Director George Clooney recently released a coming-of-age film on Amazon Prime entitled The Tender Bar which is based on the memoir by J.R. Moehringer. The story is about a young kid who grew up bonding with his uncle and bar patrons while searching for an emotional replacement for his divorced father.
We had a chance to have a conversation with one of the actors, Ivan Leung, to give us an insider look into his acting career as well as his experience working with award-winning actors such as Ben Affleck and George Clooney. The film also stars Lily Rabe (American Horror Story), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), and Max Martini (Saving Private Ryan).
Leung has been featured in award-winning hit shows such as CW’s All-American, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, and The Conners and NBC’s Superstore and Good Girls, among others.
The Tender Bar is screening in select theatres on December 17th and will be available to stream on Amazon Prime Video on January 7th, 2022.
How did you start your career in the entertainment industry? What inspired you to become an actor?
I moved up to Los Angeles from San Diego to train in hip-hop choreography. While trying to make money to pay for dance classes, I took a job on a Vanity Fair shoot and met a few people in the entertainment industry. We got on the topic of acting and the person next to me said “Hey, you should try it”. I said “sure” and went full in. I think just having someone say to try it – gave me the permission to myself to really go full force. I’ve always respected actors putting themselves out there but was afraid to take the leap myself. Once I started, I felt a side of freedom I’ve never felt before. I think I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.
Congratulations on your role on The Tender Bar! Why did you want to be involved in this project?
Thank you! Working on The Tender Bar crossed a lot of life goals for me. To work with Oscar winners and to work on a coming-of-age film. It was an experience I was really proud of.
Can you walk us through the process of auditioning for the role? What were the challenges and breakthroughs you’ve encountered along the way, and how did you overcome them?
We first usually get an email or phone call from our talent representatives that they received an audition for us. After that, I drop everything I’m doing and put my full focus on preparing the sides (a scene from the script). Every actor has their own process on how to prepare for their audition and then we put it on tape and send it off into the ether. Auditioning does take a big mental toll on actors. We don’t get paid to audition. Actors get rejected more in 1 year than most people in a lifetime. We don’t get informed if they’re not interested or if the project is a match. It feels like you’re in a constant state of waiting and if it’ll happen or not. The best way to cope with that for me is to try to forget it after I’m done, trust that I did my best in that moment, and have the next thing to work on so my mind isn’t stewing.
Can you tell us more about your character Jimmy? What do you love about this character? How did you bring the character to life? Were there particular circumstances or personal experiences that shaped the character?
Jimmy is one of JR’s best friends and roommate while studying at Yale. He comes from an affluent part of New York and lived a sheltered life of studying. Once he got into Yale, he gets to experience the taste of freedom for the first time. I love Jimmy because he’s so pure and socially awkward. He’s doing his best and very bright eyed. One of my tricks of getting into the character of Jimmy was to kind of see the world in rose colored glasses. Everything is bright and shiny and exciting. That was really helpful.
What did you like about the story? How do you think this story will change and make an impact in today’s society?
The story is about family and experiences. Basically a love letter to his mom. It’s a story that I think is needed at this day and age. Not because of it being new but because we haven’t had a comforting feel-good movie in a very long time. A movie that everyone In your family can enjoy.
What was the dynamic like between you, your castmates, and the film crew? How was it like being directed by award-winning actor, George Clooney? Were there particular moments on set that were memorable?
Every castmate and crew member were welcoming, kind, and supportive. It was one of the most comfortable sets I’ve ever been on. To be directed by George Clooney was easy and wonderful. He knows how to direct and talk to actors and always give very action-able notes. George’s natural energy just made you want to trust him. He can say a couple words before a scene and I would just go “oh! I got it!”.
Can you give us a sneak peek of what we can expect from this film?
Ben Affleck gives a knockout performance as Uncle Charlie. Expect to feel warm inside and maybe tear up a couple times.
What kind of films do you like watching? Which films and filmmakers have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
I like a variety of films. I love old comedies. I recently rewatched Napoleon Dynamite after listening to an interview by director Jared Hess and it was inspiring to hear that they wrote and then went out and made the movie! Seeing and hearing filmmaker’s just doing it and not just talk about it is always inspiring.
What were the monumental life lessons, mistakes, and things you’ve learned that you would like to share to aspiring or emerging actors, storytellers, and creatives in general?
Failing is good. If it’s something you love, just do it and keep doing it until you feel like you don’t want to do it anymore.
The pandemic has greatly affected the entertainment industry. How did it affect your side of things?
Everything went from in-person auditions to self-tapes or zoom auditions now. I save a lot more on gas but I do miss the energy and the spontaneity between me and casting in an in-person audition.
What kind of roles do you want to take on in the future?
I’m at the stage of wanting any role that can stretch me further. The more I stretch myself, the better and more specific of an actor I can be.
How important are diversity, inclusion, and representation in films? What are some of the practices, customs, or culture within the entertainment industry that are still problematic?
Diversity, inclusion, and representation are very important. What we show in the media does affect and shape our general outlook outside where we live. If we are all-inclusive and represented well and fairly in the media…I think we would live in a better society. People are people, we can be anything regardless of race/gender/sexual identity. We can and also not fit our stereotypes. I can be a nerd one day and a small-time gangster the next.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind as an actor?
I want to be a warm comfort for people. If I can make someone’s day a little better, that would be my best goal.
What’s your advice to actors who want to break into the entertainment industry?
Just do it. Instead of waiting and thinking, go out and try it.
Do you have other upcoming projects you want to share with us?
I’ll be on The Goldbergs in 2022. I have a couple more projects coming out but I can’t say anything for now. So please keep in touch and watch out!