Christine Nguyen‘s career is a love letter to her parents. She’s boldly forging ahead and smashing barriers as a pan-identifying, Vietnamese-Chinese woman in the entertainment industry. Christine made a splash as Addison Harper in Season Four of Freeform’s The Bold Type, and she’s reprising her role in the final outing of the popular dramedy as well.
I had the privilege of chatting with Christine about what fans can expect in Season Five of The Bold Type, her dream role, her desire to create more inclusive spaces in art, competing in the Ontario Winter Games and more.
This interview has been condensed for clarity.
Melody McCune: So, we at GGA love a good origin story. What’s Christine Nguyen’s origin story?
Christine Nguyen: My parents are immigrants of the Vietnam War. So, when they came here, they literally gave up everything in order to start a new life. I grew up really poor and also part of that struggle.
My career is my love letter to my parents, just because they had to give up whatever their dreams were in order for me to pursue mine. I hope that [by] living my dream, she’s [mom] able to partake in some of that and really feel like she hasn’t missed out on things because it was a big sacrifice for her.
But I think, now that they’re seeing the success flow … they’re less inclined to speak about me being a doctor … because before they were like, “There’s not a lot of opportunities for Oriental people,” and I’m like, “That’s the age that they grew up in.” Seeing me on TV, it’s breaking a barrier and they’re able to just hope and be proud. Never in their wildest dreams would they imagine somebody that they knew would appear on TV. I feel like that’s the heart of my origin story.
MM: Let’s talk about your role in The Bold Type. What was the audition process like for you?
CN: I just got an agent after agent hunting for a while. I was part of a union, but then I had to step away in order to find myself and get in tune with the filming world because I was trained in theater.
When The Bold Type came, when I got my new agent, it was me literally having to face the waters again. Do I have enough power in me or strength in me to tread it?
So, I didn’t do any coaching. I didn’t do any classes. I just stuck to what was true to me and sent it. Let Jesus take the wheel. Oddly enough, I didn’t even get a callback. I got an offer.
And I was so grateful for it. Just because, to be fair, I have been doing classes and learning along the way. It’s been a long journey. It wasn’t that I was out of school and I booked The Bold Type. I was out of school and then I got an agent. Then, I had a falling out with my agent. I did a lot of non-union work. I did a lot of free stuff and a lot of stuff that I don’t want people to see, but … humble beginnings, I will say.
When it came to The Bold Type, I felt like things were just coming together. It was funny because when I was offered the role, everything moved quickly. It was like, “Hey, you got the role, you’re flying out tomorrow.” And I was like, “I’m afraid of airplanes, do they know that?”
So, the audition process was just, “Trust your gut, go with your instincts and don’t be apologetic about it.”
MM: How does Addison fit into the overall narrative?
CN: The overall narrative definitely relates back to Jane. With Addison, it’s almost like a growth thing. They need each other in order to grow in their own way. Because Jane, when you first see her, she’s starting out and she’s trying to make her mark. She has the opportunity to show leadership. And I feel like Addison is her test of leadership.
The Bold Type touches on many issues. It’s not just girls falling in love. It deals with some really relevant things that are happening in our society. So for me, as a pan-identifying Asian actor going into this, yes, she’s [Jane] finding leadership, but she’s trying to find leadership for a pan-identifying Asian writer.
In this climate right now, how does one do that? And have the representation and make sure that their mentees are being heard? How do we nurture our mentees, specifically marginalized mentees?
I feel like Addison is an interesting test for that. We’ve been through so many rewrites during the process. The whole writers’ team, I will say, was considering that process as well. There are things that were supposed to happen, but then after really considering the impact of what it means to have an Asian person do this to the lead … we wrote and we wrote.
I actually have to give Katie Stevens credit for that. She plays Jane. She consistently questioned and she was like, “Why would I do that?” There are so many Asian women that have been written off, because it’s a blind spot, right? Some people want to just write things.
They write, not considering the fact that what they’re doing may be harmful to the community. Having people in power to point it out, it’s very inspiring for me because it means that there are people who are doing the work.
So, long story short, Addison [is] literally trying to find her way and her voice in this particular company while trying to seek leadership.
