The Origins of the Cinnabon Monster Actor

Or How I Became a Professional Actor in LA

“Why would you ever want to act? You look so plain.” — My dad

The story of how I became a professional actor in Los Angeles cannot begin without some sort of a demeaning remark from one of my family members.

During the first winter break of my freshman year of college, my dad asked if I had any idea what I wanted for my career. I told him I wanted to be an actor. And thus he gave me that lovely response you see above and an explanation of how extremely hard it is to be an actor, adding that being a “plain” Asian man would result in a very hard time finding acting work to sustain myself.

I know, such encouraging, loving words. But did he have a point? What chance did I possibly have?

I graduated from the College of William & Mary in May 2009 with a Theatre and Asian American Studies degree, but instead of going straight to Los Angeles, I decided to stick around after graduation like an alumni loser. I worked at Chili’s as a server till I could feel my mind slowly slipping into insanity. It was on February 1st, 2010 that I decided to sell everything I had and make the big move. I had no connections, no credits, and a modest amount of money that I’d saved from working at Chili’s plus a small amount from my parents. Two old high school friends from Korea were gracious enough to let me stay with them for a bit before I found my own place.

Fast forward to February 1st of this year, which marks the 5 year anniversary of my move to Los Angeles. Through this time, I will always remember my first car (which I bought off Craigslist for $2k) being broken into and everything in it stolen; its engine melting in the middle of the highway; being dead broke twice in 2 separate years (when I first moved here and in 2013); going through my very first lawsuit from a woman attempting to sue me for neck injury from paint scratch damage; and all the delightful stresses that come with living in thiswonderfully chaotic city.

Somehow I’m still here. Still persisting. Still stubborn and refusing to quit. I’ve had my share of working odd day jobs, from working as a US Census Enumerator and knocking on strange people’s doors to get them to fill out their censuses, being a telephone operator for 1800DENTIST, to working at an overpriced Mexican restaurant in Hollywood surrounded by awful-yet-pretty-looking people. As of this moment, however, I am a working actor who can pay my bills doing the thing I love to do most. I consider that an awesome blessing.

When it comes to my daily routine as an actor, I can say that it’s unpredictable. I go to my acting class at Beverly Hills Playhouse 4 times a week — twice on Tuesday and Thursday nights as a student, and twice on Monday and Wednesday as a stage manager. Outside of that, I maintain a productive schedule of workout routines, acting administration work, rehearsals for my scenes in class, auditions, lunches/dinners/dates, violin practice, dance classes… or every once in a while, none of that. Sometimes I just have a grand, lazy day and watch Parks and Rec while eating a Cinnabon.

Oh, you may be wondering why I call myself a “Cinnabon Monster Actor”. That’s because I’m the only actor who markets himself with that fat pastry product, to the point that I was able to meet the CEO of the company herself, Kat Cole.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from all these years trying to make it as a successful actor, it’s this very important lesson: I learned that no matter how successful you can be, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have a foundation that keeps you happy and grounded. In this hustle to be successful in our careers, we tend to forget the people that care about us as we don’t have time to see them. But it’s because of them that we have any sort of an anchor in our lives, especially when things don’t go well. Because it’ll happen. A time will come whenyou won’t book anything for a year. When you become dead broke, after a successful period of living as a working actor for some years. When your agents and manager dump you all at once and you’re out on your own. A time will come when you’ll get into a really bad car accident and the other person is suing the living crap out of you. Or maybe, just maybe, a time will come that you’ll only have a few months left to live.

What then?

Who are the people that will be there when we experience these hardships? What will this life mean? “Happiness” because you booked some movie or TV show and you got to be on a red carpet? “Fulfillment” because you got a big fancy house, festered by people who only give a quasi-shit about you? While the pursuit of happiness will forever be elusive, I truly believe we’re closer to having some idea how to achieve it when we maintain relationships with the people we love — to spend time with them and be there for them — for their significant moments and for their most difficult times. Knowing I have such people I can rely on, to tell me the honest truth about myself, to keep me grounded and inspired, is the only way I can ever hope to sustain this acting career for decades to come.

It is within that realization that I know I have what it takes to be an actor, despite my “plain” looking face.

So where I go from here? Who knows. But I got some good friends with me along for the ride ☺

Edward Hong is a Korean American actor based in Los Angeles, otherwise known as the Cinnabon Monster. When he’s not obsessing about all products related to Cinnabon, he dreams of one day vanquishing evil on top of a gigantic corgi named Spike. He has appeared in some shows you may have heard of including New Girl, Legit, General Hospital, Victorious, and Raising Hope, to name a few.

If you enjoyed this story, it would mean a lot if you hit “recommend” so others may stumble upon it and enjoy it/find inspiration in this journey too ☺

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