing the middle, and Stephanie Hsu at the millennial generation.
I asked what those conversations were like on set, and whether each person had an experience that stuck with them. Quan began by sharing that he and Yeoh grew up in the same 1980s, 1990s era of Hong Kong cinema. But while he stepped away, Yeoh has always been famous in Asia and finding Hollywood projects, and yet, even after all this time, she has never been number one on the call sheet until now.
As for James Hong, who started in the 1950s, Quan shared that there was simply no road for Asian actors at the time. Even with an enormous filmography of hundreds and hundreds of titles, Hong was never referred to as James while on set.
“His name is James, an American name, and nobody on set would even bother to remember his name. They would always call him the Chinaman,” he laments.
“‘Get the Chinaman to do this, get the Chinaman to do that.’ And his name is James. It was a very easy name to remember.”
Hsu has had her own experiences as well, from being asked during auditions to sound “more Asian” to being incorrectly recognized as another Asian actress. The good news may be the increase in films with Asian American representation, but every once in a while, we still encounter a cultural obstacle, and it can still prick.
Thankfully, the landscape is changing, and we are starting to have a seat at the table. Years and years of struggles and hard work are slowly paying off. Recently, in a history-making win at the SAG Awards, the cast of Everything Everywhere All At Once went on stage and kindly gave Hong the chance to speak.
“It’s been 69 years in the making to get him on this stage,” said Yeoh. Hong then recalled his first movie was with Clark Gable (yes, that one from Gone With the Wind). He then went on to describe how back then, the agents would say that Asians weren’t good enough and they weren’t box office material. “Look at us now!” he cheered to roaring applause.
“Things are better, our stories are being told. And again, not only our stories are being told, but also, it’s a more accurate depiction of what we’re really like,” says Quan.
“And with me being back, it just reinforces my belief that impactful change is possible. And that’s why I’m so grateful to everybody that’s working today, all the AAPI members, it’s them really… through their own success that showed me there was a way back for me.”
Many Languages All At Once
It is incredible to see how much Asian American representation has improved just between Crazy Rich Asians and Everything Everywhere All At Once… just over the short span of four years.
The experience went from seeing a large cast that looks like me in a glamorous rom-com to seeing a film where I felt, ‘Wow, that’s exactly how I talk with my family.’ From the script itself, from the Daniels’ writing, I felt I was at home. A large part of that sensation comes from the script’s remarkable sense of detail and humor in language.
I dove straight into the film and asked Quan about the characters hopping back and forth between speaking English and Mandarin and Cantonese and how much of that was planned vs. improvised on set. Remarkably, everything was in the script.
“The only difference prior to the start of the principal photography was that Michelle’s character was named Michelle,” he explains. “And I remember, in fact, I messed up a lot of great takes, because I would spend a lot of time memorizing my dialogue with the character named Michelle. So I would keep on saying, ‘Michelle, Michelle, Michelle.’ And they changed it at the very last minute, and it became Evelyn. But all the switching back and forth was in the script.”
And then Quan moved to a topic that my family and I are all-too familiar with: translations. From movie titles to lines of dialogue, sometimes we just scratch our heads and say, “Who did that?” or “That’s not what the line says at all!” My mom once joked that if she had any job she wanted, she would be a Mandarin translator for Hollywood movies.
A small but significant element in Everything Everywhere that I loved so much was its handling of its Chinese lines – they sound informal, direct, funny, and layman. It turns out it is all because Quan had a secret weapon…
“One of the great things that came out of all of this was when we had our first table read, they already had those portions of the dialogue in Chinese translated. And as I was going through the script, I didn’t like how they translated my dialogue,” he says.
“So I told my wife, Echo, and I said, ‘Can you redo my lines?’ Because 我講得一點都不順. 我講的那些國語… 都不像演講的話，都像是用寫的. (I cannot say it smoothly. The Mandarin translation I had to say, it’s not like a spoken language, it’s more like it’s written).”
