Jamie Chung's Killer Off-Screen Style

There are a few ways you may know Jamie Chung. It could be that you watched her become a fan favorite on The Real World: San Diego. Maybe she caught your attention in the 2009 cult-slasher classic Sorority Row or the more recent Premium Rush. Chances are you saw her play Ed Helm's wife in The Hangover II and III. But, if you’re still not familiar with Chung, it’s only a matter of time before you start seeing her face (and hearing her name) everywhere, thanks in part to her starring role in J.J. Abrams’ new NBC series, Believe.
At work, Chung trains hard, working in below-freezing conditions to film the sci-fi thriller, "It's so not glamorous," she promises, "It's so dirty. It's so cold." Offscreen, however, her day-to-day life is much more well-heeled. So, we caught up with the on-the-rise star to find out what she wears on weekends in lower Manhattan, and, you know, on dates with fiancé How To Make It In America star Bryan Greenberg. Of course, we also asked all about how she's made it in America, what it was like to be on camera 24/7, and wedding details (we couldn't resist). Ahead, fall in love with Jamie Chung before the rest of the country beats you to it.
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
"It would be teleportation, only because I hate airports. [Bryan and I are] living bicoastally right now, but if I wanted to visit him, I could snap my fingers and I’d be there."

Tell us about the new series. What was your audition process like?
"There was word on the street that Alfonso Cuarón — one of my favorite directors — and J.J. Abrams were coming together to make this super team to make this awesome pilot called Believe. Once I finally did get my hands on the script, because they’re quite secretive about those kinds of things, it was one of my favorites of pilot season and I just had to do it. I originally auditioned for Moore, and she’s the hit woman who’s assigned to capture Bo and kill all of the caretakers. I think Mark Friedman, the creator, thought I was too sweet for the role, so he was like, 'Take these lines, go outside, take as much time as you need, and read for Channing.' And, I was like, 'Oh, I hate cold reads,' because you’re on the spot memorizing a totally different character and different lines. So, I went out and 20 minutes later I came back in and booked it. Well, there were tests after that, but it’s cooler to say that I got it after a cold read."

That’s a real curve ball. How do you change directions so quickly, going from auditioning for Moore and then switching things up and auditioning for Channing? What do you do to really get in the headspace of a character?
"At the time — I did read the script — I kind of had an idea of who Channing was, but in terms of breaking things down. What do you think happened in the scene before? What do you think is going happen in the scene after the one you’re auditioning for? There are a lot of things you do for the process. In terms of the character, it was quite easy to transition because one was, you know, the [assassin], and then afterward, I auditioned for the [caretaker]. It’s kind of easier to relate to [a caretaker] than someone trying to assassinate, for sure."
Robert Rodriguez Carrera Skirt, $325, available at Piperlime; Robert Rodriguez Carrara Open Front Marble Print Jacket, $595, available at Neiman Marcus; Rebecca Minkoff Bag.
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
You’ve played a lot of badasses in the past. How do you prepare for those kinds of roles?
"In this industry, you don’t really know what project is going to come up next, so in terms of physical fitness, I try and keep it at a standard because you don’t know what you’ll be asked to do. With television, there’s not much time to train at all. So, literally, they’re like, 'We’re putting you in a harness today and you’re going to climb up this rope. Can you climb a rope?' It’s like, 'What?! No. I don’t know.' So, it really is kind of on the fly."

Do you ever have stunt doubles?
"I do have a stunt double. Her name is Kimmy [Suzuki]. She’s great. She looks just like me. We’re the same height, same physique. It’s pretty awesome."

What’s that process like? I think that would be kind of trippy.
"It’s so weird. She gets put through the works. She has the exact same thing on to a T. Her hair is done the same way. If her hair is lighter or darker, they’ll change the hair color so we match. We’re like twins. It’s always so weird."
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
Has there ever been a situation on set where you’re like, “I won’t do that”?
"Like a stunt? There was one. The great thing about these stunt guys is that they always test things out to make sure they’re safe and you’re comfortable with it. But, there was this one time where the stunt coordinator was like, 'I want you to do this move,' and it wasn’t cool enough. I was like, 'No, I’m not going to do that.'"

Tell us a little bit about living in New York and living in the Financial District. Do you have any favorite spots around?
"There are all these great little pockets. We’re right by the water, so — especially during the summertime — it’s kind of nice to get out of your apartment and go for a walk and eat by the water. There are all these great benches. They’re actually redoing the whole park area. It’s just beautiful. It’s kind of like a city escape, you know?"

