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By Kelsie Allen Barton | Photo: by Frankie Batista, CPI Syndication| Styling by Jeff K. Kim | Hair by Castillo Bataille | Makeup by Kirin Bhatty | Shot on location at Sofitel Los Angeles | November 28, 2017
Actress Jamie Chung takes on her most powerful role yet as mutant Blink in Fox’s new Atlanta-filmed Marvel series, The Gifted.
It’s refreshing to find that Jamie Chung is as real and down-to-earth in person as she comes across on Instagram, where she’s amassed a casual 1 million followers who can’t get enough of her street-style snaps, foodie finds and snuggles with her beloved rescue dog, Ewok (@ewokgreenberg—yep, he even has his own handle). In fact, we wind up spending most of our conversation gabbing like two friends about the perks of life in Atlanta, the city she currently calls home while filming season one of Fox’s new hit drama The Gifted.
“There are so many places to shoot here!” she gushes, explaining her constant hunt for pretty backdrops to feature on her fashion blog, What the Chung. (A recent fave? Superica’s marquee letter sign at Krog Street Market.) “Everything is so beautiful. I could go on and on. It’s one of my favorite cities that I’ve ever worked in.”
That’s quite the compliment, given the gorgeous 34-year-old has been working steadily—and therefore traveling—for more than a decade. A San Francisco native with Korean immigrant parents (she’s the first generation in her family to have been born in the United States), Chung rose to fame in 2004 as a cast member on MTV’s reality series The Real World: San Diego. Looking back, she’s thankful for the socially eye-opening experience, but wouldn’t be so quick to call it her big break. “It was a cool event that happened to me in college,” she says matter-of-factly. “It didn’t help me in terms of having it on my résumé. It’s something you choose to leave off because there’s already so much stigma with reality stars trying to do the crossover, so it’s never helped me.”
Ever since then, she says, it’s been “fighting tooth and nail” for the roles she wants in Hollywood. Her career started with a small appearance on Veronica Mars (“I think I had one line,” she says with a laugh), but then slowly began to pick up steam as she landed more and more parts: think TV shows like Greek, Once Upon a Time and Gotham, as well as feature films including Sorority Row and The Hangover Part II and Part III.
“I would say the first real movie set where I had a pretty large role would be Sucker Punch,” says Chung, who played Amber in the 2011 action fantasy. “Being with someone as eclectic and creative as [filmmaker] Zack Snyder and his whole team coming off of 300, and the girls that I had the honor and privilege of acting with… that was by far the most memorable experience.”
The following year, Chung received her first real opportunity to flex her acting chops as the star of an indie film called Eden about domestic human trafficking. Though not widely released, the movie was critically acclaimed: In fact, it won several awards at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival, and Chung herself took home the Golden Space Needle Award for best actress at the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival. “I would say that’s the work I’m most proud of,” she admits.
Now, the actress continues to showcase her diverse range in the new series The Gifted, an offshoot of Marvel Comics’ X-Men saga. “Like most X-Men series, they take the liberty of different parallels,” she explains. “And so our version is: What if the X-Men and the Brotherhood are nowhere to be found? You don’t know exactly what happened to them, but if they’re not around to lead, what happens to the rest of the mutants?”
The friendly, outgoing Chung is, in many ways, a complete foil to the character she portrays: Blink, a purple-haired, green-eyed mutant with the ability to teleport through portals. “She’s someone who’s a bit standoffish, and you will quickly realize in the later episodes why she has her guard up and why she has issues trusting people,” says Chung. “She has a really unique history that’s a bit troubled in a way because she’s always been outcast and shunned for having the markings of a mutant.”
Although Chung’s own childhood was happy and bully-free, what she can easily channel is Blink’s fierceness. “In terms of her being strong and independent, that’s something that I can relate with and that I appreciate,” she says. “I feel like a lot of the female characters on this show are stronger than some of the men on the show. It’s pretty equal, if anything.”
