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Hollywood Balancing Act

Drawing on martial arts philosophy, Peter Jang finds mind-body balance in a decade-plus career

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A self-described “multi-head,” Peter Jang has been pushing boundaries in Hollywood for over a decade as an actor, stuntman, screenwriter, and director.

With recent big wins for his short film Mask, which he starred in and directed—including “Best Actor” at the 2022 RED Movie Awards in Reims, France, and “Best Narrative Short” at the 2022 Marina Del Rey Film Festival—Jang is making a name for himself and the production company he founded in 2016, Simplicity Pictures, Inc.

Before landing in Hollywood, Jang grew up near Columbus, Ohio. As a teenager and throughout college, he was a black-belt Taekwondo athlete, winning five national titles. After high school, he moved to California and earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of California, San Diego.

With degree in hand, he began working as an actor and stuntman, including on multiple big-name projects such as NCIS Hawai’i, General Hospital, American Horror Stories, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Suicide Squad, Westworld, and many others.

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Influencing through film

Even with the physical demands of his acting and stunt work, Jang finds it easy to maintain the energy and motivation needed to keep up this pace “because I enjoy it so much and I see so much value in it.”

“Film has a certain kind of magic to it, because it can really influence people,” he says. “[It] change the way they look at the world, deal with their relationships, or even live their life.”

This desire to affect people deeply is on display in Mask, in which Jang stars as a veteran who is coping with PTSD symptoms—a subject he is passionate about, finding inspiration from his mother’s experiences as a veteran.

Similarly, his screenplay Simulation, which ranked in the top 10 in Filmmatic’s Drama Screenplay Awards, exposes the effects of technology on relationships. Set in the near future, this story follows a man who practices for a dream date by running simulations indistinguishable from reality.

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Mind and body harmony

Jang’s journey has been shaped by a personal philosophy deeply rooted in martial arts, one that focuses on harmony between mind, body, and nature. It also emphasizes a belief in the “balanced” person, where “if you don't nourish your body, then your mind is not going to do as well,” he says.

For Jang, healthy living includes eating well and regular physical activity, but also getting out in the sun every morning and evening to keep his circadian rhythm in sync with the natural rhythms of the world.

Though he strives to be disciplined about his healthy habits, there are times when even he’s thrown off balance. “There's not really anything you can do to prevent those kinds of things from happening,” he says.

A recent challenge stems from his parents’ health issues. His father was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and early-onset dementia, and his mother has been dealing with anxiety and PTSD from when she was in the military. Both parents moved out to California to be closer to Jang.

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Discipline as self-care

As a result of his parents’ health problems, “I was having these problems in my personal life, and it started making me depressed,” he says. So “I wasn’t moving around as much and wasn’t eating as well.”

While it can be tempting to respond to stress by seeking out comfort foods, binge watching your favorite shows, or staying up late or sleeping in—which Jang admits he is guilty of sometimes—doing the opposite may help even more.

“Self-care really comes from being a little bit more disciplined,” he says, “especially when you’re stressed out or you don’t think you have time.”

Instead of choosing whatever feels good in the short-term, he suggests going the slightly harder route—such as skipping the comfort foods for a meal that nourishes, or getting off the couch and going outside in nature.

“Those kinds of things are going to do much more for people when they have really stressful times in their life,” he says.

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Cleansing mind and body

Supplements go hand-on-hand with healthy eating, regular physical activity, and good sleep, and support your brain’s impressive powers.

Supplement 

May improve … 

Vitamin D

depressive symptoms, mood, negative emotions, and cognitive function

Omega-3 fatty acids

depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms

Magnesium

cognitive function, depressive symptoms

L-theanine (found in green tea)

cognitive function (such as attention), calmness and relaxation, stress-related symptoms

Your body has a complex way of eliminating toxins, involving the liver, kidneys, digestive system, skin, and lungs. Here’s how to help those organs do their work:

·   Limit alcohol - Excessive drinking can impair  liver function.

·   Sleep better - During high-quality sleep, waste products are removed  from the brain.

·   Drink more water - Water helps remove  waste products through breathing, sweating, and urination.

·   Eat foods rich in prebiotics - This natural fiber feeds  good gut bacteria, and is found in tomatoes, artichokes, bananas, asparagus, onions, garlic, oats, etc.

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Real-world simulations

Last year roughly 160,000 members of the SAG-AFTRA actors' union walked out for nearly four months over a dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). One of the key disagreements was the use of AI in the entertainment industry.

The deal reached in December scored some protections for the union—producers looking to reproduce actors’ likenesses with AI must first obtain their consent; and the actors must be paid for the creation and use of their replicas, although rates vary.

However, some are concerned with “vague” exemptions to the protections and the possibility that the contract still allows real actors to be replaced by “Synthetic Performers.” In spite of these concerns, the deal has essentially solidified AI as a part of the industry, with impacts well into the future.

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Living naturally nature’s way

Spending time in nature regularly provides a whole range of health benefits, such as improved cognitive function, reduced blood pressure, boosted mental health, greater physical activity, and better sleep. If you live in a city, seek out pockets of nature tucked among the buildings.

 

This article was originally published in the May-June 2024 issue of alive magazine (US edition).

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