Do you have any favorite date spots around here?
"We love to go to Tiny’s or Odeon, which are in Tribeca."
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
We just walked in and saw your engagement ring. Can you tell us the story of how Bryan popped the question?
"It was during the holidays in San Francisco — totally by surprise. He rented out this beautiful room at Hotel Vitale. It was sunset. He had written me a song. It was great. It was beautiful. I was totally taken by surprise. The jewelry designer Jonathan Arndt designed Carrie Underwood’s ring. He does amazing, amazing rings, and Bryan designed it with him and kind of blew my mind."

Did you expect it?
"No! Not at all. We actually had this conversation, going back and forth, and I was the one teetering quite a bit. I said at one point, you know, 'Maybe we shouldn’t get married. We’re going to be together forever anyways. Do we need a title? Do we need to make it official?' I think he’d already started the process of designing, and he was like, 'What? Now you say this?' Looking back, it’s kind of fun to see him squirm because he was already planning this stuff out."
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
Are you someone who has been dreaming of your wedding since you were young?
"No way. I’m not like that. I was perfectly happy being like Will and Grace, like marrying my gay best friend and having a kid and being fine with it. But, that was until I met Bryan. Then I was like, 'Oh, I guess I can do this domesticated thing.' But, no, in terms of planning, I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s stresses me out. I’ve hired this great wedding planner Lisa Vorce; she’s done incredible weddings. We want to do something kind of outdoorsy, so we’re trying to find the venue at the moment. Of course, I went to Monique Lhuillier’s show, and I was talking with her backstage, and she’d just heard about the engagement, and she was like, 'I’m going to design your dress.' I was like, 'What?!? Aw man, this is awesome.'"

Have you chosen a wedding song?
"Probably the song that Bryan proposed to me with. It’s called 'More.'"
Cameo Crop Top; Ann Taylor Windowpane Jacquard Topper, $198, available at Ann Taylor; Ann Taylor Illusion Pencil Skirt, $98, available at Ann Taylor; ASOS sunglasses.
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
You were saying you’re living bicoastal and shooting can be at the drop of a hat. Do you have any tips for long-distance relationships?
"Bryan and I made a deal: Whoever’s not working will stay in the city the other person’s working in. And, if he needs to be in L.A….and then he’s going to be working in Alabama, the deal is every two-and-a-half weeks…. We could do three weeks, but I get really cranky and then I start picking fights. So, it’s a rule, we have to see each other [every] two-and-a-half weeks. And, Face Time helps a lot."

Do you like to watch yourself on TV? When you do, are you like, “Ok, cool” — or are you like, “I wish I’d done this differently”?
"I think when you’re filming it and you’re in the moment and it felt good, then you don’t need to really watch. On set, we don’t have playback, so I can’t watch what we just shot. But, last night when I was live tweeting [the show], while I was watching I was like, 'Ugh, I should’ve done a little bit more. I should’ve raised the stakes a little bit,' or 'I should’ve toned it down.' There’s always a lot of 'shoulda, coulda, woulda,' you know."
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
Believe shoots some in New York. Have you gotten to see parts of the city you’ve never seen?
"Yeah, like Yonkers or Long Beach, Long Island. I mean, we’re going to some pretty far places, checking out different boroughs. I really like the suburban areas of New York."

What was it like working on The Hangover series?
"It’s kind of weird to come into the sequel, because [these guys] already went on this amazing adventure together. It’s really just about the guys, but it was nerve-racking. You know, Bradley Cooper, dreamy, Bradley Cooper, blue-eyed, dreamy, speaks-French, Bradley Cooper. It’s nerve-racking. No, I’m just joking. Everyone’s really sweet. They were really good to me. It was like a three-week vacation and I shot for a week, so it wasn’t such a bad deal."
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
You started on The Real World: San Diego and your career has just exploded from there. Did you imagine this trajectory?
"No way. It’s quite humbling. And, I love my beginnings. It was the best college experience ever, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who can get on. I had zero idea that I’d be working with the people I’m working with now.

Where do you see your career going from here? Anyone you're dying to work with?
I don’t know. There are so many people I want to work for. When I’m watching a show, I’m like, 'That’s amazing.' Like True Detective or House of Cards, where you’re just surrounded by fantastic actors — that would be a dream come true. But, I can’t really complain. I’m working with Delroy Lindo, Johnny Sequoyah, and Jake McLaughlin. It’s great."

