Manny Jacinto appears in an all-new Hulu series called Nine Perfect Strangers opposite Nicole Kidman. The show takes place at a health and wellness escape and Jacinto plays Yao who work at Tranquillum House. The Filipino-Canadian actor is known for his break-out role as Jason Mendoza in The Good Place and can be seen in the much anticipated Top Gun: Maverick in May 27, 2022. We caught up with Manny following our shoot with him in Los Angeles, California. Here is our conversation.
ST: First off, congratulations on the new series on Hulu Nine Perfect Strangers. You play Yao opposite a star studded cast including Nicole Kidman, Michael Shannon, and Melissa McCarthy. How did this project come up for you and was the audition process or the filming of the series happening during the pandemic? If so, how was that experience for you?
MJ: Oh thanks so much. It came through just like any other audition. I was asked to put a tape for the character of Yao with the sides that were emailed to me. The filming process was during the pandemic. We were actually very lucky. We filmed in a small beach town off the coast of Australia and covid cases were minimal to none over there during that time. It was the most ideal situation.
ST: Without giving away too much, can you tell us about your character Yao. He has a very meditative presence in the series. What was preparing for this role like?
MJ: Yao is definitely a more calming presence within the Tranquillum retreat. He has his own personal conflicts but has to mask them in front of the guests to appear grounded and controlled. We had a 14 day quarantine in Australia before we started shooting. Having that time to work and reflect on the character was a huge advantage. Also the town where we filmed, Byron Bay, has a very holistic and calming energy. It was the perfect place to get into Yao’s headspace.
ST: You have also starred in The Good Place which is a comedy. Nine Perfect Strangers has an edge to it and makes the viewer constantly uncomfortable. What surprised you as an actor about this project?
MJ: This cast included a lot of veteran actors and I was surprised at how open and playful they all were. I guess there’s a reason they’ve all been able to do this for so long. They’re not only great actors, but incredibly down to earth people.
ST: We would be remiss to not ask, but do you have any funny stories from the set you can share. Melissa McCarthy for example must have found ways to lighten the mood on such a suspenseful set.
MJ: Melissa has such a sense of ease around her. She made everyone around her feel comfortable and included by making them laugh or smile; I feel like that’s her superpower.
ST: Follow-up: Did you learn anything from Nicole Kidman, or any of the other cast mates about the craft of acting that was like an “aha” moment for you in your career?
MJ: If anything I was mainly inspired by seeing the work Nicole and the rest of the cast were putting in. Witnessing their level of commitment was a lesson itself.
ST: One of the things we have all been hearing about over the last few years is about representation. As a Filipino-Canadian actor who is building a career in the business, what is the most important thing you want fans and peers to know right now?
MJ: If you have a story you need to tell, write, direct, or produce, do it! Obviously, it’s easier said than done, but you can find people out there, including me, to support you. There aren’t a lot of Filipino stories out there and it’s unfortunate how underrepresented we are on screen. If something is calling you to create, do it.
ST: Growing up, did you have any heroes in film or tv who you looked up to and how has those references stayed with you as a professional actor?
MJ: Growing up I loved a movie called “Better Luck Tomorrow”. It was one of the first films Justin Lin directed. It was the first film I saw that was led by people who all looked like me. The characters were going through similar issues I was facing at the time. It was the first time I felt represented.
ST: Speaking of heroes, we can’t do this interview without asking what it was like to work with Tom Cruise. He is one of the most successful actors in Hollywood, and you are in Top Gun: Maverick which is now releasing in May 2022. Can you share what it was like to be on set with Tom, or something you experienced during production?
MJ: I can’t say much but getting to work on a huge production like that was extraordinary. It was an intense process and I’m excited for people to see it. The fans of the original have been waiting a very long time.
ST: Since we are a fashion focused magazine we have to fit in a question about style. Do you have a favorite brand you shop at regularly and how would you describe your personal style?
MJ: I really loved the pieces that we did for this shoot, the pieces from Prada, Zegna, and Celine, if I was allowed to I would have kept it all. In regards to my personal style, I tend to choose pieces that are classic or that I think are timeless. There’s something about having a piece of clothing that I know I’ll still use 10 or 20 years down the road.
ST: When you are not hitting a red carpet, or at a casting, what is your go-to outfit at home or with friends when you are off-duty?
MJ: I’m a simple jeans and t- shirt kind of guy. If I could only wear one thing for the rest of my life, it would be jeans and a white tee.
ST: Since we have all been home a lot more than usual have you developed any new hobbies or guilty pleasures, cooking, a new sport or workout, maybe completing an entire show like The Sopranos?
MJ: The one new guilty pleasure I developed over the pandemic was playing Mario Kart on Nintendo Switch. It became therapeutic, and I have a pretty obsessive personality, so once I get into something, I really go in. I actually formed a group of friends, our own Mario Kart Crew haha, it sounds kind of dorky but I’m so glad I found that and them during such a chaotic time.
ST: Words to live by?
MJ: Don’t worry about the past, don’t be anxious about the future, just be here and relish the present.
Man of Metropolis Digital
Manny Jacinto wears PRADA by PHOTOGRAPHER Raul Romo exclusively for Man of Metropolis October Issue STYLIST Alexey Kazakov HAIR Tatiana Irving using Alterna Haircare MAKEUP Sonia Lee, Exclusive Artists using La Mer STYLIST ASSISTANT Liza Abugova EDITOR Seth Travis