True Grit with Curtis Lum
Destiny isn’t a destination, It’s a journey. A journey that requires grit, tenacity, and character. Curtis Lum’s career thus far has been defined by those attributes. The young actor will be the first to tell you that any success he has achieved can be attributed to hard work, risk as well as talent. Currently, Curtis can be seen on the hit Freeform show Siren, portraying the role of Calvin Lee. The show has garnered praise and reached a wide audience. We had the chance to catch up with Curtis and talk about his background, what it takes to turn a calling into a career, and Siren.
The son of a second generation restauranteur, Curtis is no stranger to hard work. Though his parents were busy, they still made plenty of time to be proud of their son. “One of my earliest memories was my parents throwing me up on stage to sing karaoke.” That seemed to make a strong impression because he has loved being front and center ever since. “I've always had that at my core, the desire to entertain and bring laughter to people.”
At a young age, Curtis discovered he didn’t fit into the typical mold or stereotype that someone of Asian descent would have had thrust upon them. “I grew up different from a lot of the stereotypical Asian stereotypes. I wasn't good at school at all. I would go to school to pick up the girls and I was all about style, fashion and playing basketball...I was also all about making a buck.”
Curtis parlayed that drive to make a buck and the natural charisma he had into a hustle. Throughout High school he would throw and host parties for his friends. Then once he graduated he went into hosting and promoting Club Nights so that he could be the MC. This would all be going on as he was still working at his parents' restaurant. By this point, Curtis was no stranger to the stage or being in front of crowds. But it was his love for the TV show Entourage that would spark the fire that would lead him to a career in film and TV. “I never actually thought of ever being an actor but it was a combination of Entourage coming out; which then became my favorite show and my dad. He always told me there is no difference between the restaurant business and show business. As soon as we open the doors, it's lights up. It's just like when you're on stage, people don't give a shit about how your day was, they just want to be entertained and they want to be impressed”
Years later, Curtis would land a spot in the Hollywood Reporters list of Rising Stars of 2018. “I was in a good headspace at the time so I was able actually to welcome the recognition. It felt like I must be doing something right.”
Curtis plays Calvin Lee on Siren, the character was only originally supposed to be in a couple of episodes but ended up being a major part of series. Audiences have gravitated to the shows diverse cast and intriguing plot lines. Curtis was given a character description for Calvin and was able to take that into the direction he thought it should go. “Sometimes you go up for roles and they are very explicit with what they want from you. With this character, it was just Xander's best friend. And I could go any direction with it.” Curtis brings a certain naturalism to the role, instead of being a forced portrayal, Curtis turns Calvin into someone relatable.
People everywhere have responded to the hit series. It’s not uncommon for Curtis to get stopped in the street…or the gym. “Just last week I had signed up at this gym and the next day I came back and they pulled me aside; I thought I was in trouble or something.
It ended up being three grown men literally fangirling about the show. They took me aside to talk about their issues with the show, from a fan standpoint. They were like, oh my god I can't believe so and so did this or so and so did that. How dare they kill this person off. It was crazy!
Like all careers, being an actor comes with highs and lows. Curtis has found a mantra that helps him deal with the ups and downs of life. “One of the best things my dad ever told me is, you gotta throw out the highs with the lows. That means don't let all the highs go to your head, and don't dwell on the lows. Learn from the negatives.”
With about a decade under his belt of acting, Curtis has been able to accrue wisdom that only comes from experience and observation. “ We're in a day and age now where information is everywhere, and you can learn everything there is to know about the business, but ultimately you have to do it yourself.”
Destiny isn’t a destination it’s a journey, but that doesn’t mean you can't occasionally stop and appreciate the view. When you reflect on the journey Curtis has been on, you can’t help but take away some deep truths about what it takes to realize your dreams. Grit, Tenacity, and character are not only traits that define Curtis’s career but they are fundamental attributes for success.