When Sam Tune Li got here throughout the function of Bruce on “The Brothers Solar,” he felt just like the character was written uniquely for him. In Netflix’s new action-packed drama collection, Bruce’s life is upended when his older brother, Charles (Justin Chien), who seems to be a Taiwanese gangster, involves LA to guard their mother, Eileen (Michelle Yeoh). When Li first learn the script, he shortly discovered he shared plenty of “shockingly shut” similarities along with his onscreen counterpart. Like Bruce, the 27-year-old actor and content material creator was raised by a single mother within the San Gabriel Valley, CA, a predominantly Asian American group the place the collection partially takes place. Equally, he additionally dreamed of being an actor and improv comic, regardless of his mother’s hopes that he’d turn into a physician. “I really feel like that particularly is simply actually relatable for lots of Asian People,” he tells POPSUGAR.
That is why Bruce’s story was private to Li, who was born in Guangzhou, China. He drew from his personal experiences to authentically painting Bruce — and the character’s relationship with Mama Solar particularly. “I used to be raised by a single mother, and my mother in actual life is my hero,” he says. “She raised me and my sister all by herself. To see a single guardian have all the burden of the tasks of elevating a child, you’re taking it without any consideration when it is taking place. I introduced that vitality and perspective into Bruce in his love for his mother.”
Towards his mother’s greatest needs, Li finally determined to pursue appearing. Amid creating comedic content material and racking up a following on TikTok and Instagram, he booked smaller roles on exhibits like “By no means Have I Ever” and “Higher Name Saul.” When he landed “The Brothers Solar,” it was a welcome shock; he did not think about a task like this one to return about so early on in his profession.
As if securing his first main function – and one he associated to so deeply — wasn’t thrilling sufficient, “The Brothers Solar” was additionally the primary time Li labored alongside an all Asian writers’ room and a majority Asian American forged. “Our manufacturing was uniquely Asian American in so many sides, however I feel one factor that basically stood out to me was that we actually observe what we preach on the present,” he says. “Within the present, the household, and the way you deal with individuals as a household, is the focus of the story. We as a staff actually had that connection. We felt actually keen about what we had been doing, what was taking place in entrance of us, no matter if the present was successful or not. I feel the one factor we had been all holding onto was that this was a really particular second.”
The forged’s robust connection was additionally sustained by meals — a trademark of many Asian cultures. There have been Asian snacks and meals accessible on set on a regular basis, together with boba no less than as soon as per week. In line with Li, Yeoh would order meals from a distinct native Chinese language spot each week. “She would at all times shock us with one thing,” he says.
“I’ve at all times felt I used to be not Westernized sufficient for Hollywood, and never Asian sufficient to work in Asia.”
Rising up, it will’ve been troublesome for Li to think about an expertise just like the “Brothers Solar” set. Asian and Asian American illustration on display screen was few and much between. “I’ve at all times felt I used to be not Westernized sufficient for Hollywood, and never Asian sufficient to work in Asia,” Li says, describing a wrestle all too widespread for Asian People, each out and in of the leisure trade.
However with the inflow of APIA initiatives in theaters and on streaming platforms prior to now three years, Li’s perspective on his future in appearing has modified drastically. “I’ve realized the course that Hollywood and the world is shifting is connecting the globe in so some ways,” he explains. “Content material is now not only for a Western or American viewers proper now. Content material is for a world viewers.”
Because of this, he is been in a position to search out roles which might be tied to his upbringing and identification. “The one widespread thread between all the roles I gravitate in direction of is that they’re a part of my identification, not simply primarily based on race, however actually who I’m as an individual or the experiences that I’ve had,” he says. Except for enjoying Bruce on “The Brothers Solar,” he shot a pilot in 2023, “Marvin Is Sorry,” wherein he performs a mega influencer and content material creator who will get canceled. “Plenty of the weather and nuances of that story I felt like I gravitated in direction of as a result of it was simply one thing I knew very intimately,” he says.
Trying ahead to the longer term, Li feels optimistic about extra cultural initiatives like “The Brothers Solar.”
“That freshness, the authenticity of storytelling, is extra necessary than ever,” he says. “Any time we are able to present new views, have a contemporary tackle one thing, or present the world one thing they’ve by no means seen earlier than, that’s what I feel Hollywood and world audiences are craving.”