MM: Is there anything, in particular, you did to get into character for Addison?
CN: Of course. I feel like, with every character, you have your basics of what to do in order to break it down. For me, I try to find love in everything I do, just so it doesn’t seem very generalized in my work. You prepare and you do as much as you can, but the thing about being on set is, once you’re there, you just have to be brave enough to let it all go.
I had an idea of what I wanted Addison to be, and I had full control over it in my audition. When I first went on set, I realized, the story that we’re telling is collaborative. So, part of it is picking and playing with other things people are throwing at you. As you do that, you just let go of what your idea is in order to serve the story. The story is potentially better. It’s a lot more natural that way. Find the love, play, then let it go.
MM: Easy peasy, I like that. Without giving too much away, how does Addison’s story progress in the upcoming season?
CN: I don’t want to be fired.
MM: I don’t want to get you fired!
CN: Speaking to what I was saying before, it’s literally the test of what it means to be a leader and what it means to find mentorship. That’s what people see, without giving anything away. And the kind of tactics we use in order to make sure the people that we mentor feel safe. I feel like that’s the relationship between Addison and Jane, and that’s our arc.
MM: What can fans expect for Season Five?
CN: It’s our last season. In terms of what to expect: grab tissues, go grab your popcorn or go to the washroom. It’s always difficult to end an entire series. The fans [have been] with us for more than five years because there was this entire pilot project before this. I hope fans take away the fact that this is our love letter to them. I hope we do them justice and I hope they know that we couldn’t be happier sharing it with anyone else. This is definitely for them.
MM: So, let’s switch gears a bit. Tell me about your character in Nurses and her role in the story for Season Two.
CN: It’s funny because Nurses is supposed to be coming out sometime. We just don’t know when.
MM: I read it was supposed to come out this year, but I couldn’t find a date either.
CN: My character specifically … I just want to point out the fact that they gave me a Vietnamese last name. I appreciate that they catered to my heritage.
MM: That’s awesome!
CN: Kudos to them. I’m a nursing assistant and I’m there to capture a “day in the life,” I’ll say. How do you capture and document a high-stakes environment? If someone was dying, how do you do a “day in the life” for a surgeon, you know?
So, I’m really hoping … people get to see what it’s like, the emotional aspects of the medical field because, with COVID and everything, those are our front lines. I don’t know where we would be at in the world if it wasn’t for the nurses. Kind of gives you a better appreciation for them.
MM: Absolutely. Do you have a dream role? It can be in theater or film.
CN: Yes. It’s not something specific though. So, I’m Vietnamese and Chinese, but I’ve been told by many people that I don’t look “Asian enough” for a specific role. It’s tough because these people are literally in the way of you booking a potential role. In this climate, it’s a white casting director telling me I’m not “Asian enough.”
My dream role would be to do something historical or an epic that deals with my specific heritage, and not be questioned whether or not I am that. It’s funny because I did Ancestry just to confirm if there was anything happening in my bloodline and it’s very specific about me being Asian.
MM: Well, screw that person. Screw that person for telling you that. Who are they to say that you don’t look “Asian enough”? That’s ridiculous.
CN: It sucks because there’s a lot of traditional, very bold mindsets of these things sometimes. That’s why I’m really excited for the new generation to come up. I’m hoping that there’s a new take, a new lens on it. Something that’s a little more inclusive. I would love to be part of it, so I’m reading this book called The Poppy War and it’s an Asian epic. It’s like Game of Thrones. Throw a bunch of Asian people in and there’s magic.
MM: I’ll have to check that out.
CN: All these cool elements. It’s a trilogy too. I Googled it and it’s been greenlit. It’s definitely going to be seen [on screen]. So, I would love to take part in that specific story.
But I don’t want to play the lead. It’s going to be somebody who’s very dark-skinned. I feel like I’m also not of age. I feel like it should go to a younger person as well, but I would just love to be part of it in any way, shape or form. I’m going to say that’s my dream role.
MM: You also competed in the Ontario Winter Games, which is really cool! What was that experience like for you?
CN: It was good! I do Wushu, which is a type of martial arts that has a history in kung fu. It’s interesting because I don’t like competition. That’s why I was never great at sports as a kid.
