you remember a special time in your life when the world went into fade-out and your interaction with someone became a close-up on the movie screen? Maybe the interaction or dialogue was mundane, but the person offered something unique, and the encounter was truly memorable. Now, most of the romantics reading this will be picturing the fellow that jumped off his white horse—but, remember, it doesn't always have to be a romantic interest—there are those exceptional people that just emit something special.
This describes the day I met Linda Wang, a lovely, kind and unique young woman, at a pet charity event in a pet store for the "Orange County Pet Adoption Day.” Now, I would love to say that I was so lovely, kind and unique that Linda wanted to talk to me. But, alas, the truth is she couldn't pass up my incomparable, handsome and very smart Shih-Poo, Abda. Linda gently smoothed the unruly hair on his face as she stared into his eyes and told him—he looked punk-rockish, very 80's style and giggled. As we talked her heart and intelligence beamed through her intense eyes and I learned about a love in her life, Billy the kid Wang, her Golden Cocker Spaniel friend that had since died.
The more we talked and emailed, I knew I wanted to interview Linda and share with you just one of many important elements—reading—that makes her the remarkable woman she is today.
Let's welcome Linda to WOW! Everyone knows at WOW! they love and support readers (the recipient of all the efforts in the writing industry). That makes Linda the perfect woman to represent them--since reading is especially influential in both her personal and professional life, as an actress.
Please join me in various moments in time with Linda, as we talk about how she embraced reading and the benefits she continues to reap.
WOW: Linda, we're definitely interested in the role books played in your personal growth; but before we go there, you are about more than ‘book learnin'. What was your childhood like? Where were you born?
LINDA: I always say, I was “made in Taiwan” but almost all of my memories are here in America. So, I'm a proud American. I grew up in a two-family Victorian brownstone in Queens, New York, three blocks away from Queens Blvd.
I was a Latchkey Kid. Each day after school my brother and I stayed home. Him downstairs, me upstairs—in separate quarters...I grew up with a household of animals such as dog, cat, birds, fish, turtles, frogs, spiders, iguana, and even a chick once (given away)... I had so many pets because my parents built a home that kept us interested and busy; so my brother and I won't run out and play and get kidnapped... My parents were very cautious; it was a big city and we were little kids.
My bedroom windows were facing a side street where I had a great view of the trees and the uneven sidewalk pavements below. Two squirrels built a nest on the tree facing my window. As a child, each morning I would talk to the squirrels as if they could understand me, and they were my friends. I'd feed them nuts and apple slices, then I would read to them, as if they were a couple of the characters I happened to be reading about.
“We had...the old-fashioned console TV
...kept locked, except for rare occasions.”
WOW: They created a ‘hideaway' for you that most children would love to have. I can see you sitting there with your two ‘friends' and think I have to work that scene into my novel-in-progress. Would you let me do that? (Thankfully, Linda shakes her head yes, sporting a big grin.)
One thing that really struck me when we met was the expressiveness of your eyes, which far exceeds the number of years that you've lived; so your passion for life, people, and animals must have been fed by your reading.
When did you fall in love with reading? What sort of books did you ‘cut your eye-teeth on'--sorry, I couldn't resist that. I'll reword that, what books did you start out reading?
LINDA laughs: I developed reading at a young age due to the fact that my parents both worked and weren't home. So, all that I am talking to you about is really from books—not TV shows. We had one of the old-fashioned console TV that my parents kept locked, except for rare occasions.
Beryl, now, everyone is going to think we're the Amish family from Taiwan.
To answer your question, one of my favorite writers was Laura Ingalls Wilder. Out of all of her books, my favorite were "The Long Winter," "Little House on the Prairie,"
and "Little Town on the Prairie."
Every time I read a book I would imagine myself as part of the storyline. I would go to my backyard behind the house and plants tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, etc. thinking I am Laura and her Pa working in the fields...I even requested my father to go camping in the woods; because a city kid like myself wanted to know how it felt to live in the woods. But, after camping out where I was attacked by evil, massive killer-Pennsylvanian mosquitoes, it sort of ended that fantasy. (Linda acts out beating the mosquitoes off.)
