"I never saw anyone that looked like me": 'Van Helsing's Jennifer Cheon talks about being mixed-race in the industry and celebrating differences
Other than acting, Jennifer Cheon has simultaneously indulged in activism for equality, spanning all realms, especially gender equality and LGBTQ rights
Syfy's 'Van Helsing' is gearing up to dazzle fans with the upcoming season three. With so much to look forward to, once the season premieres on October 5, what would definitely catch your eye is a certain 'Ivory', especially considering the season two finale offered us some rather teasing wraps on her character. Speaking about the same, the face behind the character, Jennifer Cheon, promises that fans will be provided their due share of demands when it comes to the character.
Cheon, who is half Korean and half Mexican, was born in Vancouver and has other eminent productions like 'The Drive', 'Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce', 'Zoo', 'Minority Report', 'Arrow', 'Supernatural', 'The 100', 'Lucifer', and 'Travelers', among others on her list of credits.
She ventured into the industry at the young age of 19 and ever since, basked in the glory of the spotlight like a pro who was meant to be under it. The characters she has portrayed on screen are strong and mostly superhuman; at the same time, there's also a unique ability in them that shows vulnerability and fierceness side by side.
Married to director Jesse Warn, Cheon's impressive performances on screen aren't the only great thing about her. She has simultaneously also indulged in activism for equality spanning all realms, especially in gender equality and LGBTQ rights. From a bullied teenager who was picked on for her uniqueness, to a staunch advocate of activism with an inherent empathy for what it means to feel like an outsider - Cheon chooses to use her platform as an outlet to share her story and inspire others like her too, as she shared with MEAWW. Here's what she had to say:
Van Helsing's new season is coming out in less than a month! What do you think fans can look forward to the most in this upcoming installment?
Ahh so excited! I think they will love what we have in store for them. It has all the elements of VH that they love, plus a hell of lot more!
Tell us a little bit about your character, Ivory. Are there any poignant plot twists in her character arc fans should be looking out for this time?
I think if I tell you I’ll spoil the thrill of the ride. I know fans have been wanting more of her, and all I can say is your wish is being granted! She is the Queen for a reason! She is strong and fearless, and a woman I look up to. I mean her diet is a little 'raw', but the character of Ivory is someone I think a lot of women right now can relate too. She’s pissed off, fed up, over the way men have been running this world, and ready to step up her own power, and role on this planet.
What exactly about playing the role of Ivory appealed to you? Are there any striking similarities, or differences between you and the character you play on screen?
I touched a bit on that in the last question, but to dive into it a bit further. I do see a lot of similarities to my character in the sense that she knows hurt and pain, but now is owning that. She taught me not to wallow in my pain, but to use it as a tool to become stronger. I don’t find my character to be a 'villain' at all. Actually, I just find her to be quite relatable in the sense that they were at peace in this world, undisturbed, then Dimitri sent Scab, and all the sh*t hit the fan. Now she is pissed and taking control of the situation. Which again is something a lot of women are doing now. We are owning the word 'witch', and we are owning our femininity and all its power.
Growing up, you trained in a myriad of art forms like dance, music, and motion capture. What made you decide on acting? Was it always on the cards too?
I always loved acting. I found that acting was always in all the performing arts that I did, along with the fight training. I always knew I wanted to be in this business, but the tricky thing was actually becoming a part of this business. Breaking in, so to speak, is a journey that I’m so thankful I get to do! The best part is sharing it with all the fans, and who I get to be in this journey with! The cast and crew of VH have been such an honor to work with!
You've also starred in the critically acclaimed web series 'The Drive'. As an actor, how different is starring in a web series from mainstream TV shows?
Well, I feel like the work, and the passion is the same. I don’t think it is much different, it’s just a different medium. I love my art so much that if I get the chance to work, and maybe reach someone who can relate to me or the characters I play then I’m excited. I love indie as well as big budget projects.
You have also actively campaigned for gender equality and LGBTQ rights. Is there a personal reason that inspired you to be so driven in the field?
I find that humans have a tendency to hate the things or the people they don’t understand. Growing up I came from an immigrant family, very diverse. People in school didn’t know how to understand why I was so different, so they bullied me. I battled depression, and at times it still creeps up on me because those times in my life and everyone’s life are such formative years. I feel like I can relate to anyone who is considered 'different' in any way. I want to celebrate all the 'different' types of people, and give them a voice as much as I can. This world needs more love and celebrated diversity.
Having arrived in the entertainment industry at the age of 19, how exactly would you say the representation of women in terms of diversity has changed during your years in the industry?
Well, I think it’s just started to change. In order for the change to happen, we need to have that initial conversation. Right now we are talking about it, so that’s good, but we still have a long way to go.
As an actor of mixed heritage, do you feel representation of all-Asian or all-Mexican casts in upcoming movies boosts diversity? Or does it promote the idea of separatism?
Good question! I think it’s really nice that Asians are trending right now, but I do feel like we are not just one or the other in terms of race. I am mixed, and there are so many people out there like me. Growing up I NEVER saw anyone that looked like me aside from Pocahontas, and that’s not enough. I think Hollywood/our art is sort of society’s mirror. There is a lot of separation in the world, and it shows in the movies or shows we watch. Now I know there are shows trying to show diversity, and I’m thankful I’m in one of them!
If you weren’t an actress, what alternate profession would you be in? What are the other passions that you regularly indulge in, apart from films?
Does being J.Lo or Janet Jackson count as an alternate profession? If that doesn’t count, then a phycologist or a therapist of some sort.
Other than 'Van Helsing', do you have any upcoming projects you're thrilled about?
I have been working on some of my own projects. My brother, my husband, and I are collaborating on something right now, and soon as I can talk about it I’ll let you know!