It was honestly such an unreal experience being able to train where you can compete at a provincial level. I’m not going to say I’m an Olympian by any means. But again, being able to compete overall, there’s such a satisfaction to it.
It changes things from being like, “Oh, I’m practicing this and I’m very amateur at it,” to being an actual competitor, trying to step into the realm of mastering something. It was a journey for sure. I developed shingles from it because I was working so hard.
That’s when I realized, I’m like, “Christine, no matter how bad you want something, you got to take care of yourself.” So, it was an eye-opener for me as well.
MM: You got to take care of yourself!
CN: Be your best friend.
MM: Do you have advice for aspiring actors looking to get their foot in the door?
CN: There’s so much to say. I don’t even know where to start. My biggest advice is to find your people. It takes a village to really, really grow an actor. No one has ever done it by themselves. That means seeing who you work well with. Never sell your soul because it’s never worth it. Find your people, create with your people and support your people. It’s literally a community that you create. You get to choose for yourself. When success comes, it’s going to mean that much more.
MM: That’s great advice! So, what’s on the horizon for you, career-wise? Do you have any upcoming projects?
CN: Career-wise, I just wrapped on a Kia commercial. So, I’m very excited about that. Right now, I’m just creating. I’m doing what I can to make my own work and really put marginalized voices in the front as well as keep them in the back in terms of production. We do want to have a very inclusive and diverse set of lenses working.
I have an Instagram series called I.D.I.C. series. It’s something that my friend and I started as soon as we graduated from theater school. I.D.I.C. stands for, “I Dream In Color,” which is a take on the TV show In Living Color.
It’s an Instagram series. It was back in the day when Instagram only let you have one minute, and there was no such thing as a reel. So, how do we condense something so people can find a story and let humor land in it?
That was the challenge. I’d love to revisit it. I have so many scripts written out, but I’m just so busy. I really want to revisit it and revamp it because I love it. It just tickles me every time I watch it.
MM: Have you binge-watched anything interesting during the pandemic?
CN: There are so many things. Where do we start — Tiger King?
MM: I can’t believe that was last year. That feels like 10 years ago.
CN: It was so engaging. This is coming from somebody who loves acting. Tiger King was so captivating.
MM: It was weirdly so. I agree with that.
CN: So, there’s that. A lot of reality TV. When you’re in the work and part of the work is the artistry, you fill yourself with all this beautiful literature and all these beautifully filmed things that are award-winning or they’re indie.
But when it’s “downtime,” I’m not going to lie, reality TV is my guilty pleasure. I’ve watched everything. Selling Sunset. I have never been invested in real estate until I watched Selling Sunset. Bling Empire. Being rich must be nice. There’s so much. I can go on forever.
MM: I get that. In your downtime, you just want to shut off your brain and veg. So, last question. Name your top five favorite films or anything that comes to mind.
CN: What about movies and TV series?
MM: Sure, let’s do it!
CN: There’s going to be a lot of anime coming, so be ready. Avatar: The Last Airbender. Classic. I’m going to put that on, and I’m going to put my children in front of it.
MM: It’s required viewing. I love that.
CN: Exactly. I’m going to say Naruto because, from start to finish, I watched it. Filler episodes and all. I did that. I want to say that it was a journey and I deserve a medal for it. For some reason, Big Fish is coming to mind. I like the fantasy aspect of it.
MM: That’s a great movie.
CN: It’s very stunning. The way it ends, it’s just heartwrenching. Oh, I’m going to say Howl’s Moving Castle.
MM: Love Howl’s Moving Castle! Spirited Away — that’s another favorite of mine.
CN: So good. Okja just changed my life.
MM: That’s something I haven’t seen yet.
CN: It’s so gut-wrenching. You just have to be in a good head space to do it. That’s my warning. It actually turned me vegan. I’ve been vegan for a while, with a more plant-based diet than vegan. I have to squeeze in a cookie here or there, depending on the stress.
MM: All right, Christine, thank you so much for chatting with me!
CN: Of course. I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day!
MM: Thank you. I hope you have an amazing day as well!
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