Taylor Takahashi makes film debut in coming-of-age drama ‘Boogie’
Over Christmas break in 2018, Taylor Takahashi was given the screenplay “Boogie” to read by his boss and producer Eddie Huang, author of “Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir,” which was the basis for the ABC television series of the same name. At the time, Takahashi was working as Huang’s personal assistant.
It was his first time ever seeing and reading a movie script. After reading the approximately 130 pages, Takahashi recalls writing in his first note back to Huang, “’I see a lot of myself in this kid. I resonate with a lot of what he’s going through and his dream of playing professional basketball,’” he recounts in a recent call with the Banner.
The coming-of-age drama, out now in theaters, tells the story of Alfred “Boogie” Chin, a Chinese American high school basketball phenom in New York City who dreams of playing in the NBA — all while struggling to balance high school, on-court rivals, the expectations of his family and a budding relationship with girlfriend Eleanor, played by Taylour Paige (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”). The movie also marks Huang’s directorial debut.
For Takahashi, a fourth-generation Japanese American, who grew up in northern California’s Bay Area playing high school basketball, soccer and baseball, it was apparent when he read the script that he and Boogie shared some similarities. “I don’t know New York, but I know the world of basketball and hip-hop and home life, and I can get the adolescent journey that this kid had gone through,” he says.
But even with their commonalities, Takahashi had no intention of playing Boogie. He simply hoped to provide his “two cents” for the role and the production. Little did he know; Huang had begun preparing him for the part over the course of the year they worked together by assigning him a wide variety of books to read and films to watch. It was only a matter of time before Huang would begin asking him about taking on the character. “Eddie always has a master plan, and he’s always like three steps ahead,” says Takahashi, who finally accepted his destiny to portray Boogie.
When he landed the role, he had only three weeks to prepare. He found an openness working with Paige, he says. The first-time actor took his cues from Paige’s easy-going manner in getting to know each other as people and developing a friendship, which led to their natural chemistry on screen. His gritty street-basketball scenes came much more easily to him, especially the outdoor ones. “I can play basketball in my sleep, still to this day,” says Takahashi. “I love the game, and I’ve developed a different love outside of just the competition side of it. It’s been such a great teacher and such a beacon of reference for me.”
Now that he’s had a taste of acting, Takahashi plans on pursuing this new career, “hands down.” He wants to fully immerse himself in the film industry as both an actor and a producer, he says, and he is ready for any opportunities that come his way.