Words by Jalen Jones
Mixed Asian Media: JoySauce is proud to present something very special—a partnership with the ultra talented team over at Mixed Asian Media. In JoySauce’s mission to cover stories from the Asian American and Pacific Islander diaspora, we’ve always considered it incredibly important to include mixed AA+PI perspectives. Since their team already has that piece on lock, we’re delighted they were willing to join forces to help us share even more fresh, funny, interesting, irreverent stories each week. Take it away, MAM!
Though Gen-Z representation has been on the rise, few have tackled our generation’s fascination with the more spiritual channels of life. Admit it—you too have studied up on your sun, moon, and rising sign, and have spent a night or two scrolling through mystics’ TikTok videos, searching for confirmation that your crush likes you back. Netflix’s Freeridge, a spin-off to their hit teen-dramedy On My Block, takes those secret obsessions and places them front and center.
Freeridge gets its generational signals right. Of course there is relationship drama, sibling rivalry, and growing pains that are essential ingredients for any teen drama, but nowhere else can you also laugh over the ridiculous spirals that horoscopes, tarot cards, and “readings” can throw us into. Tenzing Norgay Trainor plays Cameron, one of the victims of such readings, whose avoidant approach to his problems can be a bit too relatable. Trainor talks with us about Freeridge, his Nepalese and Tibetan heritage, and his thoughts on acting and mixed Asian representation.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Jalen Jones: Here at Mixed Asian Media, we love to celebrate our mixed heritage with pride. So Tenzing, what is your mix?
TNT: My mom was born and raised in Darjeeling, India. I am Nepalese, Tibetan by descent. That’s where my name comes from. My dad is from Florida… [laughs] that’s all it is for him!
JJ: You said something about your name?
TNT: [My name’s] literal definition is holder of Buddhadharma, like holder of faith. I was named by the Dalai Lama, along with my two younger brothers. Lucky enough to have that kind of relationship because of what my grandfather achieved, by reaching the top of Mount Everest in 1953—the first person ever to do it. Due to that, we’re able to get that experience.
JJ: You’ve got some big shoes to fill! How would you say your mixed heritage has played a role in your acting career growing up?
TNT: It’s given me a little extra drive and determination. A lot of people that are mixed Asian, or people of color in general, say that they didn’t grow up getting to see a lot of themselves on TV, or in the movies. I feel like for me, that is especially true. I don’t recall ever finding a character that was really me. It was kind of having to be like, “Oh yeah, that guy’s good enough. I could see myself in that guy, I guess.” And so seeing that as a kid has just pushed me now to do that—to do this for kids that were like me, or feeling like me.
I get messages all the time on Instagram from these people saying, “Thank you so much! You’re my favorite Tibetan actor! You’re my favorite Nepalese actor!” And I find it so honoring and so fulfilling, because that’s exactly what I set out to do—be that kind of person for those people. So it’s good to be recognized a little bit by people of the same culture.
JJ: I’d definitely be one of those people! Is there anything you wish more people knew about being Tibetan, Nepalese, or even just mixed in general?
TNT: Oh wow. Um, I think just how amazing it is. How awesome it is to be able to sort of have two different cultures in your life growing up. I unfortunately do not speak the language, but there are definitely phrases that my mom says to me or yells at me sometimes, and I understand what she’s saying.
The food obviously is amazing. Being able to travel and feel that connection to your past and your history. I never got to meet my grandfather, but the last time I went to Asia was about six years ago. We went to India, Bhutan, and Nepal. That was just such a cool, cool experience, and it was even cooler knowing that this is where my blood comes from. This is a part of me. Like, I’m from here, people that I know are from here.Those kind of aspects are definitely some of the best parts about being mixed.
JJ: What are some of your favorite phrases that your mom likes to use with you?
TNT: I don’t know how to speak it, so I don’t exactly wanna pronounce it wrong, but I remember one time in elementary school my mom would always tease us, and she would say [the phrase]. It was something along the lines of “smack on the butt,” or like, “spank of the butt.” I remember I was in Montessori school, and some kid said something to me and I said it to him. I ended up getting sent to the principal’s office for it. [laughs]
JJ: The principal’s office!? Did they even know what you were saying?
TNT: I don’t remember! I think I ratted on myself and I was like, “It’s something that my mom says. It’s like, spank you on the butt or something,” and they’re like, “Oh, it’s enough for me.”
JJ: Okay, so I have to ask about everyone’s newest obsession, which is your new show Freeridge. It’s honestly some of the best representation I’ve seen so far of Gen Z! I especially love your character, Cam, who brings some serious representation for the bisexual community. How has it been playing this character?
TNT: It’s been so great. So fulfilling as an actor, but not just as an actor—as a human being. I’m a person living in this world as well, living in this country, that is also listening to all the problems and turmoil that people in the bisexual community face. Cameron’s story is definitely something that deserves and needs to be shared. There are real people out there that are really experiencing this, so being given the opportunity to play this character has been such an honor.
I love Cameron to death. I think that it’s probably one of the favorite characters I’ve ever gotten to play, if not my favorite. Cameron’s story is so beautiful. The way that the show puts it all together, it’s not in your face about how he’s bisexual, it’s just part of who he is. He’s just a young kid, and he just happens to be bisexual. It’s not in your face and all about his sexuality, which I think is really cool, the way that they wrote it out.
JJ: I can tell he’s very carefully handled and taken seriously, which is really awesome. How similar would you say you and Cameron are personality-wise?
TNT: We definitely share some similarities, but we definitely do share some differences as well. Cameron and I have that ability to just go from zero to 100 really quick. You know, he can be the calmest person in the group in one second, and then the next second he’s even more amped up than Gloria, which is crazy.
[For] differences, I would like to think that I’m a little bit more organized than Cameron. I have a little bit of a greater grasp on my life…Probably has to do with the fact that I am six years older than Cameron in real life, so he has some time to get there [laughs]. I’m a little bit more organized and put-together than he is, but I love him for being messy.
JJ: I’m sure we were all going through that in high school.
TNT: Yes, definitely.
JJ: Which episodes were your favorite to film?
TNT: Well, they’re all so fun, especially for Cameron’s character, because every episode is a different emotion. Every scene is a different emotion for him. But I like the span of episodes three to five. I can’t pick a favorite in there. [Episode three] obviously is so fun with the punk show. That was so fun to film, getting to do that Antman-esque scene with the voiceovers, and everybody’s acting out each other’s perspective. Episode four is obviously a huge heartfelt episode. It’s so beautifully written. And then episode five is the party, and who doesn’t love to party? Me getting duct-taped to those cans the whole episode was, uh, not so fun in the moment, but thinking about it now, it was pretty fun. It’s just the craziness of it all. So, episodes three to five. Any one of those.
JJ: Taking it back to acting in general: I know earlier you said we don’t have much in terms of representation, but do you have any mixed Asian actors that serve as an inspiration for you?
TNT: It is growing. It is ever growing. Umm…that’s so hard. I love Simu Liu. I don’t know if he’s mixed Asian, but he’s Asian for sure. Shang-Chi—amazing, amazing film. Umm…I’m trying to think of specific mixed Asians. Simu Liu is definitely up there. Michelle Yeoh, and what she did in Everything Everywhere All at Once, just a beautiful film. She deserves everything that she’s getting because of it. I would say that those two were the first names that came to mind.
JJ: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring actors who might come from a similar background as you?
TNT: Never give up. I mean, when you do it, unless you reach the point of like Brad Pitt and Leonard DiCaprio, you will truly see how rigorous the whole process of trying to be an actor is. You get told “no” a hundred times more than you get told “yes.” And it’s just knowing that and not letting it get to you, and knowing it wasn’t you. It just wasn’t right. It wasn’t supposed to be. So just don’t give up. Determination. And yeah, you can do anything you set your mind to. Look at me, you know, I would like to say that I believe I deserve to be here. I think I do. But it’s that determination and that strength to never give up.
Published on March 27, 2023
Words by Jalen Jones
Jalen Jones is a Black and Filipino writer, poet, director, and all around creative who came of age in Eagle Rock and the greater Los Angeles county. Over the years, he has hosted a children’s workout DVD series, directed an Emmy Award-winning public service announcement, and produced the NAACP Image Award nominated short film, The Power of Hope. Passionate about portraying the real, the unpinpointable, and the almost-unsayable, Jalen has published a wide array of poetry and creative work that lands on these very discoveries. More than anything, he hopes to build a house out of words that can make anyone and everyone feel like they belong. Find him on Instagram @jalen_g_jones and online at jalen-jones.com.