Inverse spoke to actor Manny Jacinto who plays the dim-witted but good-hearted Jason Mendoza on NBC’s comedy THE GOOD PLACE (and will soon be seen in the TOP GUN sequel as a pilot named Fritz). One of Jacinto’s influences was the 2001 Asian American indie BETTER LUCK TOMORROW (directed by YOMYOMF founder Justin Lin) and he talks about what that film meant to him and why it was his Spice Girls:
Jacinto and his inner circle resonated with the film with its ensemble of three-dimensional characters acting against what people expected of them. “I wasn’t conscious of its effect. I watched Better Luck Tomorrow with my closest friends, like, ‘These guys are just like us!’”
“Han,” a character in the film played by Sung Kang who exudes cool not seen since James Dean, was a revelation to Jacinto. “I was given the nickname ‘Han, and to this day my friends still call me Han because we loved the character so much. We related to their stories so much.”
He jokes that in the same way girls once saw themselves in the Spice Girls, Jacinto and his boys saw themselves in the film. “Better Luck Tomorrow was my Spice Girls,” laughs Jacinto.
Although it was a critical darling that launched Justin Lin’s career (after 2016’s Star Trek Beyond, Lin is now helming the Cinemax series Warrior), Better Luck Tomorrow may have come too early to have lasting impact on anyone outside the Asian-American audience it reflected.
Jacinto argues that now, more than ever, is time for more Better Luck Tomorrows.
“The same old chummy group of friends isn’t gonna cut it anymore,” says Jacinto. “People have a higher standard nowadays. That’s where diversity and diverse stories come in. I don’t know if you can call it the golden age of television, but we’re in a time where there are so many different mediums to tell stories. Everyone has a TV network. I’m just lucky to be in the industry at this point. I look up to all the guys that came up back in the day, like Daniel Dae Kim and John Cho. They did not have the opportunities current Asian-Americans have right now.”
To read the full interview, go to Inverse: When Jason Mendoza Turned Up at a Jaguars Game