Just don’t expect to see any of The Gifted’s supernatural characters donning a cape. “What I love about it is it’s very grounded in terms of the powers of the storytelling,” says Chung. “It’s not these fantastical characters that are in spandex and cool costumes saving the world. It really is a story of a group of minorities who are shunned by society and what they are doing in order to survive. That’s the story.”
Chung’s also quick to point out that this theme of minorities overcoming adversities—a common one within the X-Men universe—hits especially close to home. “There are similarities in terms of what’s happening politically in the United States and how we treat our minorities,” she says. “It’s very telling.”
The Gifted’s tight-knit cast also includes heavyweights Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker, as well as rising star Natalie Alyn Lind and Atlanta native Blair Redford, who Chung describes as “the epitome of a Southern gentleman.” In addition to their positive working environment (“Every time we get a script, it’s like Christmas for us. We want to know what’s happening; we’re all so invested,” Chung says), the group certainly knows how to have fun off-set. “Friday nights are our jam,” she says. “All we do is hang out together whenever we have a chance. People are like, ‘You guys really love each other’—and we really do.”
That love—quite deservedly—also extends to the show’s setting. “The city of Atlanta is a huge character in our show,” Chung says. “You can’t really ask for anything more. I feel like I’m thriving here creatively. It’s just a pool of really creative, smart people.”
Chung, who lives right off the BeltLine where Old Fourth Ward meets Inman Park—“I’ve never lived in a city where you cross the street and there’s one park, and then you go in a different direction and there’s another park. I’ve never been so immersed in nature,” she says—is enjoying soaking up all that A-Town has to offer, especially when it comes to food. A fan of Korean and Vietnamese cuisine, Chung says she quickly hit up Buford Highway to get her fix, but also has made a point of exploring smaller neighborhoods. “There’s A Mano, a new Italian restaurant, which is the bomb,” she tells me. “They ship all their ingredients from Italy and make the pasta in-house. Like, that’s amazing. I swear, every single restaurant I’ve eaten at in Atlanta is farm-to-table.” Another one of Chung’s recent discoveries? “A place in East Atlanta called Gaja; it’s Korean bar food, but with a twist,” she shares. “It’s got a cool vibe.” When she isn’t scoping out the foodie scene or taking photos for her blog, Chung may be found getting her om on—she and Alyn Lind are fans of King of Pops yoga in Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark—or taking Ewok on a hike at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
Next up, Chung will star in an indie film shot entirely in black-and-white that’s set to release early 2018. She teamed up with Cory Michael Smith (Gotham’s The Riddler) to make the movie, called 1985, which follows a young man who returns home to say his goodbyes after he finds out that he has contracted HIV. “It was very timely then because that’s when the AIDS epidemic occurred and people couldn’t figure out why this community of people were withering away,” says Chung. “It’s really heartfelt and a beautiful story. I think people will enjoy it.” But Chung’s balancing act doesn’t end there: The star is reprising her role as the voice of GoGo Tomago in Disney’s Oscar-winning animated movie Big Hero 6 for Big Hero 6: The Series, which premiered Nov. 20 on Disney Channel, and also hints that she’ll have a part in a soon-to-be-announced video game.
When she does have a moment to breathe, Chung says it’s all devoted to seeing her husband, actor Bryan Greenberg. The pair tied the knot in late October 2015, but, lately, long distance has become their new normal since she’s down in Atlanta and he works up in New York. “It’s been two years, and I think we can count the number of months on our hands that we’ve actually been in the same city together,” Chung says. “So the downtime really is just spending quality time with him and our dog—being in the great outdoors and traveling and taking photos.” Then, as she begins to candidly discuss their holiday plans to go skiing in Aspen, Colo., and of their dream to climb Machu Picchu in February, it’s easy to forget that this is a movie star talking—and for a moment, unfiltered Jamie Chung is even better than any Instagram.