THE GOOD PLACE may very well be the smartest comedy on network TV at the moment and Manny Jacinto plays Jason Mendoza, one of the four characters stuck in a comedic NO EXIT version of the afterlife. The character is also a Hollywood rarity: an attractive but “dumb” Asian American bro who’s at the center of a love triangle.
Vulture’s E. Alex Jung spoke with Jacinto; covering a wide range of topics including how he was inspired to pursue acting by YOMYOMF Founder Justin Lin. You can read the full interview here, but a sampling below:
HOW HIS CHARACTER (JASON/JIANYU) SUBVERTS STEREOTYPES:
I think when they were coming up with Jason/Jianyu, they were trying to figure out something different and one of the things that popped up was that you don’t really see a lot of dumb Asian guys on mainstream television. He’s usually intelligent or the model minority. I’m not saying playing Jason is pioneering, but it’s so great for me to do because it’s not a stereotype. Getting to put a bit of a twist on that and showing a different dynamic towards an Asian character is really cool. And I feel that the fans like the fact that I’m not some super-smart student.
ON HIS CHARACTER BEING A ‘TOTAL BABE’:
[Laughs.] I wouldn’t say that. Oh man, I always get embarrassed when that’s mentioned. I’ve always been not comfortable being viewed like that, but it’s a nice compliment to have. I remember one of our executive producer’s assistants was like, “Hey Manny, how much are you paying the writers to write all of this stuff about you?” Because it was always complimenting Jason as the hot guy or the attractive guy. And I’m just like, “Oh, you know, I’m paying them 15 percent of my paycheck just to get those statements in to make me look good.” But yeah, it’s a compliment I’m trying to take more warmly now.
You don’t really see the Asian guy as the hot one who’s in a love triangle on TV.
Yeah. If you want to be incredibly specific, you rarely see the Asian guy kissing the Caucasian girl or even dynamics between Janet and Jason, where the female’s a bit taller. There’s always these ideas that you don’t want to date someone that’s taller than you. I don’t know. Maybe I’m overthinking it.
ON HIS FAVORITE ‘FAST AND FURIOUS’ MOVIE AND HOW DIRECTOR JUSTIN LIN INSPIRED HIS CAREER:
(My favorite is) Tokyo Drift, no doubt. So many reasons: Justin Lin, Sung Kang. That is definitely my number one, even though I know it’s the last with so many people. Even the soundtrack, I remember how it goes. The soundtrack was just killer.
That is the correct answer.
Is it? You agree with me?
It’s my favorite! Justin Lin saved the franchise, let’s be real.
That’s exactly true. The thing is, I’m a big fan of Justin Lin as well. I don’t know if you know the movie Better Luck Tomorrow.
I do. I love it.
It was a movie that subconsciously inspired me to do this. I watched the movie when I was in high school. It was the first time that you saw Asian-American kids, Asian-American teenagers acting in a movie. They didn’t have accents and the story line didn’t pertain anything towards their culture. It was just them being teenagers. So Justin Lin is definitely a big reason why Tokyo Drift is my number one.
Also, Better Luck Tomorrow was about bad Asians, which is what Jason is.
Yes. It comes full circle, which is amazing.
THE GOOD PLACE returns tonight on NBC for the second half of its second season.