Palatine High School senior, Alexa Tan, began her acting journey in middle school. From being in the 2019 school musical, she’s worked her way up in the ranks. Recently she was cast in the third season of the Showtime series, “The Chi.” It’s a coming-of-age drama exploring the connections of residents of a neighborhood in the Southside of Chicago. I spoke with Tan through Zoom call.
What was the process like to get the part on “The Chi”?
I heard about the job from my agent. My mom got the email. She’s usually the one that gets emails from my agent about casting calls. I went to the audition. I had to miss school and I didn’t think I would get the part. I read a couple of lines in front of the casting director, and then a couple days later I got the call that I got a call-back. I read some more lines and the next day they told me I got the job.
Working on set, what was that like?
It was a really, really long day. I got there around 8 AM for makeup and remember I was there until 9 PM. For me, it was honestly really intimidating because you know, it was a TV set. It was almost buzzing with life with so many people getting things done. It was really cool to see how it was set because I never thought I would get to see that happen.
Do you tell a lot of people that you act or is it something you don’t like sharing?
Yeah, I don’t really tell people because it makes me feel uncomfortable. I only told my close friends who asked me why I’d sometimes miss school. It’s not something I like to tell people, so I don’t have to answer questions a lot.
How do you balance school and acting?
I pull a lot of all-nighters. Driving to Chicago, which is where a lot of the auditions are, I would just do a lot of homework in the car. I don’t miss a ton of school, but there are times where it’s a test day and really cram. That’s when it gets really stressful.
Is the acting industry a more cutthroat environment or chill?
I definitely felt that cutthroat environment in front of the director. At auditions when you see all the other girls sitting in the waiting room for the same job you’re going for, it does get a little bit intimidating. Especially because you’re up against people with a lot more experience. I know that I haven’t done a lot of acting, so I do get intimidated very easily.
Any funny audition stories?
For the casting call for The Chi, the title of the character was Bougie Asian Friend. I remember laughing at that, thinking I would not go for it. “You know you need the money, so might as well,” my mom said. I wasn’t intending on auditioning for it, but I ended up getting it. I actually turn down a lot of auditions because they’re for really weird commercials or small things. Sometimes I’m just too lazy.
What’s some advice you have for people that want to pursue acting?
Just get up and do it. Honestly, once you get into it, it’s not that hard. For me, it helped a lot with my confidence because it was never something I thought I would be able to do. I never thought I’d be someone to perform on stage, but it’s done a lot for me in that regard. I think just getting started is the hardest part. My first audition I was a nervous wreck. Once you do it a couple of times like failing your first couple of auditions, it gets a lot better.