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After Yang's Justin H Min says film allowed him to explore Asian identity

The Umbrella Academy star plays a 'technosapien' in the new sci-fi.

After Yang Exclusive
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Published: Thursday, 22nd September 2022 at 4:33 pm
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Justin H Min takes on the title role in new sci-fi film After Yang, playing a robotic child – or 'technosapien' – who mysteriously stops functioning.

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The film is the second feature from acclaimed filmmaker Kogonada and approaches the genre in an extremely gentle way, while still asking profound questions about what it means to be human – and more specifically, what it means to be Asian.

This latter point was of particular interest to The Umbrella Academy star Min, who explained during an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com that he was able to draw on "all of my personal experience" for the role.

"I was born and raised in the States and obviously don't look white," he said. "So navigating the world as someone who feels very American, but also is perceived as Asian, was something I've always grappled with.

"And the older I get, the more it continues to intersect with my work and my life in terms of how I'm perceived for certain roles or whatnot.

Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja as Mika & Justin H Min as Yang in After Yang
Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja as Mika & Justin H Min as Yang in After Yang Sky UK/ Linda Kallerus

"It's interesting because in many ways I do feel Asian and in many ways, I don't," he added. "Because [like with] that beautifully written monologue that Yang gives about tea, it's something that resonates so deeply.

"It's like, I know these stories from my parents. I know the history from history books. I know the language. And yet, it's not substantiated by something that's actually real, because these are all distilled versions of what my parents are telling me.

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"And I've always been searching for what is real to my Asian identity. It's not something I don't think I'll ever really have answers for. But it's a constant exploration and journey, and I think that's one of the things that the film explores so well."

The film is based on the short story Saying Goodbye to Yang by Alexander Weinstein, and Kogonada explained that he was instantly fascinated by the tale when he read it – even though he wasn't initially sure he could make it into a film.

"I just thought this is the kind of sci-fi I would do," he explained. "Which was very grounded, very sort of lo-fi.

"But I didn't think about it like, 'Oh, this is my next film.' I just thought, I really love this story. And then I just took the opportunity to make a kind of sci-fi that I wanted to exist in the world – so it reflects a lot of my own sensibilities."

According to Min, it was precisely this unique approach to sci-fi that really attracted him to the role.

"As soon as I saw the cover page [of the script] with Kogonada's name on it, I was like, 'Oh, I know, this is going to be good.' Because I had been a fan of his visual essays and I'd loved [his previous film] Columbus.

"I was also intrigued because I was like, he's doing something in the sci-fi space, which I wouldn't necessarily attribute his work to. So I read it, and I was immediately blown away and just really taken by its quiet simplicity and confidence in that simplicity, and the things that it explored.

"And I was also very taken that it was this interesting take on sci-fi in a way that you don't often see."

After Yang is showing in select cinemas and is streaming on Sky Cinema and NOW – find out more about how to sign up to Sky Cinema. Looking for something to watch? Check out our Movies hub or plan your viewing with our TV Guide.

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