Most Hongkongers would recognise Byron Mann’s face from 2015’s hit financial dramedy The Big Short, where he played a Machiavellian CDO trader across Steve Carell’s wry businessman Mark Baum. In 2018’s Hong Kong-set action blockbuster Skyscraper, Dwayne Johnson’s security expert protagonist is framed for setting the high-rise on fire, while Mann’s police inspector investigates.
Beginning his acting career with Jean-Claude Van Damme as Ryu in 1994’s Street Fighter, Mann has seen his name across numerous Hollywood credit lines — starring with the likes of Richard Gere, Chow Yun-Fat, Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu. He played the main villain in 2011’s The Man With The Iron Fists, a period film directed by Wu Tang Clan’s RZA. He also appeared in Bill Kong’s Cold War, the Hong Kong Film Award-sweeping thriller starring Tony Leung Ka-fai, Aaron Kwok and Andy Lau.
But little did audiences know Mann spent his formative years in Hong Kong, before studying philosophy at UCLA. Like many university students, he too hesitated on a decisive career path, and decided to take on a summer internship at a law firm in Hong Kong. It was here where the partner eventually deemed him unsuited for the legal profession, yet encouraged him to pursue his real passion in life: acting. Mann has found his home in Hollywood ever since.
In recent years, Mann has worked predominantly on the small screen, starring in AMC series Hell On Wheels, Syfy’s The Expanse, as well as Netflix’s cyberpunk series Altered Carbon. His latest work is Netflix Original series Wu Assassins, by Hong Kong director Stephen Fung. We catch up with Byron Mann and learn more about how he spends his time between Los Angeles, Vancouver and Hong Kong.
Name: Byron Mann
Neighbourhood: Central and Western District
Occupation: Actor and Producer
1. What is your life motto?
Seize the day.
2. What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Hong Kong?
At a private dinner party at Isola in IFC. The host had a 20 course meal. The food was flown in from Japan and Italy the day before. The wine was flown in from Italy also the day before. Each meal was paired with a specific wine. There were 20 people, and 20 dishes. I stopped at meal number 14. I felt both full and guilty.
3. Who is your role model?
I don’t really have one. If I were to pick, it would probably be my father.
4. What was your first job?
I taught tennis.
5. What is your drink of choice?
Gin & Tonic.
6. When was the last time you drove a car?
Just today. In the US, I have a collector’s car there, and I’m often asked by strangers if I will sell the car to them.
7. What is the best thing in or about your apartment?
The view — of the Hong Kong harbour.
8. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Night owl. But I travel regularly between the US and Hong Kong, so I’m constantly jet-lagged, which means I’m constantly waking up very early. So strangely, I’ve become a morning person.
9. Which phone app do you use that you think more people should know about?
Instagram. I get a lot of tennis instructions there.
10. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
11. What is your biggest regret in life?
Don’t have one. Life’s all about moving forward.
12. What do you hate most about living in Hong Kong?
That it seems to be mostly a finance and property town. That has to change.
13. What is the top destination on your bucket list?
14. How often do you prepare your own meals? What’s your best dish?
Breakfast when I’m in the US — over easy eggs. In Hong Kong, it’s breakfast at a cha chaan teng. It’s my favourite past time in Hong Kong.
15. What is your greatest fear?
16. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
Oatmeal raisin cookies. And, not the vegan kind.
17. What is one movie everyone should see?
When Harry Met Sally.
18. What is your typical Sunday like?
Church, read scripts, workout.
19. Which moment in your life would you most like to relive?
None. I’m all about experiencing new moments.
20. If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
Hong Kong. Without a doubt.
21. What makes someone a real Hongkonger?
The belief that nothing is impossible.
22. If you could invite any five people in the world to your dream dinner party, who would they be?
Jesus Christ, Denzel Washington, Jimmy Connors, Al Pacino, Sophie Marceau.
23. Where do you go when you want to be alone?
Anywhere in Hong Kong is fine, preferably with a view of the water. Ocean breeze is my favourite scent in the whole world.
24. Who is the best teacher you’ve ever had, what is one important lesson that they taught you?
The late Hong Kong actor Roy Chiao once told me, “If you want to be a great actor, get in front of the camera as often as you can, and play as many roles as you can.” It’s absolutely true.
25. How many pairs of shoes do you currently own? Which do you wear the most often?
I’ve lost track, but my favourite is my white leather CLAE sneakers.
26. Would you rather never be alone for a single moment, or be alone for the rest of your life? Why?
I’d rather be alone than be with someone just for the sake of being with someone. That would be the end of me.
27. What is the last dream you remember waking up to?
All my dreams are thrillers. Not one has been happy. I don’t know why.