Ke Huy Quan on Returning to Hollywood and Reclaiming His Name

It has been over twenty years since actor Ke Huy Quan was last seen on the big screen. Although he made a brief return in a supporting role in Netflix’s 2021 family adventure, Finding Ohana, Quan’s full comeback came in the form of a leading role in A24’s sci-fi drama, Everything Everywhere All At Once.

“I’m overwhelmed with emotions right now, because I’m still processing how all of this came to be,” said Quan during an interview with The Nerds of Color. “I once thought that my return to acting is a distant dream.”

The film has grossed nearly $27 million domestically and is considered among the best limited releases during the pandemic. In the film, which holds a strong 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, has been critically adored by many. The film centers Everlyn (Michelle Yeoh), a lowly laundromat owner who feels like nothing is going for her. It isn’t until she is introduced to the multiverse that she realizes she must channel her inner self (as well as multiple selves) to save the world and her family.

Quan plays Waymond, Everlyn’s sweet-natured husband who finds humor in adding googly eyes to inanimate objects and long for some affection from his distant wife. But, Quan doesn’t just play one version of this character. He is given three versions to play with and three months to prepare. Quan hired an acting coach, a dialogue coach, and a body movement coach to hone in on these three very different characters.

“[My body movement coach] would read the script and pick specific animals for me to do to represent the characters.” said Quan. “For example, ‘Alpha’ Waymond would [pick] an eagle, ‘CEO’ Waymond will pick a fox, and for Waymond in this universe — a squirrel. I was required to do homework so I would watch countless videos of nothing but squirrels on YouTube.”

Although his acting technique have adapted and changed over the years, the 50-year-old actor found comfort and familiarity in the fact the Daniels kept their set very practical — just like his time on Indiana Jones and The Goonies. The only difference was the fast-paced scheduling for production. Compared to five or six months of shooting, Everything Everywhere All At Once had a tight schedule of 38 shooting days over an eight-week period. But that didn’t keep Quan down. In fact, the actor said the cast and crew would gather together to do warm ups — dancing to music — every morning.

“We have the most amazing crew,” Quan reminisced. “The cast was unbelievable. We had just the best of time making this movie and I think you can see it it’s up on the screen.”

Of course, Hollywood has changed a lot since Quan’s last appearance in 1992’s Encino Man. Crediting Crazy Rich Asians as his mark to return to the big screen, Quan is optimistic about his future and the future of Asians in the diaspora in Hollywood. Which is why Quan decided to use his full given name ‘Ke Huy Quan’ rather than his former credited name ‘Jonathan Ke Quan.’ He decided he wanted to go back to his roots rather than an “American” name that made Hollywood feel comfortable.

“I’m sure there’s a lot to be unpacked here,” said Quan. “It could be the Asian American experience with identity or the ‘model minority.’ I just want people to know the real me and my given name. It has a lot to do with my family and my heritage. When I decided to get back into acting, going back to my roots, I thought it was fitting to go back to my given name.”

Check out the full interview below: