VOICE OF SANITY. DA MAN chats with Christopher Larkin about “The 100,” the plight of Asian-American actors in Hollywood and more!
Born in Korea, adopted by Parents of French, Canadian and Irish descent and raised in the United States, actor Christopher Larkin has quite a rich heritage. His talents are similarly expansive, encompassing acting on stage as well as on film, along with a gift for music. Today, he’s mostly known as a series regular of “the 100”; but it certainly seems that we’re going to see more from Larkin in the days to come.
DA MAN: Hi, Christopher; glad to have you on board. So, you will be working on season five of “the 100” this August. What can we look forward to from this new season?
Christopher Larkin: there’s a six-year time jump between seasons four and five. Half of the cast is back in space. Like the fans, these are the only things I know. I’m essentially kept in the dark until we start filming. It’s a pretty terrifying place to exist, but I’ve gotten used to it as the years have gone by. it helps keep you on your toes. It helps keep things fresh.
DA MAN: What do you think is the secret behind the series’ enduring success?
Christopher Larkin: [Series developer] Jason Rothenberg is unafraid to start from scratch every season. It’s a huge risk for a showrunner to take. That amount of world-destroying and regeneration year after year would sink most other series. But our writer’s room continues to welcome and ultimately overcome that challenge. It’s the main reason we’re still on the air.
DA MAN: Could you tell us what initially inspired you to sign up for “The 100”?
Christopher Larkin: I wish there was a motivating story to share, but the truth is that inspiration had very little to do with it. I needed a job and “the 100” was kind enough to take a chance on me. At that point in time, I would’ve taken nearly anything that came my way. Fortunately for me, I ended up winning the lottery.
DA MAN: Are there any similarities between the character you play in the show, Monty Green, and you in real life?
Christopher Larkin: I actually wish that we were more similar. Monty green is, by all accounts, the moral compass of the entire series. He’s also fiercely loyal to the people he loves and is often selfless to a fault. Compared to Monty, my own moral compass and sense of loyalty pale in comparison. I wish that I was more his equal on these fronts.
DA MAN: You’ve been on the show since the beginning. How have you seen both “The 100” and your own character progress through the seasons?
Christopher Larkin: I tell everyone who’s new to the series that they should make it through the first four episodes before deciding whether or not to call it quits. A lot of viewers give up immediately after the pilot, and I don’t blame them. Pilots are really hard to get right. But the series takes a dark turn in episode 104, and things only get darker from there. “The 100” has also had its fair share of growing pains. Certain mistakes were made along the way, but I think it’s made everyone stronger in the end. Awareness leads to dialogue. Dialogue leads to change. Some of our fans are still rightfully upset, but I’m glad that everyone’s talking. We’re all gaining empathy and evolving together.
Shirt by John Varvatos
DA MAN: Is there anything you wish your character could, or would, do as the series goes along?
Christopher Larkin: Quite honestly, i’d like nothing more than for Monty to live out the rest of his days in peace. after killing his mother— twice—and holding his dying best friend in his arms, i feel like he’s earned it. at the ripe old age of 16, i believe he’s beyond ready for retirement.
DA MAN: Moving on to acting in general, is there anything you would like to explore more within the realm of film making?
Christopher Larkin: I haven’t done a film in over a decade, so I suppose performing in a film is currently at the top of my list. I’ve been focusing primarily on theater and music, so it would be nice to get an indie or two under my belt.
“Name one Asian-American star who is currently in the game. Just one. I can’t do it. You can’t do it.”
DA MAN: we understand that you originally majored in theater. How did you make the transition from being on stage to shooting films?
Christopher Larkin: The transition was difficult at first. I had a preconceived notion that working in theater was drastically different than working in film. They’re clearly separate mediums, but I’ve found that the similarities far outweigh the differences. “The 100” is a heightened drama, so the stakes are generally very high. Your objectives and resulting tactics need to be present at all times. I used to think that subtlety in front of the camera would be the most effective route, but I now believe that taking risks and pulling out all the stops leads to a much more truthful, diversified performance.
Outfit by Frame
DA MAN: Do you have any other film or theater projects besides “the 100”?
Christopher Larkin: My girlfriend and i have been developing a play together for the last three years. I’m pretty sure that there have been seven workshops in total so far. We’ve traveled around the country trying to lock down a production, and it’s finally being put up next spring. The piece is called “Nomad Motel” and starts previews at the city theater in Pittsburgh on May 12th, 2018. I’m very much looking forward to bring this world to life.
DA MAN: If you weren’t acting, what would you be probably doing right now?
Christopher Larkin: I hope that I’d be living a much more philanthropic life. One of my biggest concerns lately is that I’ve had a very selfish existence thus far. I’ve never given back to this world in any kind of meaningful way. This upsets me on a daily basis, and it’s something I hope to remedy as soon as possible.
DA MAN: you are also about to release a new album, right? Is there anything you could tell us about it?
Christopher Larkin: I’m currently finishing up an album called “the happiest album ever made. “It was supposed to be released last November, but I made a last-minute decision to ditch garage Band and work with a producer/engineer who actually knows what they’re doing. So, I flew to New York City and re-recorded the entire thing from scratch. It’s been a huge learning experience. At the end of the day, i just hope it connects with a few listeners who don’t already share my last name.
DA MAN: How would you describe your personal style of music? What, or who, influenced your musicality?
Christopher Larkin: Trying to emulate Elliott Smith. Trying to emulate Nick Drake. Trying to merge the lyricism of Leonard Cohen with the sensibilities of Sufjan Stevens. Realizing halfway that these emulations are not only unhealthy, but highly unrealistic. Then taking what I’ve learned from these icons and creating a voice of my own.
