Jona Xiao Talks Spider-Man: Homecoming, AMC’s ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ and Keeping Up With The Joneses

Photo courtesy of Ricky Middlesworth

With all of the new movies and tv shows out there it’s no surprise when you find yourself saying “That one actress who plays Julie on Halt and Catch Fire.” It’s almost embarrassing when you’re caught loving a show, but having no idea who the cast members are. Contrast Magazine is here to introduce you to actress Jona Xiao, the person behind the character “Julie Yang.”

Click the image below to begin binging on AMC’s Halt & Catch Fire!

haltandcatchfire

Contrast has the inside scoop on Xiao’s current career moves and what she’s got going on as of late.

Born in China, Xiao grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. Xiao, with a love for acting since she was in middle school, broke out into the acting scene, officially, in 2007 with her performance as “Loretta” in “Alice Upside Down,” according to Wikipedia. Performing in shows such as Days of Our Lives, Halt and Catch Fire, and Bones, Xiao is definitely no amateur. On Xiao’s current agenda though, are massive roles that Contrast couldn’t wait to hear about!

Contrast invites you to continue on to read our interview with Xiao that includes her current movie roles, tv roles, keeping secrets, how to handle audition jitters, and some behind the scenes tidbits! Enjoy getting to know the actress behind the scenes!

Peep the full Contrast Magazine exclusive interview below!

We hear you’ve been cast in the new Spider-Man: Homecoming film coming in 2017! What can you tell us about your character and the role she will play in the story?
I’m super thrilled to be part of the cast.  Unfortunately I cannot reveal much about my character but what I can say is one of my favorite actors of all time who is one of the stars of the film actually helped select me for my role.  If readers have seen CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, they’ll be familiar with this version of Spider-Man played by Tom Holland.  It’s a coming of age story centered around Spider-Man while he’s in high school and juggling the stresses of being a teenager along with the responsibilities of having super powers.  I’m really confident fans of the cannon will really enjoy some of the call backs to the comics as well as some innovative things the studio has added into the film.

I bet it’s difficult to keep something so exciting such a secret!
Haha! I didn’t even tell my parents that I booked Spider-Man until it was already announced in the trades.  The only thing I could tell them was, “Mom, Dad, I’m going to be in this big film that I’m so excited about but can’t tell you which one.”  Needless to say, it was tough.

Congrats on your reoccurring role as Julie Yang on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire. Is this something you’d like to have a more permanent role in?
I had a great time being a part of Halt and Catch Fire and would be happy to return to the show if it fit in with the story line.  What I loved about Julie Yang was she was in many ways, a lone woman among men in a very male-dominated industry.  I admired how tough, sassy, and funny she was in dealing with her male co-workers.  For instance, when one of the coders is being sexist, my character says to him, “F you, semen.”  Who insults someone by calling them semen?  Julie Yang does and it was so fun and freeing to play a character who is so unpredictable and outrageous.  As a person, I’ve always been a huge advocate for social justice and ever since I was young, I wanted to break the stereotypes surrounded my gender and ethnicity. One of my favorite things to do for fun in my free time is to play flag football and I’m one of the few females that quarterbacks for co-ed teams and am a big supporter of fellow female athletes.

What can you tell us about your audition for Keeping Up With The Joneses?
I actually auditioned a couple times for the film, originally auditioning for two different roles that I think were then combined into one.  I had to speak “Chinglish” (a mix of Chinese and English) and got to improvise quite a bit, which is always fun.  One of the things I loved about working with Greg Mottola was how much he welcomed improvisation on set and how much he took in the perspective of his cast when it came to the direction of a scene.

Do you ever get nervous at auditions?
Yes, I still do, but I try to channel that nervous energy into an excitement that I can use during the audition.  An actress I’ve worked with and respect, Anjelika Washington, shared with me a trick she uses for auditions that I thought was great for mindset.  She said before auditioning, she imagines that she takes her drinking cup, and pours a serving of “fuck it” into said cup and then downs the whole cup of “fuck it.”  She just booked her first series regular on a TV show and I really think adopting that “fuck it” mentality (as in, stop stressing, just have fun, don’t worry about what “they” are thinking) can be really freeing as an artist.  I actually ended up making physical tumblers that say “F#CK IT” on them and try to drink from it before every audition I go on now.

After all, the more fun I have in the room, the more fun it’ll be for whoever is watching me or my tape.  The more subconscious I get, the more uncomfortable it’ll be for everyone else watching.

Also, I used to do the awful “compare and despair” where in waiting areas I’d sometimes see other actresses and think defeating thoughts like, “Oh, she’s way prettier than me and probably more right for this role than me.”  Now, I just remind myself that each of us has something unique to offer as an actor and all I can be is fully myself and that alone will stand out.  For instance, when I do comedy, I try to bring my signature “awkward confidence” and physical comedy into the audition as I’ve found those are great niches for me.

What piece of advice do you have for any new actors who are just starting off and get nervous while auditioning or meeting with talent agents?
Remember that they’d be LUCKY to have you because you have a unique set of gifts as an artist and as a human being.  In the casting room, remember that the casting director is rooting for you and wanting you to do well so they can pass along your tape as one of the options to the director/producers. With an agent, see this person as your potential business partner.  Too often I find that actors put the agent/manager above them and don’t treat them as a partner and that can really diminish your confidence in the room.  If that rep is meeting with you, they already see your potential and many times just want to make sure it’s a fit personality-wise as well so breathe, the hard work has already been done most of the time.

I always say if you want guaranteed succeed in this business, it’s just a matter of mastering your ABC’s.  A = A-Game Mentality; B = Business Know-How; C = Craft.  If you are strong in all three areas, I cannot imagine how you wouldn’t be successful in this business.  It may take longer than you want, but you’ll get there.

Can you share some behind-the-scenes deets from Keeping up with the Joneses? Do any of the cast have any quirky habits?
When I was shooting Keeping up with the Joneses, I found it entertaining that in-between takes of one of our scenes, Jon Hamm and Zach Galifianakis had a competitive Scrabble game going on.  As a board game enthusiast myself with an entire 5×5 shelf devoted to board games, I thought that that was awesome.

You’ve been very busy this year, and will continue to be busy next year, with commercials, TV series and movies. Looking back to when you first began acting, what advice would you give yourself then?
My top advice I would’ve given my teenage self:
       – Successful people do it themselves, but never alone.  Find the right support network, community, agents/manager to partner with, and filmmakers to collaborate with and be very generous in helping other people achieve their goals.
      -Learn the BUSINESS side of show business so I could’ve avoided all the traps and scams I fell into when I first started pursuing acting
      -You ARE enough.
      -Stop being a perfectionist.  Most times, perfectionism prevents progress.  Remember that you are a wonderful work-in-progress, always.  There is never a point where you’ll be “perfect” nor would you want to be.

What shows are you binging on lately? *psst..* We’re hooked on The Walking Dead.
Sooo much good TV available right now!  I am all caught up on Silicon Valley and Game of Thrones and have been watching Jane the Virgin, This is Us, and Fresh off the Boat.