Big Hero 6 won Best Animated Film at the 2015 Oscars. The film premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival on October 23 and has made more than $547 million worldwide.
The Disney film, inspired by a Marvel comic, stars Ryan Potter as Hiro, a teenager who builds a robot called Baymax and enlists of a team of five other droids to take on a rogue robotics professor. The film, which is set in the fantasy future city of San Fransokyo, was the collaboration between Winnie the Pooh director Don Hall and Chris Williams, director of Bolt.
Actor Daniel Henney lends his voice to Tadashi Hamada, the big brother of lead character, Hiro. Henney is such an inspiration to Asian Americans, especially men. He’s combined a rare form of genetic blessings with a down-to-earth, witty and intelligent nature, making him a quintessential example of the modern American male.
We secured a rare interview with the actor, after the recent Oscar win!
Daniel is half Korean, half Irish, so we’re honoring him this lovely month of St. Patrick’s Day!
ASIANCE: Your first Oscar! Yay! And it’s for a diversity animation. Has diversity among the creators of Hollywood films increased enough? What else needs to be done!?
Daniel: I think it’s definitely improved. I started my career in Korea, then I came over to the United States somewhere around 2008/2009. I have definitely seen a change in doors opening for Asian American/Asian actors. There are still difficulties but there are more possibilities. There are more roles available. I think now it’s time. Us, Asian Americans, tend to be very critical of ourselves. I think now that the doors are open, we have to make sure that we deliver. We need to make sure we do well with the roles that we are given. Big Hero 6 is a testament to that. I think everyone performed very well. I’m really happy about that. It is definitely getting better! I know many actors and friends of mine in Korea now have seen that and are starting to take English much more seriously, which I told them to do for years and they procrastinated (laughs). Now I say, “See you have to learn English! There are roles now!”
ASIANCE: Do you think being Asian American helped or hindered you along the way, in the entertainment industry?
Daniel: There are two ways to look at it. For me, I never wanted to just take roles that were written for Asians. I always just wanted to take roles that appealed to me. I like roles where I could say, “I can really be this guy!” It didn’t have to be for an Asian or Caucasian. It didn’t matter to me. Being Asian can help but once you get the role, you have to do well with it.
For awhile, we’ve been a little marginalized, desexualized. Tadashi and Hiro are very strong, intelligent, progressive characters and that’s what makes me the most proud!
ASIANCE: Were your parents supportive when you wanted to get into the entertainment industry?
Daniel: Yes they were super supportive. They’ve always been great. I have the confidence I do because my family has been such a strong foundation. My mom is one of my biggest fans. Sometimes I wish she would pump the breaks on my fandom! haha! It’s cute and really sweet. She’s always been there for me.
ASIANCE: So no strict Asian mom pushing you into the traditional careers?
Daniel: No. I fortunately didn’t have that which I know has worked to my personal advantage for me as a person, in terms with how I approach life. I have a lot of friends like you just mentioned who grew up in the traditional Asian American/Asian household. It’s a tough thing. The parents are very tough and strict. I understand why. They come over here. They work hard as immigrants to create a life for their family. They want their kids to honor that and become something special. Sometimes they don’t want to hear that they want to be a singer or actor. The most important thing is to let your child feel fulfilled. I understand where the friction is. I was very lucky growing up.
ASIANCE: I heard lots of girls have a crush on, Tadashi, your fictional character. What’s it like to be a heartthrob in real life and now your animated character?
Daniel: It’s pretty cool! um haha you are the first person to ask me that question.
ASIANCE: Well, I saw on some of the message boards that some people thought Tadashi was so good looking and then when they saw it was you portraying him, you were just as good looking as the animated character.
Daniel: It was a weird thing. (laughs) On twitter once in awhile I’ll see someone tweet, “Is it weird that I have a huge crush on an animated character?” (laughs) I’ll think, “I guess it’s kind of cool!”
I’m proud of it because Tadashi stands for what men should be. Especially nowadays, in my personal opinion, there is sometimes a shortage of men; guys who are capable, who have skills, who are intelligent, who are good with their hands, who are charming, who are charismatic, who are go-getters and also family men, who protect their family. That’s what he stands for. When I grew up anyway, that’s what my father taught me what a man was. He’s a really beautiful character and it’s rare to see that in an Asian character. For awhile, we’ve been a little marginalized, desexualized. Tadashi and Hiro are very strong, intelligent, progressive characters and that’s what makes me the most proud! So when I see people react to Tadashi the way they do, I know some of it is because of the way he looks, but also because of what he stands for.
I was just thinking the other day how cool it would be to work with Bill Murray, some of the older actors now who I grew up watching.
ASIANCE: That’s a great answer! Who would you like to work with in the future?
Daniel: I’m working on a television show right now. We’re working on a Criminal Minds spin-off. Hopefully it’s going to start going on later this year. It’s me and Gary Sinise, who is a big hero of mine ever since I saw Forrest Gump as a kid. He is such a special man. He works with a lot of charities and Wounded Warriors. My dad is a veteran. So he’s a very special figure to me. I’m working with him now, which is really great. It’s been pretty cool. There are tons of actors. I was just thinking the other day how cool it would be to work with Bill Murray, some of the older actors now who I grew up watching.
ASIANCE: Can you give us three words to describe Jamie Chung.
Daniel: Let’s see, “Terrible” hahah just kidding. Obviously, she’s beautiful. Fashionista. Brave. I respect the way she’s handled her career. I know she started on a reality show on MTV and she’s blossomed into a great actress and I’m proud of that.
ASIANCE: We are big dog rescue people over here. We know you are too. Would you like to plug any dog organizations in Los Angeles?
Daniel: I’d like to plug LA Dog Company. That’s my friend and she works with the rescues a lot. She boards dogs and runs a high end hotel for people with animals, which includes many actors and actresses. She watches our little friends when we’re overseas working. She’s a very special person, Hillary Rosen.
ASIANCE: You just have one rescue?
Daniel: Well she’s kind of a rescue. She was a seeing eye dog for years and once she stopped doing that, they threw her my way and I took her with open arms. Here she is sitting down staring at me right now.
Big Hero 6 was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Blu-ray and DVD on February 24, 2015. Blu-ray bonus features include the theatrical short Feast, the featurettes “The Origin Story of Big Hero 6: Hiro’s Journey”, “Big Hero Secrets” and “Big Animator 6: The Characters Behind the Characters”, deleted scenes, and the theatrical trailer