Nathan Ing graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2018 with a major in economics, a minor in finance, and a passion to pursue a career as an actor.
Ing originally decided to attend college at Point Loma Nazarene University because he wanted to renew his faith and be part of a school that places God at the center. Like many college freshmen, Ing wasn’t entirely sure what he saw himself doing in a long-term career, but decided to major in economics with a minor in finance with the goal of becoming a certified public accountant.
With his economics major and finance minor as a safety net, Ing worked very hard to meet the necessary academic requirements to become a certified public accountant. He also gained real-world experience in the field during the summer between his junior and senior years at PLNU –working in data analytics at the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. It was around that same time he started experimenting with the arts again for the first time since middle school.
“While I was doing my internship I tried to do acting,” Ing reflects. “And it didn’t feel like work, it felt amazing. I didn’t want to do anything else.” Doing the internship opened Nathan’s eyes to his true passion and made him want to do work he could be excited about every day.
As he weighed his options after graduation, Ing found that even the most difficult aspects of a career in acting still brought him more joy than the idea of working in a long-term career as an accountant. “The reason I love acting is that every single day is different. You are just always trying to figure out when your next job is. I would say an actor’s job is to look for jobs rather than act. And I’d rather do that than accounting.”
After graduating, he treated acting like his full-time job. He looked for jobs, memorized scripts, rehearsed lines, and went to auditions. However, his decision to pursue acting was not without its challenges.
Ing grew up in a Chinese-Cambodian household where he was held to high standards. While he dreamed of becoming a professional actor, his parents thought he would become a businessman or doctor.
Ing’s parents expressed many concerns when he shared that he wanted to become an actor. They only remembered the way he was in high school without accounting for how he’d grown at PLNU, so they set high expectations about his career goals and critically examined his work ethic. They wanted to see their son attain financial independence and success in the professional world so he could have a house and family of his own in the future.
Ing worked tirelessly to demonstrate his dedication and passion for acting to his parents. “Once I landed my first job in acting, they started realizing that it was very possible. Once they saw that I was happy with it and that I was able to do something financially with it, they started accepting it. Now they are very supportive.”
Dealing with pressures from home was not the only challenge through Ing’s journey to becoming an actor. From the beginning of college, he began experiencing something he never dealt with when he was growing up. Growing up in Arcadia, Ing attended a high school with a predominantly Asian community. “I would say my ethnicity growing up wasn’t a big deal until college. Then I felt left out in college.”
Ing talked about navigating difficult and uncomfortable situations based on his race and ethnicity, persevering through negative encounters that caused him to feel like an outsider. He pressed into God and his community. Rather than allowing other people to tear him down, he built himself up, turning negative experiences into leadership opportunities. “I wanted to educate people who didn’t know what was offensive to Asian Americans or what Asian Americans go through.”
At PLNU, Ing joined the Asian Student Union (ASU) and became the president. He also worked as an RA and mentored a group of freshmen, taking time to cultivate relationships with them that still last to this day. He also became a D Group Leader and a D Group Family Leader which gave him the experience he needed to become the Team Barnabas president. Through the Team Barnabas club on campus, Nathan provided mentorship for incoming transfer students and international students, and worked hard to ensure Asian American students felt welcome and part of the PLNU community.
The experiences Ing walked through prepared him for the barriers he would face beginning his career as an Asian American actor. He discovered Asian American actors are discriminated against in the field and are usually cast as the sidekicks rather than the stars in films. “It’s changing recently, which is great, but the roles I go out for are still stereotyped to a certain extent.”
This experience has not been unique just to Ing. Asian American actors before him have dealt with similar barriers in the industry, fighting to be heard and seen in an industry that has swept them aside for years. However, films like Crazy Rich Asians have started providing Asian American actors with a platform upon which they can be the stars.
Asian American actors have been feeling more hopeful about their progress breaking down barriers in their industry. “I’m very glad for the people before me who were able to take the strides and fight those battles so I could have this opportunity to join them and to help inspire other Asian Americans to come and do what they love.”