Another favorite author, S E Hinton. Books such as "The Outsiders,"
"Tex," "Rumble Fish,"
and "That was Then, This is Now." I often pictured myself as the characters and because of the books I was a huge fan of actor Matt Dillon, a die-hard METs fan like myself. SE Hinton's book brought the teen-rebellion fantasy within me to life.
I also loved Alice Walker's "The Color Purple." I just fell in love with the character "Celie", I learned about forgiving from Celie, just opening your own heart and just letting all that negativity go by working on yourself, plus learning that it's alright being the ugly one in the family, as I grew up with a very handsome sibling...
Photo by: James Chean
“I had to stay home and let my imagination run free through the books I read.”
WOW: Linda, with all sincerity I have to say it's hard to believe you could look in the mirror and not see your beauty. But, it is a powerful statement regarding “perception is reality.”
That must have moved you into reading even more. While reading, what was it about Billy the Kid that inspired you to name your dog Billy the kid Wang?
(Picture of Billy the kid Wang)
LINDA: My Billy the Kid was given to me as a gift by my brother because he knew I loved the cartoon "Lady and the Tramp." At the time Billy was given to me, I was going through a phase, reading about the "Wild Wild West." In my mind, I wanted to move to Texas and be a cowboy...I was fascinated by Billy the Kid AKA Bill H. Bonney. He was a rebel without a cause, a teen outlaw from the South, in the Wild Wild West. Although, he took lives—in my eyes he wasn't a cold-blooded Killer—but, a kid who happened to grow up in an era or environment where anything could happen to anyone...
I envied that he had such freedom--unlike me at the time—because my parents were so protective. I had to stay home and let my imagination run free through the books I read.
If you ever had a chance to view Billy the Kid's photos, a blonde with big eyes, and that "yea, go ahead, make my day" expression, then you will realize that my Golden Cocker Spaniel actually looked like him (at least in my eyes). I even put on a bandana on my Billy the Kid, along with a cowboy hat for him...
“...reading has helped me tremendously.
I have to thank my parents...”
WOW grins sharing the mental image with Linda:: It's easy to see how deeply he worked his way into your heart.
You embrace your acting career and connecting with people the only way you know how, wholeheartedly; just as you invested your heart into Billy Wang. Linda, what do you think has helped you develop your depth of character and ability to connect?
Photo by: James Chean
LINDA: I'd have to say, my experiences in life, traveling and most importantly, reading. So, if you can't travel right now, reading will fill that void for you. Go anywhere, even into outer space, if you want. You know, “beam me up, Scotty.”
Reading helped me develop depth of character, deeper insight and ability to connect with people. I think it's important to live a full life. One should be open-hearted and open-minded to things... these elements always help when I develop a character that I portray.
WOW: Do you have any ideas about how each of us could encourage the love of reading in others? Especially, in children?
LINDA: I think parents or adults should make the habit of encouraging children to read. They could be pointing out a role model and help the kids relate to them.
It could be a reward situation like what my parents did. Each time we finished a book, we had a checklist where we could choose from our wish list for toys, goodies, a walk to the park, etc. They could make it part of their family life.
It could also be watching PBS and all the children's shows and find the ones that read with the kids...
It could be having kids gather in a group on weekends for a few hours and have a reading party, just for the kids...
It could simply be taking the kids to a library or bookstore and help them become comfortable, familiar with the children's book section and have them pick out the books they want.
WOW: Then we would be correct in saying that reading helps you with your career, right? How do you feel that your reading background has helped you in your acting career?
LINDA: Yes, reading has helped me tremendously. I have to thank my parents for this. Reading has helped me to have an open mind and broader spectrum in terms of understanding the character, comprehending the character break down and fully absorbing the character's state of mind. Also, having a vivid imagination from the habit of reading as a child has helped me in breaking down the necessary elements when it comes to cold-reading auditions...
WOW: Now, that's powerful. Anything that we can count on in the serious moments-of-pressure is a blessing. It's great that you recognize yours and readily use it.
Many of our readers are working hard to hone their craft of writing, learn to pull on who they are and what they know. They strive passionately to create the book they know is within them. There are many obstacles and challenges to their dedication and focus, as there have been for you.
