Born and raised in Southern California, Haley Tju has been acting since she was only four years old, starring in some of her first roles on the Disney Channel shows, Hannah Montana and Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Since her early acting days, she’s made other appearances in shows and television movies before her breakthrough role in the Nickelodeon show, Bella and The Bulldogs.
Between beginning new projects with Netflix, enjoying the California sun on her time off, and inspiring other Asian-American actresses, Haley Tju is bound for success. We sat down with Haley to discuss her journey, her favourite shows at the moment, and the motivational advice she wants to pass on to aspiring actresses!
“If you love what you’re doing for the right reasons then something will come your way. I feel like that is a thing I have in my head all the time.” – Haley Tju
Taylor Magazine: Tell us about you and what you do.
Haley Tju: I’m half Indonesian, half Chinese, but I was born and raised in America. I started acting at the age of four and was scouted by an agency at a dance competition. Ever since then, I’ve continued this acting journey. I found a real love and passion for the arts.
Taylor Magazine: When you got scouted, did you realise it was something you always wanted to do?
Haley Tju: It was definitely something that was fun, but I didn’t take it seriously and never realised it was something I would be doing for the rest of my life. At the age of seven, I started to really love it. It took a while, but I’ve truly found a great balance with acting in general.
Taylor Magazine: Can you pinpoint a time when you realised you had your big break?
Haley Tju: I would do jobs here and there and then I started getting into kids shows. I booked Bella and the Bulldogs and that was a great launch pad that made me realise I could really do this. It’s so difficult in this industry, especially being an Asian-American girl, because not every role will be fitting for me. It’s easy to become insecure in this business. I always try to remember that there is only one of you. I have to say resilience is a huge aspect that needs to go into this type of career.
“You have to get away from the superficial side of it, realise who you are, remember the people around you and where you come from and keep going.” – Haley Tju
Taylor Magazine: Are there any characters that have been so different from you as a person that you’ve found it difficult to play them?
Haley Tju: I did a pilot for sci-fi a while ago. It was a character that was completely different – a cool, purple-haired BMX rider. That was so fun to embody her physical movements but then, on the other hand, to play this character who is an athletic tom-boy is typically not me at all! It’s so fun, because we’re all such multi-faceted people. We all have alter-egos and being able to tap into those and make them a real person is amazing.
Taylor Magazine: What are you watching at the moment?
Haley Tju: So much – I love Netflix! I’ve been watching Love, Peaky Blinders, Girls Incarcerated, Friends (because who can’t stop watching that!), Stranger Things… so many good shows!
Taylor Magazine: Out of all of those, which ones would you love to be on yourself?
Haley Tju: Probably Love. Gillian Jacobs’ character is so complex, and again, she’s not that typical likeable character. Like her or don’t like her, she makes mistakes and I think that’s such a rare character to find and she does an amazing job of portraying that. Also Eleven from Stranger Things – she is so cool.
Taylor Magazine: Did it ever become overwhelming for you when you were younger? What were the challenges you faced at such a vulnerable age?
Haley Tju: It was difficult, particularly during my Bella and the Bulldogs and Nickelodeon phase. You’re gaining followers, red carpet status, stuff that you don’t expect. It was so much fun, but you can get carried away in that mind set. It’s absolutely crucial to have a good support team – my family is so grounded. It’s a luxury to have that side of work because it’s not always glamorous and it is a lot of hard work.
Taylor Magazine: Now when you look back, what would you say you have learnt the most?
Haley Tju: Don’t be scared to be who you are. Also, be nice to everyone. Everyone is a human being, no matter who they are or where they came from. Use your voice for good reason because everyone has a voice and it matters.
Taylor Magazine: Who is a director or another actor that you’d like to collaborate with?
Haley Tju: There are so many talented people out there. I’d like to work with Cillian Murphy – why can’t there be an Asian in Peaky Blinders?!
Taylor Magazine: Who do you really look up to?
Haley Tju: Probably my older sister, because she’s been in the business longer than me. She’s pursued this career and has really struggled, but has made it so far. I really enjoy Jackie Chan’s work – he’s so hard-working and is very grounded.
Taylor Magazine: Favourite book?
Haley Tju: So Sad Today by Melissa Broder. It’s basically a plethora of personal essays she writes, and there’s a variety of everything but it’s interesting because it’s the things we think but we’re too scared to say.
Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give someone that wanted to pursue a career in acting, but had no experience and didn’t know where to start?
Haley Tju: Love it for the right reasons, do it for the right reasons.
“Pursuing this career requires your time and patience; you have to work hard at it. Along the way it’s scary and difficult, but if you keep going with the right intentions, you’re off to a great start!” – Haley Tju
Taylor Magazine: For you personally, what do you do if you’re having a stressful day and need some ‘me-time’?
Haley Tju: I love to go to the gym and release some endorphins. I used to be a gym addict but I stopped. I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons. Now, I’m doing it for the right reasons, simply just to be healthy. It’s so good for you, particularly your mental health. Besides that I’d spend time with my family, laughing as much as I can.
Taylor Magazine: Do you have a favourite movie that you watch time and time again?
Haley Tju: I love Mamma Mia – it’s so feel good! It makes me so happy.
Taylor Magazine: What do you love most about living in LA?
Haley Tju: I used to live in Hollywood, but now I live at home around two hours from LA. That helps me stay grounded, being in a suburb and being close to childhood friends. You get away from the busy life.
Taylor Magazine: Tell us an unusual fact about you.
Haley Tju: A lot of people think I’m really outgoing, but I can be really shy and timid! I have pretty bad anxiety, and being in this business you constantly have to adapt to new surroundings.
Taylor Magazine: What should we look out for from you?
Haley Tju: Short term, I have a show called The Who Was? Show coming out on Netflix soon. It’s a really talented cast, it’s super fun and great for all ages. Long term, I just want to continue doing what I love. It’s so rewarding.