One of Ing’s biggest breakthrough moments took place when he worked with the company Wong Fu Productions, an Asian American production team that started on YouTube and produces quality content. “Having the ability to act in a short film with them was great because it had been my dream to work with them since high school.”
The process of working with Wong Fu Productions began when Ing auditioned for a role in their 2019 Christmas special. Though he didn’t get that role, Ing left an impression on the casting director, Jessica Lin, who reached out again a few months afterward to audition for another part. Ing auditioned and got the role of Dylan in the short film “The Spring We Never Had.”
In the short film, Wong Fu Productions tells the story of COVID-19 through the lens of a high school senior named Dylan. The film opens with Dylan sitting alone in his room when a girl he likes comes over to his house to ask him to sign her yearbook. He thinks about all the amazing times they had in the spring of their senior year and writes about them in her yearbook, from studying for classes together to going to prom. A beautiful sequence of events fills the screen while soulful music plays and Dylan writes about the moments they shared. When Dylan looks up from the yearbook, though, he hasn’t actually written anything.
The viewer then realizes the memories from the sequence never really took place, because COVID-19 prevented Dylan from being with the female character. Dylan scratches down a simple note in the yearbook and it seems as though he is about to let her go. However, the film ends with Dylan still asking her out and the two of them starting an entirely new story together.
Ing’s experience working with Wong Fu Productions was very significant, as he got to star in a film created by a company that had a huge impact on his life. “I remember watching videos from Wong Fu Productions in high school. I imagined being the protagonist of a short film.”
“I’m very glad for the people before me who were able to take the strides and fight those battles so I could have this opportunity to join them and to help inspire other Asian Americans to come and do what they love.”
Working with Wong Fu Productions was a significant cornerstone in Ing’s young career as an actor, getting to star in a film created by a company that had a huge impact in Ing’s life. It was one of his acting goals, which he sets for himself every year to ensure he is constantly moving forward and improving. Ing’s first goal was to get into the Screen Actors Guild, which is a difficult but rewarding process that he is still walking through. COVID-19 has hindered his second goal of getting an agent this year, but he is going to continue working toward reaching that goal.
His third goal was to be in a short film by Wong Fu Productions, which was bold in itself since the company doesn’t produce many films per year. “It was a huge surprise when Jessica Lin, the director, reached out to me about the short film. I auditioned and when I got it, I was dumbfounded; it was pure happiness.”
Along with his three acting goals, Ing has set several long-term goals for life: “to be able to support my current family, support my future family, and give back to the community. Those are my three main goals. And my fourth is to do it all in the name of God.”
As a Christian in the acting industry, Ing faces other challenges not associated with his race or ethnicity. The goal of doing everything in the name of God is one of his hardest challenges since the acting industry is very secular and he can sometimes have a hard time making that connection.
However, whether in the casting room or dressing room, Ing tries to demonstrate how God has moved in his life. “I’ve noticed that once you do have [God] at the center of everything, people do open up. Conversations here and there go a long way even if I never see those people again.”
Ing understands the impact religion can have on a person’s life, even if he just plants a small seed. Since he is constantly meeting new people and working with new actors, casting directors, and crew members, he has the opportunity to meet lots of people. “What I learned at PLNU is that even if it feels like you don’t have an impact on anybody — even if you just move one person, and that does something else — then you’ve done a part in helping them grow.”
He is very open about sharing his Christian values with the people he meets in the industry, and his belief system plays an important role in his personal walk with God, especially when dealing with the challenge of getting rejected. “As an actor, the hardest thing is handling the lows. There are a ton of lows. I have auditioned for hundreds, I’d say close to a thousand roles, and I’ve only gotten about one percent of them.” Trusting that God holds his future allows Ing to have faith through the unsuccessful auditions, knowing he is getting one step closer to something amazing.
Throughout his acting journey so far, Ing has faced and overcome a variety of challenges that could have each deterred him from pursuing his dream. Yet he continues to persevere, hold tight to his faith, and break down barriers as an Asian American actor. “Faith has helped me be content in it. I’m very hopeful. Even in the low of lows, there are a lot of opportunities to grow in faith and in the community. That has helped me to see the bigger picture.”