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  • Fred Smith

On Working with a [Future] Star

Jon Viktor Corpuz

"This kid is a heck-of-an-actor."

We'd just concluded the first take of rehearsals for a short film I'd written and was directing called "influence" and I was so sure of fifteen-year-old Jon Viktor Corpuz's abilities that I involuntarily muttered the affirming statement to myself.

His character was a drunk, obnoxious, and somehow still likable teen. When I called action, he transformed before my eyes, instantly embodying a rookie drinker who'd long-passed his limit and was trying to milk liquid courage for social benefit. He nailed it.

I never told him what to do or how to be. You could say I didn't direct him so much as I got out of his way. He had read the script, decided he could borrow from Paul Newman in Cool Hand Look, and there it was...a performance so strong, it made me wish I'd written a bigger movie.

Within sixteen months, Jon would star on Broadway and earn rave reviews for his role as Prince Chulalongkorn in The King and I. Of course, I didn't know that then. I didn't know anything about Jon, except he could act. No question about that.

Today Jon is a professional actor. He's not all that famous, but I believe it's just a matter of time before he is. When he gets to the place where everyone knows his name, it'll be because he's got talent, sure. But there's more to him than acting ability.

There's a force behind Jon, and five years after we made our little film, I realized what it is. It's on display in an Instagram post he wrote on May 9, 2017:

This past year had been one of extreme self-doubt and depression for me. The disillusionment I felt was onset by a myriad of things, chief among them a violent wrestling with my sense of identity and purpose. On Friday, I took a step in celebrating the things about myself that scare me the most, not because I'm ashamed of them but because I'm painfully aware of their implications: my queerness and Asianness. I had never felt more like myself than I did in that moment. What I learned, and what I think I've always known, but now fully trust, is that the things that make us *unique* are the things that ultimately make us the most powerful. It is absolutely essential that we share those things with the world...The world fucking needs them. I am so proud of every facet of my identity and am incredibly happy to be at the other end of what was, in my eyes, an entirely necessary period of profound self-discovery. I am thrilled for a lifetime of learning and ups and downs and downs and downs and ups again. I am thrilled to be a brown person, I am thrilled to be queer. I am thrilled that this is only the beginning.

Most social media self-actualization falls into the category of either over-caffeinated bravado or loathing disguised as endorsement. This is different, an honest passage whose declarative principles demand to be read a second, third, and seventh time--not a typical circumstance given the news feed platform is made for shallow grazing.

We should all be so bold. But we won't. I know I can't. I also know this: Jon Viktor Corpuz is a heck-of-an actor. He's a lot more, too.

Currently, Jon Viktor Corpuz attends Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music at NYU/Tisch School of the arts. See him in in the short film "Flip the Record" by Marie Jamora. Find him on Instagram and Twitter--@jonviktorcorpuz. Look for him in his feature film debut...soon. (He may release an album of original music before never know.)

Here he is in "influence" a short film by yours truly about drinking and driving.


Fred Smith was born in the 70s, wore long socks and short shorts in the 80s, played drums in bands in the 90s, and became a husband and a father in the 2000s. This decade he's made a few movies and written a few books you can check out on this site. Stick around. Have a few rounds on the house. Then, you something.

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