What has helped you stay focused and not let the heartbreak and disappointment derail you? In this way, writing and acting are not so different, are they?
LINDA laughs: No, not so different in those ways. Well...like a runner, I can choose to run ahead and never look back; but, if I am a bit tired I can sit on a bench and watch other runners--watch their body movements, so I can improve my run. That expresses how I feel toward acting or any career of choice.
Acting is my career choice and I'm very passionate about it. I think it takes a passion to be in this crazy business. And I'm guessing that would apply to the writing business. (We laugh and agree.)
One needs to stay focused, have positive people, influences around them and create your own opportunities. Also, try reaching out to others, help them; don't expect anything back because life is a circle. It all comes back to us, one way or another; eventually we all complete the circle in life...
“I think I am who I am due to reading.”
WOW: Thank you, that was lovely and insightful. This naturally brings up the question, when did you know that you wanted to be an actor? Was that one of the reasons you did a lot of your reading? Did you purposefully read to expand your knowledge of life and to learn about different people and their experiences for your career?
LINDA: I wanted to be a professional dreamer (giggled), AKA an actress, ever since I saw the play Annie on Broadway. I acted in Romeo and Juliet in 3rd grade as the Nurse and loved being live on stage.
My art teacher in grade school told me that I was a very expressive outgoing child and that often I am quick on my feet under any circumstances, like improv--calling for a quick mind.
I think I am who I am due to reading. For example, the other day a make-up artist on set told me, “Oh my, Linda Wang you have 3 freckles on your face, and I replied without thinking ‘yea.. that is because I am Huckleberry Finn's long lost cousin from over seas... So where is my handsome Tom Sawyer?'" All three make-up artists was laughing hard at my little joke and they were like “Linda, you are sooo funny, where did you come up with the comments like that?” And that made me think, it's reading...
WOW: When you meet someone and you're intellectually stimulated, in your experience, how often do you find that person is an avid reader?
LINDA starts laughing: For some odd reason, I have been meeting people recently that actually read. When I say read, it's not going online and reading, but actually going to a bookstore or library and picking up a book. It's awesome to be in company with someone that can actually carry on a variety of conversations, I mean, the sky is the limit when it comes to the categories of books you read. A friend was totally into South Africa, so under his influence I started reading Too Close to the Sun by Sara Wheeler...
WOW: So, what else are you reading now and where do you go to find the perfect books to read?
LINDA: Currently, in my spare (Linda raises her eyebrows quizzically) time, I just completed reading Norman Vincent Peale's "The Power of Positive Thinking." "Reel Power: The Struggle for Influence and Success in the New Hollywood" by Mark Litwak and "Unbroken Dreams" which was edited by Robert Uno.
As I mentioned earlier, I just picked up Too Close to the Sun by Sara Wheeler—it's a fantastically written story set in the 1920's in Africa, about a guy, Denys Finch Hatton, who was also the character from the film, Out of Africa...it's his real life adventures in Africa... another book is called
Chart Throb by Ben Elton. It's a spoof on the English version of the TV show American Idol. It's very funny and entertaining.
I read Sandi Ault's book, Wild Indigo, a while back and was moved by her intense love for Mountain, her adopted wolf that died a while back.
Any reader will understand this thrill, I met Amy Tan in NY at a Gallery opening in Soho. I have all of her books here in LA and the same with Maxine Huang Kingston.
I used to frequent old book stores and spend a lot of time there in NY. There are several places I go now to buy or simply check out old books in Los Angeles. One is on Magnolia Blvd in Burbank and the other is off 3rd street in downtown Burbank, you can often find rare gems there...
“...promote reading in the family.”
WOW: There must have been big changes for you, moving from NY to LA, tell us about one of them.
LINDA: I am ashamed to admit I have been somewhat out of touch with the book world, due to lack of time, and perhaps of commitment on my part. That is one of the reasons I miss New York so much.
My life there lent itself to reading. For instance, I read many of my father's books. His room is full of Chinese literature. I was especially fascinated by the Soong Sisters and other books during that era. That is why I have a good knowledge of the history of Old China...
