Growing up, I think that making that move from Vietnam to the US kind of helped me relate to the character a lot. Being different and being different at a young age, you are very aware of how people treat you the way they talk to you, the way they look at you. The way they behave around you because of the way you look or the way you dress or the way you talk.
Were the Filmmakers Looking for an Unknown Actor?: No, not necessarily. I actually heard that some people felt really uncertain about the possibility of me taking a lead role because of my inexperience, because I didnt have a resume. Because the budget wasnt huge and by doing so they didnt want to risk me being inexperienced and causing problems in production, causing problems in filming.
I think it was more importantly left up to the director because he saw my audition piece and was able to meet with me. Thank God it was enough to give him security to know that he felt that he hired the right person.
The Pressure of Being in Every Single Scene and Carrying a Film on His Shoulders: I would say it was more intense at the beginning because of my inexperience, because I didnt have the luxury to have a lot of projects under my belt. By the end of it it was like I figured that I had the character developed well enough that regardless of what we were filming that day, I could take it to where I needed to go. But no matter what you plan and what you have set up in your mind, theres so many other factors that come into play and you cant foretell what those factors are until youre on set and the cameras rolling. Whether its the other actors having a good or bad day or one of the animals that was supposed to do a certain thing doesnt do exactly what its supposed to do, or does something unexpected, and you just go with it.
Damien Nguyen on the Most Challenging Part of The Beautiful Country: The most challenging part was Id say towards the beginning because Im not fluent in my native language, Vietnamese, and trying to pull off him being this person who was raised in this little village in the countryside in this country halfway across the world from here I wanted people to believe that I was this person and had struggled through these trials and the suffering and the way that people treated me and that I fitted in with my environment. I was very focused on that and it kept me up many sleepless nights trying to figure out how I can make that believable.
Learning to Speak Vietnamese: I didnt have to learn the whole language but the director was [adamant] that I try to get the pronunciation of the words as authentic as possible. He assigned me a speech coach where Id spend hours every day just doing conversations with people on the streets and such to build that.
On Combating Stereotypical Characters: I wish I had that luxury but I cant say I do. Ive auditioned for anything. Anything that lands in my lap. Its just one of those things when youre a struggling actor or artist you dont have the luxury of picking and choosing what you want to do. Whether its completely correct or whether its completely stereotypical or whether it demeans you, its not even an option. What comes your way youve got to take it and run with it and do your best job.
Its frustrating sitting in a room when theres 12 guys in my same kind of demographic same height, same build, same kind of look all going after a store clerk who has three words in a show or a movie and thinking, Wow, Ive got to really bring something out in 3 words that theyve never seen before.
Damien Nguyens Background: Since The Beautiful Country is Nguyens first feature film, hes new to the spotlight and therefore not that much is really known about the up-and-coming actor. So what does Nguyen want to tell audiences about himself?
I pretty much grew up in Orange County. California boy. I was born in Vietnam. I left it when I was about 3 almost 4 years old. Pretty much made Orange County my home up to 7 years ago when I made the trek up to LA. For the most part I was just living life as a Southern California boy, going to school, doing everything most guys do. I enjoyed sports and surfing. I played a lot of basketball and surfed.