‘Comfort’ actress Julie Zhan: From Apple’s photobooth icon, acting to YouTube vlogging

By @sachintrivedig on
'Comfort'
A still from the movie "Comfort." Julie Zhan

“Comfort,” out on VOD this month, centres on a late night courier who agrees to pick up the feisty daughter of an important client. The two youngsters subsequently form a close connection and spend two nights exploring LA's local food scene while their romance blossoms. Julie Zhan, known for her work on the Shut Up and Dance YouTube channel, is the female lead.

International Business Times, Australia: First things first, you’re the photobooth icon on the mac? Tell us more! How did you get that gig?

Julie Zhan: Haha yes, I did a photoshoot for Apple a long time ago, and then one day a couple years later, they called me and told me they might use my image for something and took care of the logistics and I didn’t hear anything for a bit. It was actually a very pleasant surprise when some my friends texted me while they were watching Tim Cook’s keynote 2 years ago and said I was on it! Simultaneously, some other friends were at first confused why their updated OS has a picture of their friend Julie on the Photobooth icon. Might be a new function--having your friends on the icon? Then we realized it was on everyone’s computers around the world. My mom is proud LOL

IB Times: What do you consider yourself first and foremost -  an actor?

Zhan: There are three things I’m good at in life: acting, dancing, and encouraging people J 

IB Times: You gained fame from your Shut Up and Dance channel. How did that get started?

Zhan: I was inspired by Daniel Cloud Campos and did a fan dance video for him. It was well-received, and that was the moment I got a taste of how fun and interactive YouTube was. As I started posting more videos and collaborating with David So, JK Films, Wong Fu, etc, I realized how incredibly fulfilling it was to have creative control, share a piece of myself, and then mutually inspire people around the world. I’ve made so many beautiful connections through it.

IB Times: Has that been something you’ve been able to make a career out of? Does it pay the bills?

Zhan: It pays some of my bills! I’ve been really blessed to get quite a bit of work as a bi product of YouTube: college tours, panels, shows, and major brand deals. Very very grateful!

IB Times: Is it hard work producing those videos? How much time each week does it take to put those together?

Zhan: Oh my gosh, it’s a full time job! But since I’m a full-time actor and a majority of my week is spent auditioning, on set, and training—and I’m also developing a show at the moment--I only get to do YouTube part time. I really enjoy making full-fledged short films, so those usually take a couple months to write, produce, shoot, and edit (with the help of the best team a girl can ask for!). It’s a lot of work, but I find that the more blood, sweat, and tears I put into a project, the more rewarding it is and I’m most proud of those. But I do love vlogging and doing silly videos too!

IB Times: What kind of fan base do you have? Any surprise finds?

Zhan:  Really sweet, supportive, loving fans! They’re usually in the high school through early 20s range. But David So (the extraordinarily talented comedian and YouTuber,..that I have a love-hate relationship with) has been advertising my singleness…which has led to an increase in single male subscribers hahaha

IB Times: Was it the success of the channel that led to acting roles in the likes of ‘Comfort’?

Zhan: It definitely contributed to it! I act for film, television, live shows, and of course digital, and honestly, every medium complements and contributes to one another. My digital fanbase has been responsible for booking me some wonderful roles. As for ‘Comfort,’ Chris and I had worked on quite a few short films and comedy skits together, for my channel and Wong Fu’s channel, and it was through our fantastic working relationship in these projects that Chris and Will gave me a shot at ‘Comfort’!

IB Times: Such a great role for you too. Is it getting harder to find quality roles for Asian American women in Hollywood?

Zhan: It’s actually getting easier—there are more dynamic roles for Asian Americans now more than ever. But, it is still incredibly challenging, and more roles doesn’t mean enough roles. Work in progress!

IB Times: How collaborative is William Lu as a filmmaker?

Zhan: Extremely. Will is the nicest director and somehow tolerates me and Chris’ extremely weird suggestions and requests. But in all seriousness, Will was incredibly open to collaborating as equals, respected and valued our opinions, and the entire cast and crew of ‘Comfort’ spoiled us. Everyone was talented and pleasant, and we all worked towards the same goal of creating a great film, and everyone contributed to the wonderful gem it became!

IB Times: The film is being released this month, to coincide with the month of love, what’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done for someone?

Zhan: It’s been so long since I’ve been in a relationship, I have to think about that one haha. Probably planning a whole surprise trip for their birthday to see one of their favorite DJs. Gosh, either I’m not that sweet or I’ve forgotten what else I’ve done hahaha. But I can tell you 4 of the sweetest things anyone’s ever done for me: carving “I love you Julie Zhan” on a tree, and revealing it to me as their first time saying “I love you.”; surprise hot air balloon ride, which cost a big fraction of their summer job earnings awww; surprise (delicious) Christmas lobster dinner; surprise gondola ride in Newport beach, with the most beautifully written love letter in the form of a message in a bottle in the middle of the water!