It looks so glamorous to us, obviously. What is something the readers would be surprised goes on when filming a TV show?
"It so not glamorous. It’s so dirty. It’s so cold. Oh my gosh. I mean, whenever we have to do reshoots of what we filmed in the autumn, I’m just wearing a light jacket, and it’s seven degrees outside, and we still have to wear the same costume. It’s just cold. "
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
What about those Real World challenges? It looked like so much fun.
"I only did it once. It’s a big social event. It’s a lot of stress. A lot of angling. It gives me a lot of anxiety, even just watching. I get quite anxious."

What’s the craziest thing you had to do during that experience?
"For our final challenge on The Real World we did a mini triathlon, and I’ve never physically pushed myself to those extremes. We didn’t have to eat anything disgusting, which I don’t think I would’ve been able to do, but in terms of the triathlon, I was like, 'I can totally do that.' It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do."
Alice + Olivia Skirt; BCBG Maxazria Top; J.Crew Heels.
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
What were you saying in the back of your head during that?
"Just keep going. I was with three guys and I was the only girl. I felt like they felt a responsibility to kind of push me or encourage me. I do recall one time, I was like, ‘I get it. Shut up and run. I’m going.’ I was a little frustrated."

Do you ever have people come up to you on the street and want to know spoilers — whether it’s this series or another? Obviously, you’re contractually obligated, but do you ever want to blurt out what happens?
"Absolutely. When I did the stint on Once Upon A Time and I found out that Mulan was gay, I was like, 'Oh my god! This is so awesome,' and I couldn’t say anything. It’s a treat. And, you don’t want to spoil the surprise for them."
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
Have you had a moment of realization, where you’re like, “I’ve made it. This is the reality”?
"No, not at all. Anytime someone approaches me, I’m like, 'Really? Hey, nice to meet you. Oh, you watched that? Thank you.' Just the other day on the elevator, this guy was like, 'Jamie, I saw you in Eden.' There was also another woman in Soho. It’s so, I mean, I’m pretty grateful to have the fan base that I do and for people watch the movies I make. It still surprises me. I’m shocked."

Quick-fire, easy answers. What is your guilty pleasure?
"Pizza."
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
What so-called bad TV shows do you watch all the time?
"Real World Explosion."

Me too! That show is so genius. What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you on set?
"They actually showed it in the pilot. My character’s supposed to be this macho woman, you know, independent and strong. I was trying to pull these old freight-elevator doors down and I couldn’t do it. I literally had my entire body weight on it and it would not come down. And, Tate, played by Jake [McLaughlin], had to come and pull it down for me. He was like, ‘Give me that. Get out of the way,’ and he pulls it down. And, they kept it in the stupid pilot! I was so pissed. Not stupid, but that scene."
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
"Take everything as a learning experience. Be present. And, there’s no such thing as a small role."

Have you put that into practice?
"Even being on a show when you don’t have any lines, it’s still relevant and still important that you’re there. It’s important that you listen. I think, in acting, it’s more important to listen than say the lines. I’m sorry, it’s still important to listen before you say your lines."
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
How would you define your personal style?
"Oh, gosh. I guess 'downtown chic.' I live downtown, and even if it’s a little girly, I try to edge it up just a little bit."

You’ve become quite a regular during Fashion Week. Who are some of your favorite designers?
"It was kind of amazing and quite theatrical, the Monique Lhuillier show. I don’t think that I’ve ever been to anything of such high caliber. It was unreal. It was awesome. Everything was so well thought out, of course, the order of the clothes, but also the music…. It was like a movie. I also like Cushnie Et Ochs. Big fan of designers who are up-and-coming and who have always kind of stayed true to who they are."
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
Cushnie Et Ochs dresses are so hot.
"The dresses are so flattering and so classic, yet so edgy. I love it. It’s kind of like the modern-day woman."

What’s something you would never wear?
"I don’t think that I could say 'never.' I feel like, I’m like, 'Oh, I hate pastels. I’m never going to wear pastels,' yet I’m standing here in pastel."
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Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
Do you have a personal motto? A daily life affirmation?
"Be grateful and seize the day. When you find yourself feeling sorry for yourself, it’s the worst. It’s like, 'Why do you feel sorry for yourself? Why are you pitying yourself?' It’s like, 'No, something didn’t go your way. No big deal. It’s a new day.’"
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