To celebrate my 32nd birthday, I started the Hustle Hard Interview Project. Each month for the next year, I’ll be interviewing one Hustler who embodies a skill or a quality I admire. I hope to uncover some gems that bring me one step closer to being a fully-formed adult.
I discovered Gene Hong while clicking around on Twitter instead of doing honest work. I’m not gonna lie: Reading one tweet turned into checking his entire Twitter stream. I appreciate a good laugh, and Gene’s tweets are refreshingly original and consistently funny. Gene is an accomplished writer, actor, and producer who majored in chemistry and environmental science in college, but decided to pursue a career in writing after a summer writing internship. “If you’re spiritual, you can call it a gift. If you’re not spiritual, then you can call it a skillset. But whatever it is that you’re good at, you have to do it, and that becomes your contribution. “While I search for my own way to contribute, it’s thrilling to see others like Gene who are dedicated to honing their talents and taking “big things poppin'” to a whole nother level.
EJL: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given, personal or professional?
GH: I went to Six Flags last year and rode X2 four times in a row. It was awesome, but it gave me a huge headache, so my friend gave me a few over-the-counter pain relievers. My headache was immediately gone. That’s probably the best Advil I’ve ever been given.
EJL: I think you misheard my question. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
GH: Oh. No matter how little or much success you get, always be kind.
EJL: And writing advice?
GH: Writers write.
EJL: So do you write every day even when you don’t feel like it? Do you go by time or word count?
GH: Yeah, I pretty much write every day. Weekdays, I write for a TV show, so the only time I have to work on other projects (features, pilots, etc.) is nights and weekends. I don’t go by time or word count as much as the general feeling of having accomplished enough for the session.
EJL: The TV show you’ve talking about is NBC’s Community, right? How has your experience been this season?
GH: Community has been great. I’ve met some incredibly talented and nice people. I got to write an ambitious musical episode this year, which has been a blast.
EJL: What are some challenges you’ve faced in Hollywood?
GH: The biggest challenge I’ve faced in Hollywood is understanding San Vicente Boulevard, which curves diagonally and cuts through both the north-south and east-west streets of Los Angeles.
EJL: You don’t seem very crazy to me. Strike that. It came out wrong. English is my second language, and I have trouble communicating sometimes. Wait, was that racist? Let me try that again. What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
GH: This might be one of those “the answer’s in the question” questions because actually, being a writer can be therapy for certain people. There is so much out of our control in Hollywood, especially if you’re an aspiring artist. Writing at least gives you some semblance of control, something tangible to quantify your work, which can be therapeutic.
EJL: Your tweets are hilarious. I have to make a concerted effort not to retweet every single one. Have you had any interesting opportunities or interactions because of Twitter?
GH: I’ve actually become real-life friends with a couple of people through Twitter, which I think is awesome. The coolest interaction I’ve had is finding out that Jerry Seinfeld follows me, then tweeting back and forth with him. I didn’t have to humblebrag that to my friends, I just straight-up-bragged about it. So cool!
EJL: I recently saw a friend tweet, delete, and rework a tweet three times. Do you ever do this?
All the time. No.
EJL: Your longtime best friend/roommate happens to be Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. In what ways does having a friend committed to his own creative pursuit influenced you?
GH: You know those people who after you spend time with them, you feel drained? Energy Vampires? Adam’s the exact opposite of that. He’s extremely energizing and positive which makes for a great creative environment.
EJL: Do people in your personal life get nervous you’ll include your shared experiences with them in your work?
GH: I don’t think so. I’d never share anything negative about the people in my life. But that does remind me…this one time, I watched Adam kill a hobo.
EJL: Tupac or Biggie?
GH: “Ain’t a woman alive that can take my momma’s place.” -Tupac Shakur