Actor. Filmmaker. Father.
Hi everyone! I am extremely honored to be recognized by my community. Thank you to the team at TaiwaneseAmerican.org for being the major community support you are.
So where do I begin? My name is Anthony Ma, I’m an actor, filmmaker, voiceover artist, a spoiled husband, and a proud father of two baby boys. I was born & raised on the streets of the 626, more specifically the burbs of Arcadia. And ever since the ripe young age of 5 (and after watching Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), I knew what I wanted to do: be Jim Carrey. But eventually, that goal evolved into acting and filmmaking which unfortunately didn’t lessen my mother’s headaches.
My films are usually character-driven stories that often involve humor. My short film, “Chinese Antique” (2009), screened at numerous film festivals around the country and received several audience choice awards. My feature, Elevator (2015), was filmed in Los Angeles, New York, and Japan garnered an “Honorable Mention for Screenwriting” at DisOrient Asian Film Festival. And my latest feature was written/directed by Sundance-alum Tanuj Chopra called Staycation (2018), which premiered at the final LA Film Festival and received the “LA Muse Award”.
As an actor, you’ve probably seen me on the hit ABC series Scandal and the CBS action series S.W.A.T. I’ve also made appearances on shows like Mom, This Is Us, Dear White People, NCIS:LA, The Mentalist, Castle, Shameless, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!
I co-founded and served as the Executive Director of the Taiwanese American Film Festival from 2017-2019 where we aimed to create a platform for filmmakers to connect, celebrate and showcase Taiwanese culture and identity.
One of my goals is to tell bold and unique stories that expand on the multi-faceted history and culture of being Asian in America.
How does being Taiwanese/Taiwanese American and/or community ally play a role in your life?
Being Taiwanese and a community ally has always played a role in my life.
Growing up, my mother was involved with many community activities, whether it was with my school PTA, our city council, or our local Chinese/Taiwanese community, I was constantly with her at functions & events – I even led our Chinese American Association in a parade when I was a kid (I held a flag and everything, which blew my 7-year-old mind). She showed me just how important and rewarding it was to work with your friends, show up and make a difference for your community.
She also gave me my Taiwanese identity. When I was younger, she’d take me to Taiwan every Lunar New Year where my Mandarin would dramatically improve then quickly deplete once I returned to the states.
Both of these have helped me during my time as the Executive Director of the Taiwanese American Film Festival, where my team was given the opportunity to create an event that celebrates our culture, showcases films by Taiwanese from all over the world, and give opportunities to the next-gen of filmmakers. It reignited my love for Taiwan and showed me just how diverse we truly are. It became one of our goals to show that our island is bustling with complex issues, unique perspectives, and grand dreams. We are a damn interesting people and it’s time for everyone to know it.
So I gotta give it up to my mom. Not only do I feel responsible for making a difference in my kids’ futures but I also have an obligation to continue the work that my mom and others before us have accomplished.
If you could teach future generations 1 thing about being Taiwanese/Taiwanese American or Taiwan, what would it be?
Okay here’s two things.
When it comes to being Taiwanese: Everyone who is Taiwanese can understand what I mean when I say that there’s this sense of “home” when you visit a friend or relative who asks, “Have you eaten yet?” or in a bite of a Taiwanese snack or even just hearing Mandarin/Taiwanese at a nearby table. A sense of familiarity that takes you back to those moments of comfort at home.
When creating the Taiwanese American Film Festival, we made sure to create an environment where our filmmakers and guests felt just that. Behind the cameras, red carpet, and film screenings was a community that welcomed you like your Taiwanese relatives. We were proud that we provided this foundational element for our community and kept this sense as an anchor throughout the following years. All I’m saying is, this is an essential down-to-earth quality within our people and no matter where we go in life or how big we get, we should never lose this quality.
When it comes to being Taiwanese American: Embrace the weirdness. What I’ve learned about being both Taiwanese/Asian-American is that we often encounter moments in our lives where both cultures clash. However, these are experiences so unique to us that it’s usually where our best ideas stem from. It’s specific to us but also universally understood. I’m a storyteller so I literally use these moments to create from but whether you’re an artist or an entrepreneur or something completely different, you’re going to find yourself in a position to tell your story and stand out, so don’t be afraid to use it!
What does the future of Taiwanese America look like?
I see a bright future where people don’t confuse us with Thailand. No disrespect to Thailand but c’mon!
Joking aside, we’ve been doing pretty good. We’ve been making some strides these past couple of decades. Our expanding community is tight-knit, dedicated, and passionate and if we continue this trajectory influencing our communities in America and Taiwan, I see more eyes on us and our home. In the future, we’ll see more Andrew Yang’s, more Jeremy Lin’s, and Lisa Ling’s. We will continue to produce leaders and influencers in multiple industries that will tell our stories that amplify and expand the knowledge of who we are.
Favorite memory of Taiwan/Taiwanese America?
Driving on windy cliff roads on our way to Hua Lien and making sure my uncle doesn’t doze off while driving.
It was the first time I’ve ever been to Hua Lien and as we arrived I was surprised to see the contrast between new modern architecture with a small beach village, the place was becoming a hot vacation spot. My motel provided old bicycles for their guests, so I roamed around, listening to Drake’s latest album on repeat (Yes, I’m a millennial) and took it all in. Cutting through the long grass on narrow pathways. Passing by the scent of burning incense from the small temples. And taking pictures of cute stray dogs.
It was nice to visit a side of Taiwan I rarely see during my short visits. A slower pace yet a strong sense of hard work and dedication within the people, a great reminder of the core essentials in our life before we get sucked back into the hustle and bustle.
Favorite Taiwanese food?
There are so many to choose from but I’d say that I can’t live without Beef Noodle Soup. I gotta have it.