Denim jacket by Frame and T-shirt by Michael Stars
DA MAN: And moving on to more personal stuff: you’ve relocated from New York to Los Angeles. What was the transition like for you at the time and how are you coping with your new home?
Christopher Larkin: I left New York with a huge chip on my shoulder and swore that i would never live there again. So, in a certain sense, the transition was quite an easy one to make. i spent the first few months in la on a friend’s couch with no job, zero prospects and very little in my bank account. But I was happy to be making mistakes in a new city. i was happy to watch the sun rise and set over the Pacific every day. I’ve got a lot of friends who have transitioned from NYC to la and the results are universal: living in Los Angeles is much less of a grind. On every count. I’ve since forgiven New York, but I will never regret making the move out west.
“I spent the first few months in LA on a friend’s couch with no job, zero prospects and very little in my bank account”
DA MAN: Have you ever felt that as an Asian-American actor, the roles you could play in Hollywood films are limited?
Christopher Larkin: Name one Asian-American star who is currently in the game. Just one. I can’t do it. You can’t do it. No one on this planet can do it because that person doesn’t exist. We had Anna May Wong. We had Bruce lee. But those are the only stars we’ve ever had, and they’re both long dead and gone. Asian-Americans are afforded very few opportunities in this industry and even when they come about, they’re often handed to actors with a stronger pull on the market. Actors who are already established names. And since there are no A-list actors of Asian descent, they end up going to performers of a slightly lighter complexion. I’m not responsible for the “Scarlett & Emma & Tilda & Matt” dilemma. Hollywood did that. It doesn’t even know it is still doing that. This is the mess that we’re continually trying to clean up.
DA MAN: Are there any other factors—personal or otherwise—that you see as major challenges in your career?
Christopher Larkin: It seems like half of the battle is simply getting out of my own way. If I was able to do that, I feel like this would be a much smoother ride. But I’d also lose my edge, which is the only thing that keeps me going sometimes. Finding that balance between self-deprecation and self-acceptance is a lifelong challenge. A lifelong challenge, but also a lifelong goal.
Outfit by John Varvatos
DA MAN: Have you ever turned down roles that you consider problematic?
Christopher Larkin: Turning down roles implies that I’m getting straight offers, which is far from the case. But I’ve definitely turned down auditions that I’ve found to be problematic along the way. Every Asian actor that accepts a stereotypical role sets the rest of the community back, regardless of their original intentions. Even when I was first starting out, I was hyper aware of this disparity and have been fighting for equality ever since. It’s an uphill battle, but we’re gaining ground every day. I just want to keep moving the needle forward.
DA MAN: Still, do you feel that things are changing for Asian-American talent in Hollywood?
Christopher Larkin: Absolutely. Despite my soapbox rantings, things have never been better for Asian-Americans in Hollywood. The need for actors of color is at an all-time high, and television is leading the way by a landslide. Theater and film don’t hold a candle next to television in the diversity department. This isn’t just my opinion. It’s an objective fact. At times, it can feel like the studios and networks are just filling their quotas. They’ve all got their token minority boxes to check. But at least those quotas and boxes are in place. Like affirmative action, it’s far from the perfect system, but it’s the best thing we’ve got at the moment.
DA MAN: what advice would you give to young Asian-Americans who want to make it in Hollywood?
Christopher Larkin: Due to your parents’ expectations, I fully understand why you’re currently pursuing a degree in medicine or law. But if acting is your true calling, follow that impulse and let it lead you into oblivion. We need you. Now more than ever. There’s no guarantee of success, but we can’t afford to lose your voice. In this particular case, there really is strength in numbers. Without an army, change will never come about.
Shirt by John Varvatos
DA MAN: Who would you consider your most important role models?
Christopher Larkin: Sidney Poitier, for proving that an actor of color can “make it” in this industry. Paul Robeson, for proving that an actor of color can leave behind a legacy, despite never “making it” in this industry.
DA MAN: outside of work, what usually keeps you busy? Or perhaps: when you’re not busy, how do you usually spend your time?
Christopher Larkin: on a productive day, it’s usually spent writing, recording or mixing a new song. On a less productive day, it’s usually spent feeling sorry for myself. Results may vary.
DA MAN: Have you crossed anything from your bucket list recently?
Christopher Larkin: this past March, I sat in a Dublin pub called “The coBblestone.” I threw back an unhealthy amount of Guinness and Powers Whiskey while a live band played traditional folk songs in the corner. Thanks to my folks, I grew up immersed in Irish culture, music and folklore. A longtime dream of mine has been to set foot in Ireland before I died, so I’m happy to have crossed this one off the list.
t-shirt by WEARUNEEK and jeans by Frame
DA MAN: What was the most important, momentous or significant life event that happened to you recently?
Christopher Larkin: My uncle, Frederick Curro, passed away earlier this year. My parents were on holiday with him in Quebec when he suffered a massive heart attack. Despite pumping his chest in the front seat of their car, they weren’t able to revive him. For everyone in my immediate family, it was a tragic reminder of how fragile life is. Of how it can end in an instant. Of our own impending mortality and how helpless we are to stop it. Going back to your earlier question, this best encapsulates the themes and sounds of my upcoming album.
DA MAN: Looking ahead, what would be the next big milestone you hope to achieve in the near future?
Christopher Larkin: Reaching 40 years old with my sanity fully intact.
DA MAN: All in all, what keeps you going each and every day?
Christopher Larkin: The feeling that I’ve accomplished nothing so far. Admittedly, it’s not the healthiest way to go about looking at your life on a daily basis. It can paralyze you if you’re not careful. But I find that it keeps me motivated more than anything else. Constant dissatisfaction is an important part of the process. Even though the odds are stacked against me, it makes me believe that the best is yet to come. The feeling is often short-lived, but for the briefest of moments, it makes me believe that anything is possible.