It is a very common, if not unavoidable issue with translations – often times, you end up with lines of dialogue where no one talks like that. Quan then asked his wife to essentially redo all of his dialogue so it would read more naturally for him.
“So on the first day of our table read, Echo was also there. And then Michelle Yeoh found out and said, ‘How come your dialogue sounds so much better? What did you do?’” he jokes.
“And I go, ‘Well, I had my wife redo all my dialogue in Chinese.’ And then she goes, ‘Oh, Echo, can you do mine too?’ And then the Daniels, they say, ‘Echo, you have a job! Why don’t you redo all the Chinese, all the Mandarin and the Cantonese dialogue?’”
“And she ended up doing all the translation and then also coaching us how to say those lines as well too. So not only did I have a job, but my wife had a job too! And we just had the most amazing time. And she worked really hard,” he says, with a big smile on his face.
I could not resist but to then point out one particular moment in the film to Quan. I remember when I first saw it at the press screening, at a packed theater, and I was the only person who laughed at this moment. Midway through the film, Evelyn is explaining the multiverse to Joy and Waymond, and Waymond is still not getting it.
The English translation says, “I’m still a little lost,” but Waymond, in Mandarin, says, “我還是有一點亂.” Though the line does mean that Waymond is still confused and lost, 亂 has a literal meaning of being “messy” or “all over the place.” The tone is equivalent to saying “mush” or “gobbledygook.” It’s a small detail where, as a speaker of Mandarin, I found the spoken line to be objectively funnier in every way.
Turns out that was also a line Echo adjusted!
“I remember that originally, it was not like that at all, the line where I’m still a little lost. And I told Echo, I said that we don’t talk that way… I forgot what the original version was. I go, ‘Again, this doesn’t sound right. How would you say it?’ ‘我有一點亂.’ I go, ‘That’s perfect!’”
“And I think what’s so great about it is that if you look at Everything Everywhere All At Once, it’s a very accurate depiction of the Asian immigrant family. And then there are just a lot of the nuances that you, for example, would get. But then the overall audience, even though if you don’t get the nuance, you still understand it. And it’s still really the story that resonated deeply with the audience.”
Laundry and Taxes
We then moved on to talk about Waymond, the heart and soul of the film, and how inspiring and life-affirming his philosophy is. Of course, I had to ask him about his favorite scene to do in the film and the hardest scene for him to do.
He was very honest on going back to his anxiety and fear about acting again and whether or not he would be any good. His wife Echo constantly questioned why the Daniels would trust him with such a big role, since he hasn’t acted in so long, and now he needs to play not one character but three versions of the character.
Even though he was very grateful to be on set alongside legendary actors, he felt a lot of pressure on his shoulders to deliver and give justice to Waymond. He first brought up the fanny pack sequence, a fight scene that was apparently shot in one day, which is unheard of. Most action scenes take at least a week or two to rehearse and shoot, but for a small $14-25 million budget movie, no such luxury.
But then Quan settled on the emotional scene where Waymond delivers his speech on being kind during the film’s climactic fight sequence.
“That was a scene where… in the script, it didn’t say that I would have to cry,” he explains.
“It was just, ‘Waymond urges everybody to stop fighting.’ But I think it was the message behind it, the power in those words, and the beauty of the Daniels’ writing.”
For him, it was the most difficult scene to pull off, not only because of the emotional weight behind the scene, but also because the set that day was absolutely chaotic from a logistical standpoint.
Quan remembered there were two enormous wind machines, with the set decorators holding pieces of paper in front of the fans to let it blow everywhere. Then add in the background actors that were all gathered together, led by Alpha Gong Gong to stop our Evelyn from saving Joy/Jobu Tupaki.
“Leading up to the day we shot it, that was always on my shoulder, that huge weight, because I really wanted the audience to feel how much Waymond wanted people to have empathy and to be kind. So I remember stepping off to the side, just trying to focus on my character and also the emotional impact of it,” he describes. “And when the Daniels yell, ‘Action,’ the minute I start… and I utter those first few words, tears just start streaming down my face. And then when I shot that scene, I mean, I was so relieved.
