Although she’s appeared in big-screen comedies like Grown Ups and The Hangover II and III, Jamie Chung is best known as a badass action babe in films and television, from Samurai Girl to Believe, Once Upon a Time, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and Sucker Punch. (Not to mention upcoming flicks A Year and Change, It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong and Flock of Dudes.) Her career began by chance when she was discovered waiting tables in a sports bar and was thrust, literally, into The Real World. That led to roles in TV dramas including Veronica Mars, CSI, ER, and Castle, none of which showcased her comedic chops.
But with the debut of the sitcom Resident Advisors (streaming on Hulu April 9th), that’s about to change. Set in a college dorm full of horny, unruly freshman and resident advisors who are just as immature, oversexed and rule-breaking, it casts Chung as Olivia, the head R.A. who tries in rein everyone in—and rarely succeeds.
To ask about that and more, we caught up with her. Which wasn’t easy: Girl runs a brisk 8-minute mile…
“I did have an experience where we all thought it was a good idea to get a tattoo together. It’s small and it’s hidden. You can use your imagination.”
Were you looking specifically for a comedy?
Absolutely. I’m always looking for comedies. I’ve been in comedies but my bits weren’t comedic. The other people were being funny. So it’s rewarding to work with such great, funny material and this ensemble cast that’s so hilarious.
Had you done much physical comedy before? You take a lot of falls in this.
Never, but I feel like my stunt training background prepared me to take a great hit. You just kind of go for it.
You’ve gone from badass to klutz.
That’s how I really am in real life, closer to the klutz.
Will it surprise your fans?
I think so. My character gets into crazy shenanigans. There’s one episode where Olivia has major fear of missing out. Everyone’s partying without her so she gets really tipsy and makes a fool of herself.
Did the shoot take you back to your college days at UC-Riverside?
I did have my share of pizza. I had a college student diet—ramen and pizza. It did, especially move-in day, the excitement of a fresh new chapter in your life, moving away from home and moving into a college dorm, getting settled in and getting to know your classmates. It’s a thrilling experience, especially at that age which is such a time of self-discovery.
Was your college experience ever that crazy?
It came pretty close. The dorm parties; trying to keep everything away from the R.A.s. My R.A.s were closer to Olivia, pretty straight edge. We didn’t have any fun ones that broke the rules. I did have an experience where we all thought it was a good idea to get a tattoo together. It’s small and it’s hidden. You can use your imagination.
How does a making a digital series compare to your previous experiences?
With network shows and movies, you have the luxury of time but sometimes you don’t have the luxury of creative freedom. With this, we had freedom but didn’t have any time. We shot each episode in two-and-a-half days—13 pages a day, seven episodes in 18 days. It was a whirlwind, a total blur. I don’t even remember what we shot! I don’t remember anything except being tired. I watched the first two episodes and it was a great reminder of what we did and how much fun we had. I loved working with this crew of people. I hope we get to do another season, but I hope they give us more time to film it.
Of everything you’ve done so far, what highlights stand out?
First and foremost, the single best experience of my life would be Sucker Punch, the relationships and the friends that I made on that film. To this day they’re all really good friends of mine. It was quite a chunk of time. It was a six-month movie—we had three months of prep. It’s a film I’m very proud of. The second would be working with Alfonso Cuarón on Believe. It was a really interesting concept for a show and just to be able to work with such amazing director. And Eden, I really got to flex my muscle in terms of range and I got to tell a story based on true events. It was a movie that was hard to watch so it didn’t have a large audience but it told a really important story [about human trafficking] and I felt I learned the most from that shoot.
Are you still running competitively?
I did a couple 10Ks and I beat my time. I ran a 10K in 51 minutes and a half-marathon in an hour and 49 minutes. A full marathon is certainly on the list but I haven’t had time to train. It’s all consuming. I love working out because it makes me feel good. It’s not because of the way I look. I love the endorphins. It wakes you up. You’re high on life after a good workout.
What’s your strategy for the future?
The goal is to always change things up and challenge myself as an actor. The challenge is proving to the people in charge of the project that you can do something different and get out of your pigeonhole. It’s extremely hard. It’s sad but true that I’d be limited to what I’d be able to play in terms of period pieces. It boils down to race but you can’t get around the subject. But there are so many new outlets now for creative projects like this. A few years ago Resident Advisors would not have been made. Now you get to play the roles you want to play. It’s about that and staying true to what you love. One day, the dream role would be to do a biopic on Yoko Ono. I find her super fascinating.