A book I recently re-read was the "Rape of Nanking" by Iris Chang. It's a book about WW2. Unfortunately, I was advised by my agents not to discuss this book since it's a sensitive subject. But, I would like some of your readers to get her book; just make sure you have a box of tissues near at hand.
WOW: One reason you say that, Linda, is because you enter the world the author creates, you're a passionate reader. You set an excellent example for all of us.
Switching from reading to acting, what is the latest achievement in Linda Wang's career?
LINDA: My latest is a short film called “Linda”--just like “Highlander” was a one-name title.
Here's a little background on Linda -- A reporter named Linda interviews an actress, named Linda. Unfortunately, “there is only room for one Linda.” You might guess where this is going, but you have to see the film to know for sure.
I was told Linda Lee, the writer, was inspired by Linda Wang, the actress (our Linda looks so pleased) after talking with me during our interview.
We shot the film in LA. The article was written for the Lazy Limabean Film Magazine. This film showcases two characters that can be played by any two actors. It is not a film that requires gender-, race- or ethnic-specific casting.
For example, two homosexual men could play the same roles, regardless of their ethnicity or background, as long as they were similar enough so that one could pose a threat to the other.
Linda Lee is an Asian American writer/director, based in New York City. Linda is her 6th short film. Bruce Lee is also one of her heroes, her name is the same as his wife's. (Linda pauses, laughs and asks if we have enough Lindas to completely confuse everyone?) Another thing we have in common is that we are both interested in non-traditional casting--that begins with the script.
LINDA continues: I just wrapped up an Art House Indie short--Red Beta, which was written and directed by a female director from Vietnam. The film is color-coated just like the famous international Hong Kong Film, Hero. So, you will see my character Liz wearing only red, then blue in the entire film. In the beginning of the film I am wearing red...my room is red, all my surroundings are red-tinted, including my nail polish. And my opposite lead wears blue and everything surrounding him is blue...because that is how both of them feel... Then they meet and later on he turns red and I am blue, at the end of the film...
He gave her his Red Beta fish as a gesture to get close to her, but she held back... I don't want to reveal the complete story line.. Let me just say, I worked on it only because I fell in love with the script.
I haven't done a short since 1994 and that film was directed by the famed NYU director Brett Ratner (director of Red Dragon, Xman & Rush Hours). Red Beta was written for me; the director auditioned many people, but she wanted me. We had dinner and the rest is history.
WOW, with all sincerity: Oh, what an honor. We're so happy for you. Linda, you are a true joy. Thank you for taking the time to be a part of WOW!
In closing, do you have anything else that you would like to say?
LINDA: First, I would like to thank your handsome, 80's punk-rock dog (giggle) for creating the introduction for us.
Second, my full gratitude to you and your lovely partner for having this great interview. I enjoyed it very much and I hope you both feel the same.
Also, I would like to encourage parents out there to participate in their kids' lives, and promote reading in the family. I thank my parents for the way they were. I didn't like it at times and felt I was in jail—a nice jail—but, a jail all the same. Yet, if it weren't for their strict rules on reading books, I wouldn't be the person I am today.
Last, but not least, I wish the writers and readers out there all the best and please keep me in mind for any project that they are involved in, especially the ones that can be non-traditional and out-of-the-box castings! Bye...
WOW's comments: This was so much fun, Linda and I had a ball together.
One night, we learned each of us knows how to say ‘hi' in several different languages, when we were yakking (that would be a casual word for working) on the phone for forever and kept getting dropped by a nameless (and apparently, tower-less) cell phone company.
It is such a treat to be with her because her mind can turn on a dime and have you laughing or tucking away a thought to meditate on later. It is clear that Linda has made the most of the great gift of reading; and it will continue to pave her way to the success she deserves...the success that we all wish for her from our hearts.
We both hope that you have a great time with this article and come away richer for having read it.
Linda, don't be a stranger to WOW! And, we will seriously be looking for your name to be “up there...in lights!”
For more about Linda Wang visit:
Beryl Hall Bray is co-founder, past co-editor and co-publisher of WOW-WomenOnWriting.com. She is a Southern California freelance writer focusing on interviews, book reviews and working on her novel. Copyright 2007 Beryl Hall Bray. All rights reserved