Synopsis : From award-winning writer/director Justin Chon, Blue Bayou is the moving and timely story of a uniquely American family fighting for their future. Antonio LeBlanc (Chon), a Korean adoptee raised in a small town in the Louisiana bayou, is married to the love of his life Kathy (Alicia Vikander) and step-dad to their beloved daughter Jessie. Struggling to make a better life for his family, he must confront the ghosts of his past when he discovers that he could be deported from the only country he has ever called home.
An Exclusive Interview with Actor/Writer/Director Justin Chon
Q : I heard that you have some Korean Adoptee friends that made you inspire to tackle this subject matter. What were the particular stories that stood out for you? Do you have any specific story that you want to share?
(J.C): I think I just have a lot of adoptee friends that that I care about. And to hear that these were being deported to the community, I just thought it was absolutely shocking. And sure that, all of our stories are represented in Asian American experience. I thought it was an issue that was very important to make a film about to try to shine the right on wider audiences.
Q : Even though you have been acting for a long time, what was the decision to do all that, acting, writing and directing, Do you initially thinking about hiring other actor tom play your role?
(J.C ) : I did think about it. But you know, ultimately, again, this is a film about an issue. And I felt once we wrap on the film, and the film premiered and was released, it felt passive and active to talk about the film, the film, you know, talked about an example or shown politically be hard to ask of an actor, you know, years after the film is released to be a part.
Q : What was your reaction to the Trump administration, particularly the way they treated immigrants, what was your frustration before making this film?
(J.C ) : I mentioned here is that this has been going on and not just Trump issue, you know, it’s not that Trump made it any better. But, you know, this is not a republican or this is an issue that where they need to come together to fit. And personally, I don’t think the technicality you know, these people were brought here as small children by US citizens, the government acknowledged their adoption and allowed for a child being brought over. And, you know, as adults are finding out that the proper paperwork wasn’t filed, so they’re being deported. I do think that that is not a technicality. That’s a loophole. That’s not that’s not been and I don’t think it’s a bipartisan issue. I think it’s something where it needs to be fixed for them to come together and realize this issues.
Q : Alicia Vikander is Danish, Linh Dan Pham is French, was it your conscious decision to hire actors outside the United States? So that people would understand what it was like to be an immigrant or a foreigner to this country?
(J.C ) : Yes, it was a conscious decision, I felt like you know, the two of them, when they were to play American women, it would be very intentional. And there would be choosing book to show in play an American, much more conscious and intentional, rather than take it for granted. I think that was a very fired and powerful way of going about it.
Q: What was unique about working with them?
(J.C ) : I mean, Alicia is an incredible actor and Oscar winner, she has humanity, you know, that has no bounds. She our talent is boundless, you know, a true and human. So there’s no doubt in my mind that you could play something like this, Linda, and Sam also is just a true humanist and willing to do what it takes to shave your head for the role, you know, and you know, had no problem going to any lengths to make sure that her acting merciful and authentic in this film.
Q : What was amazing about this film that you gave a different viewpoint of what it is to be an American. And, it’s not just a one-sided perspective. So, how important for you to give your diverse perspective throughout the film?
(J.C ) : Yeah, I mean, it’s what I do. You know, I think my first and foremost purpose of making film is to proceed to Asian Americans. And that is, in itself inherently different viewpoints in the standard American view, you know, I’m trying to show how we all exist in this country in all different walks of life. So for this film, it was you know, Asian Americans in the south, specifically New Orleans in Louisiana. And I’m trying to normalize us and this is not making any sort of idea of abnormal life.
Q : How did you cast kid actor Sydney Kowalske as Jesse, who totally stole the show, particularly towards the end of the film? What elements that surprised you.
(J.C ) : Yeah, you know, she’s incredible. I found her I looked really hard for somebody who felt real. She was an actress that I felt, you know, was so authentic. And she didn’t feel like she was a child actor. She just felt real. So I, you know, I spent a lot of time with her and her family in Atlanta, and I got to know her family. And then we went to she came down to New Orleans, and we rehearsed for a few weeks and, and I helped her understand what the scenes were about. And I just let her play, I made sure that she didn’t feel like she was, she could fail. And, you know, we just had a great time.
Q : Could you talk about the location in New Orleans, you really captured the atmosphere, not only in the urban area but also in the suburbs as well. So I’m curious how much you are actually investing on this location scout, what was the goal that you actually try to capture throughout the film?
(J.C ) : I wanted to try to capture the real New Orleans that’s not Bourbon Street or magazine Street, I wanted to capture the other side of the river, you know actual local people live. I wanted to capture the working class I wanted to capture something that was very visceral and real and and it’s the reason I shot the film on Super 16. And I have always loved New Orleans, I’ve spent a lot of time there. And I just did a lot of research and and chose to accentuate things that most people have not seen about New Orleans.
Q : Could you talk about the singing scene with Alicia, Alicia is singing a song, “Blue Bayou”? It just captured their moment of what they felt through the song?
(J.C ) : You know that came on early in the script writing process, I just feel like the lyrics to that song are just so synonymous with what the family is going through, and in the midpoint of the film, they’re all sort of putting on happy faces, when they all know that these are not going to be great. It’s almost like they are pretending you know, and that song singing that to him is almost like subliminal or subconscious, not to one another demand this, this is going to be hard and, it’s a melancholic moment between the two people are almost like the beginning of end.
Q : As an Asian American actor what what do you think is missing in Hollywood, and how do you want to rectify that?
(J.C ) : I think having more Asian American leads, you know, I think that that’s very, incredibly hard to do because of the financial system that’s put in place that I feel is archaic. You know, I do think that studio need to take more risks on Asian American leads. But you know, it’s all driven by these financial models that that arcade, they rely on foreign sales, and you know ultimately I think they need to take some chances, and they be surprised to find a lot more success in some of these things.
Here’s the trailer of the film.