’21 & Over’ star Justin Chon on playing with Asian stereotypes

Justin Chon, the star of "21 & Over," in a bar and teddy bear Credit: John Johnson
Justin Chon, the star of “21 & Over,” in a bar and teddy bear
Credit: John Johnson

When actor Justin Chon sits down for our interview, he’s coughing and looking a little worse for the wear. “I’m good,” he insists. “I’m hungover, but I’m good.” Promoting a film like “21 & Over” — about his college student character’s 21st birthday getting out of control, from the writers of “the Hangover” — can come with its own risks, apparently. But it’s all part of the job.

Between being carried around, dropped out windows, Tasered and having a teddy bear glued to your crotch, you’re taking the brunt of the abuse in this film.
Yeah. My performance is very much a physical comedic performance, and f–k, man. I’m taking a lot of abuse. I mean, my head got hit on doors, I’m getting thrown everywhere. The worst was [the scene where] we were in a Smart Car, and I had to be [squashed onto] the f–king dashboard. To get in like that, I had to twist my neck around. And I’m claustrophobic, so that was the worst.

You also had to do a very painful penis gag, something a staple for the “Hangover” guys.
Well, I’m grateful. At least they didn’t give me a tiny pee-pee. They were like, “Rest assured, we made you well-endowed.” I looked at it and I was like, “Whoa. I don’t know if my d–k is that skin-tone, but cool.”

How are you at drinking games in real life?
I’ve played them. But I’d much rather just drink, just get to the point. I don’t need games. I guess it’s just a way of getting people who don’t want to drink to drink, but for me I’ve always been willing. So I’ll just get myself drunk. It shouldn’t be a punishment. It’s a pleasure, it’s part of being human. It’s part of why we’re alive.

Have you seen this movie with an audience yet?
Yeah, I saw a screening with an audience, but I mean, people who go to test screenings, sometimes it’s tough to tell because they’re willingly kind of going. So I want to see it with an audience who paid money. Because if they’re not laughing, we’re f–ked.

A lot of the humor relating to you being Asian-American in this movie seems to be at your expense. Was there anything you thought went too far?
No, and that’s what I love about Jon [Lucas] and Scott [Moore]. When we did our first rehearsal, they sat me down and asked me if anything was too far or if anything rubbed me the wrong way. But no, I thought everything was great. I mean, you’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself. And I think people who take themselves too seriously is just ridiculous. I didn’t feel like there was a lot at the expense of my race. And I’ve gotten some s–t already from people who haven’t seen the movie. And I’m like, “Dude, lighten up, bro. It’s funny.” I’ve read some of the message boards and they’re like, “Great, another stereotype.” Dude, this [character] is against the grain. He sucks at school and he likes to party. He’s an animal. So I don’t think that’s very stereotypical to me. I’m like, “Dude, watch the f–king movie before you say anything,” you know? I’m proud of it. As an Asian-American I think it’s a great role, and I fought hard to get it.


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