The Japanese American actor has a profilic resume of action roles from Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows to the Drift King in The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift. Now he has switched gears to play ER doctor Ethan Choi in NBC medical drama Chicago Med.
We caught up with him at Heroes and Villains Fan Fest in San Jose where he seemed to be really enjoying his convention time.
BT: You can always rate a city by the people you meet and, like Chicago, everyone here’s wonderful.
Is the convention circuit fairly new to you?
BT: I’ve done 5 or 6 over the years but it’s been great. With the fans of all the Turtles movies and the things I’ve done in the past and now the TV show I’ve created this little buzz and people come out to meet me, and I love to meet the fans – that’s why I do it.
You’ve been lucky enough to be in many different roles in TV and in film. Is there much difference playing in the different genres?
BT: I guess what’s interesting now with the way the industry is moving, with television and film there’s not such a huge separation except the time – film takes a little longer and they shoot less pages a day, but as far as the quality and the storytelling goes I feel like it’s really starting to come together. You see some amazing television that if you put two episodes together, you could open it theatrically, they’re that great. So as far as the genre’s concerned I feel like it’s a blend, there’s not such a huge stretch. I will say that in the variation of roles, from playing Shredder in Turtles to playing a doctor in Chicago Med those are things that really stretch me as an actor and I really love to do.
You have very fast-paced roles in general, from being the Drift King involved in car action in The Fast and the Furious, to the fast-moving medical action in Chicago Med to martial arts action as Shredder. Is there a type of action that you prefer?
BT: I guess, no. For me I just want to tell great stories and if action is part of that I want to make that as real and as meaningful as possible. I feel like the medical profession is a fast-paced industry and a fast-paced arena where things have to be done because seconds matter especially in contrast to the films that I’ve done. Speed creates adrenaline, creates conflict in certain instances, and also creates a momentum for the audience to go on that rollercoaster ride with you, so it’s a necessity when you’re doing an action movie and when you’re doing a medical drama.
Speaking of medical dramas, any news about season 2 of Chicago Med?
BT: Season 2 starts where Season 1 left off, except now a lot of us have different titles. Like me, I play Dr Ethan Choi, and he’s the new chief resident there. His storyline will kind of partake on his new title and see how he handles this new position. I feel like Ethan, from his background, runs a tight ship, and I feel like there are other people especially the nurses in the hospital that, in real life and in the show, they do really run the ship, so there might be some conflict and some butting of heads too, but you’ll see him grow as a person and as a doctor and the show grow altogether, so you’re going to see a lot of the things you saw in season 1 except now we’re trying to expand the characters.
One of the things I liked about season 1 was your scenes with a parrot. What was that like? Was that one of the randomest things you’ve had to do on screen?
BT: I would say yes! Definitely one of the randomest things. I’d never worked with animals before, besides the parrot, and the parrot is a scene-stealer! He takes his own cues, sets his own marks, says whatever he wants in his dialogue, and people love him for it. He’s a great cast mate to have, and especially with the storyline with Ethan I think it’s very poignant, you know. I feel like having that parrot and talking about PTSD was an important storyline for us in general to portray, and to bring some life to it, to bring I guess some viewership to it, to make PTSD more known about which not everyone talks about, and also give it a bit of light at the end of the tunnel by bringing this parrot, I felt it really made for a wonderful storyline.
Another loved actor, Colin Donnell who plays Tommy on Arrow is now with you on Chicago Med playing Dr Rhodes. What can we expect in terms of your relationship with him on the show?
BT: Me and Dr Rhodes! I think we’re definitely friends. Especially professionally I think we respect one another. There’ll be times when we conflict with certain ideas but I think we’re both in it to win it, we both want to save the patient’s life you know, and if it’s a matter of that we’re on the same page, so you see more of that to come.
You worked with Stephen Amell on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. How was that experience, and are we going to see you on Arrow maybe at some point?
BT: Oh wow! I would love to be on Arrow! What Stephen’s done with the show and the franchise is amazing and it was great to work with him in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows movie. I would love to have more scenes with him and if it could be on his show, all the better!
Finally, do you prefer playing the hero or the villain?
BT: I feel like it’s good to be bad. I’ve played several villains in the past and I feel like villains get away with more, although I feel like there’s a responsibility when you’re playing the hero to tell the story and bring the audience with you, so both of them have their qualities, but if I had to choose it would really depend on the character. I like playing the anti-hero, you know, a little bit of both, but in the end you see his altruistic moments and really root for him, so those are the characters I love to play. Marvel’s Namor the Submariner, if that role came up, I’d love to be him.
Season 2 of Chicago Med premieres in the U.K. on 23rd October 9PM on Universal channel. It is currently airing Thursdays on NBC in the U.S.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is available to buy on DVD.