Self-described “Third Culture Kid” Hojo Shin is soon to be a Skate God. The globe-trotting actress, who grew up in South Korea, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, and Israel is poised to hit the American big screen. She started acting as early as second grade, as a way for Shin to cope with all the transitions in her life – and being the new kid in school.
“My background eventually taught me to quickly adapt and for me, the best tool to do that was acting. In every new school, I always found myself involved in drama classes and productions because that was a way for me to find my identity in new circumstances. My first school play was Jack and the Beanstalk,” she laughs.
“Acting was a part of my childhood growth and played a big part in the journey of my identity – in fact, I am still now constantly learning. Acting teaches you about human beings and our world, and that to me sounded like a fun career.” In high school, Shin says she fell more deeply in love with acting and never looked back. Fluent in Korean, French, and English, that passion led her to the University of Michigan’s prestigious acting program, and the rest is history.
So far, one of her most memorable projects was starring in the short film Still, which played the Cinetopia International Film Festival. “It was a silent noir film with just four actors, who through their emotional portrayal of specific memories allow viewers to experience their own emotional memories,” she relates. The unscripted production was intense and exploratory, with Shin working one-on-one with her director Layne Simescu, creating memory monologues.
Skate God, currently in pre-production, depicts a skateboarder who discovers he has super powers – and must fight those who want to use his power for evil. “My character fits somewhere between those two extremes, I guess you’ll have to wait to see just where,” Shin says. The story is set in a dystopian future, and riffs on Greek gods, shamans, and political power struggles all at once. The actress is excited to work with director Alexander Garcia, who is something of a skate god himself, and was inducted into the Freestyle Skateboarding Hall of Fame. The film will be distributed by Lionsgate.
Shin continues her super power performances with a role on the upcoming Hulu Originals series from Marvel, Runaways. “That project is about kids who discover they have super powers, and their parents extort those powers for evil. But the kids attempt to do just the opposite.”
How does Shin feel about creating two super-power performances? “Excited,” she says simply, asserting that both projects “are a lot of fun” both for herself as a performer and for the audience.
Her breakthrough film, the drama All at Once, made the rounds at the recent, well-regarded Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan. The character of Ella was a challenging one, requiring a different kind of superpower for the actress to encompass the dark role. “She has two different identities – one when she’s in front of others, and one when she ‘s alone. She’s a very complicated, layered character. ”
Preparation for the role was intense, she reports. “I had to go to these deep dark places both in the preparation and setting. I was drawn to Ella because she shows us the consequences of living under constant pressure, which a lot of teenagers deal with. Having an incredible team of crew and mentors really helped me throughout the process.”
The project was mentored by Academy Award winning writer Peter Hedges, who helped the cast “create and understand the texture of these characters and their world. It was challenging but in the best way possible.” However there was one negative “It was winter, and snowstorms didn’t sit well with anyone when we were shooting outdoors,” she smiles.
Shin has also recently completed a short, Don’t Be A Hero with Pete Lee, featuring Missi Pyle, and is working on a pilot produced by Keshet with director Maggie Kiley, who helmed Scream Queens and Guidance. “It’s based on the book Dead Girls Detective Agency, about Upper East side high school girls involved with Purgatory, a murder mystery, and of course their relationships with each other.” Last but not least, Shin is also performing in a play scripted by National Youth writers, currently on track for production in Los Angeles.
As an Asian actress, Shin is delighted to see Hollywood opening up in terms of diversity. “For me, I’ve been lucky to have been considered for a lot of roles that used to be open only for Caucasian actors.” She believes real change is coming in regard to the “old school Hollywood mindset” on diverse casting. Perhaps, Shin can put her newly discovered “super powers” – as well as her acting chops – to bear on just that.
- Genie Davis; Photos courtesy of Hojo Shin