Actor Dante Basco is a name and face that has been bringing to life memorable characters for over three decades. While there are many to name, most people will probably recognize him as the leader of the Lost Boys, Rufio, in Steven Spielberg’s Hook, and as the voice of Prince Zuko in the Nickelodeon animated series, Avatar: The Last Airbender. Now, fans will soon get to read about his experiences in the entertainment industry so far in his upcoming memoir, From Rufio to Zuko.
The idea for the memoir was originally brought to Basco by the publisher, Not a Cult, with the desire of wanting him to tell his story. While he was at first skeptical about it, thinking he’s too young to write one, he eventually came around.
“We talked and basically, they are interested in getting a perspective on Hollywood from an Asian American point of view, and they said, ‘You’re the guy we grew up with,'” he explained in a phone interview.
“As an artist, you’re like, ‘I’m not retired yet! There’s a lot a still want to do,’” he added. “But when you look at the last 30 plus years — I’ve been in the industry for 34 years — I thought, ‘Alright, let me take a crack at it.’”
Basco described it as a fascinating project to work on. Writing the book got him to think about different aspects in his life and how it pertains to himself, the roles he has played, people of color, and most importantly, his family.
“Because my story is my family’s story and vice versa to a degree because we all came down together. All my brothers and my sister, they’re all really wonderful and they’re all accomplished actors and artists in their own right, so a lot of my story is their story,” he elaborated.
Writing From Rufio to Zuko was, without a doubt, a challenging process for Basco. He missed a lot of deadlines due to all the other projects he has going on. It was also a struggle compiling the essays together and have them flow as a story.
On top of that, he wanted to be careful with just how much he revealed about his life. That’s why he made the decision to tell a story not out of vanity, but as a blueprint for the next generation.
“With me, in writing the book, one of the main things when I signed on to do the book was that it’s really about trying to give the next generation of actors coming to Hollywood just little pointers and advice and a blueprint, especially for people of color; especially Asian Americans, Filipino Americans,” he said.
Basco has the unique experience of having a breadth of work in both mainstream pop culture and also in Asian American independent cinema. While that was never his intention to be in such a position when he moved with his family to Los Angeles from the San Francisco Bay Area as a kid, he feels very fortunate to be in this role.
“Rufio became an iconic character for not just Asian Americans, but a whole generation,” he explained. “It’s really fascinating, and then to work and do other things that really were touchstones for a lot of different communities — whether it be The Debut for Filipino Americans and Asian Americans, or But I’m a Cheerleader for the LGBTQ community — you kind of keep stumbling into these things that matter to people.”
Basco is currently getting into producing, directing, and acting in films being shot on location in Asia in something he calls “borderless Asian media;” where Asian American talent working both in front of and behind the camera collaborate with the powerhouse that is Asia. He took part in this new model of filmmaking as an actor and producer for Andrea Walter’s Empty By Design and is currently applying it in the making of his directorial debut, The Fabulous Filipino Brothers.
“I think it’s a really incredible time to make movies and tell stories and trying to find the things that connect with more of the things that make us different,” he remarked.
With From Rufio to Zuko soon to be released, while Basco hopes for his book to serve as a guide for upcomers looking to get into the entertainment industry, he also wants for readers to not just devote their lives to their art, but also to make their lives art.
“Don’t forget to make the actual life you live the best piece of art you can make,” he said. “We forget that sometimes, you know?”
“We all have our E! True Hollywood story. This is just mine, that’s all,” he added.
From Rufio to Zuko will be available on Monday, November 4.