“And then everything after that was just cool for me. I was better after that. Yeah.”
For a movie densely packed with bizarre images, silly jokes, a ton of action, and metaphors with bagels and rocks, a film like Everything Everywhere All At Once must rest on something to give it weight, to help keep it grounded.
The film may be centered around a Chinese immigrant family struggling to make a living, or a mother learning to understand her daughter, but it is Waymond’s philosophy that grounds it, because it helps us carry ourselves through each day. It isn’t naiveness, nor is it ignorance. Waymond is firmly aware of the struggles. But he fights it with kindness and hope. His worldview is the exact opposite of Jobu’s, of “nothing matters,” and Evelyn’s eventual adoption of that worldview (conveyed beautifully by her unlocked third eye as Waymond’s googly eye) becomes the heart of the film’s optimistic nihilism – Nothing matters, so there is so much you can do.
Without a doubt, the film reminded me to always be a Waymond to someone you care about, and to cherish the person who is a Waymond to you. Of course, I had to ask Quan, who has been through so much and has experienced so many highs and lows in his life, who his Waymond is. He didn’t even hesitate.
“That’s an easy question for me,” he replies. “My wife, absolutely. She’s my Waymond. We’ve been together for 20 years now. She inspires me every day. She’s someone that I strive to be every day. She’s kind, she’s caring, she’s empathetic, she’s a beautiful soul. And she always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself, when I didn’t think I could do this. And 20 years is not a short time. And her belief and her support for me never wavered. I don’t think I could have played Waymond had I never met her.”
It’s easy to understand why Quan has been emotional throughout the awards season, as the overwhelming love and support would have him reflect back on his past life and the decisions he’s made that eventually got him here. Like many other grateful artists, he often finds himself living the themes of his own movie, of Everything Everywhere All At Once.
“When things are going right, you don’t question it,” he asserts. “It’s only when you are lost, when you are frustrated, when you are confused, then you start to wonder, at what point in your life have you made a mistake or have you made the wrong turn? And that’s what’s so beautiful about all the different multiverses is it allows us to wonder what life would be like.”
“And I’ve always wondered. I would be a completely different person had it been smooth sailing from Day 1, had I not struggled, had I not faced all the challenges, all the ups and downs, the peaks and valleys that I went through. And second, if I never met my wife, Echo, I would’ve been a different person. I don’t know what that person would look like, but I am just so thankful to God, to Buddha, to her, that we are together. She changed me. And I think that was the only way that I could play Waymond was because I’ve met her and because of her.”
Looking Back and Taking in Today
Given that we have been talking about what-ifs and multiverses and possibilities, I then decided to ask Quan a small personal question, about what he would say to his younger self if he ever had a chance to meet him.
Quan is 51-years-old now. A lot has happened since he graduated from USC, thinking he would never act again – he was 28 at the time.
Of course, Quan would still tell himself that things will be alright in the end. But he didn’t stop there.
“I know my younger self very well,” he says, with a hint of sad acknowledgement. “I would immediately ask, ‘When?’ ‘放心吧。總有一天會好的’ (Don’t worry. It’ll be alright one day). ‘什麼時候?’ (When?) It hasn’t happened yet when I was much younger, as I waited, as I watched month after month go by, year after year go by, and nothing happened.”
“So if I were to tell myself things would be alright, I don’t even know if my younger self would believe me. That’s the thing. I would say, ‘You’re lying. You’re lying. I don’t believe you.’ But you know… we’re not talking about one or two years, we’re talking about decades.”
Fortunately, the world has been overwhelmingly kind and supportive of his return. Since March 2022, since Everything Everywhere All At Once was released, everything has changed for Quan. The earth has moved for him, and decades of suppressed dreams have finally come true. After all he has been through, on his journey of ups and downs, Quan put up the biggest, most grateful smile anyone could ever give, and says, with a faith and optimism that can only be matched by Waymond’s, “All I can say is that… it’s much sweeter the way it is now. For sure.”
Images courtesy of Ke Huy Quan’s Instagram; YouTube