We found Alex Huynh, or @kungfualex, the way so many of us (aging) millenials find our favorite connections—scrolling the old Instagram feed. Michael stumbled upon Alex’s profile and was captivated, for obvious reasons.
Alex is an actor, stuntman, world traveler, and athlete with an impressive Hollywood résume we can’t sufficiently recap here; just check Alex’s IMDB profile and you’ll see why.
Best of all, Alex is a truly thoughtful and engaging person. We sent a couple pairs of Mohinders along on his travels, and heard about how one kid growing up in Roanoke, Virginia becomes a world-class kung fu practitioner and stuntman.
Alex in Budapest • image credit: @kungfualex
What do you look for in a pair of jumpshot-ready shoes?
It’s best to lift off in a good pair of light-weight shoes with solid arch support to cushion my flat and ogre-ish feet. A cloud-like sole with the perfect balance of smooth but sticky grip certainly aids in a pleasant, non-slip landing as well. A low profile design - one mimicking as though I’m not wearing shoes at all - is ideal to reassure me that they won’t fly off midair and surprise an innocent bystander. And last but not least, style is key!
“Eighty to ninety percent of the time I still get butterflies whenever I hear the words ‘rolling…and action!’”
Recent, most challenging action scene?
Eighty to ninety percent of the time I still get butterflies whenever I hear the words “rolling…and action!” But for sure one of the most challenging action scenes I was a part of recently was the motorcycle sword fight on John Wick 3.
One of the beautiful opportunities we have in cinema is to honor the greats who have done it before us. In this case, the reference was a groundbreaking Korean actioner called The Villainess. We wanted to pay homage to their motorcycle sword fight but amp it up even more. This would require not just putting together an exciting sword fight and performing it intensely as though we’re actually fighting at 100 miles per hour on weaving motorcycles, but also a dozen stunt guys in green screen suits moving the bikes around in perfect synchronicity while our Second Unit Director, Darrin Prescott, operated a camera circling around to catch all the action. Darrin is a master of these things, it’s really humbling to be a part of one of his sequences.
The planning alone took several weeks to perfect, every movement meticulously rehearsed as though it were dance choreography. Once the dance was set, elements of visual/special effects were incorporated. Combine the practical motorcycle riding on the Verrazano Bridge and our green screened sword fight with Keanu Reeves - all masterfully cut together in post production - and you get the final product.
Icing on the cake: I got to work in South Korea a couple months ago with the Seoul Action School, which includes the stunt coordinator and stunt doubles from The Villainess. It was really nice to personally give them thanks for their inspiration.
Alex on set • images via IMDB
How did you become a stuntman? Did you always know you wanted to combine your passion for martial arts with the big screen?
When I was five years old, my sister and I put on a puppet show for the neighborhood kids on our grandparents’ front porch. Afterwards we handed out cookies, and when I saw the looks on the faces of the audience - kids all laughing and re-telling their favorite parts of the show - I realized that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: bring people together, entertain audiences, and then somehow give back.
Then about a year into my martial arts training, I competed at my first tournament. Performing in front of a cheering audience sparked the fire for me; I found a way to combine both my passions for entertaining and martial arts. Fast forward to my university days, I was supposed to be studying for exams but had magazines hidden inside my textbooks. I spotted a casting call ad posted by Cirque Du Soleil and immediately put together a video for them. That video secured my spot at an audition held in New York City. When the six hour process was over, myself and a handful of performers were invited to join the pool of candidates for their worldwide productions. Because I was still months away from graduating, I decided to hold off on any decisions regarding Cirque, but they still brought me in to help with some of the choreography. This afforded me a trip out to Los Angeles where I saw what I’d had a hand in developing. Building the confidence in myself that people were actually interested in what I potentially had to offer, I took a chance, moved out to Los Angeles, gave myself six months to make something happen, and hustled my butt off to get in front of the right people. I practically lived out of my car those days. Of course, as chance would have it, I was just training at a gym one day when a gentleman asked if it’d be alright for him to record some of the martial arts movements I was coming up with as well as some acrobatics. About three weeks into the fifth month I was in LA, that gentleman - a legend in the martial arts world and Emmy-award winning stunt coordinator, James Lew - offered me my first acting and stunt opportunities to work in Hollywood on television shows and video games.
“...although there are artists like Jackie Chan and Will Smith who have motivated me to be the best I can in this career, honestly it’s my family who inspire me to do better.”
Who has inspired your stunt acting career most?
There’s a line in one of my favorite movies, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, where Bruce’s father tells him, “Say you'll do better. Tell me you'll make a big noise in America so I can hear it over here.” Growing up, I’d look up to the moon and I’d talk to my mom (that’s where I thought she went when she left this world). I wanted to shine so brightly that she could see me all the way up there.
My family poured so much of their hearts and souls into raising me to pursue whatever made me most happy, especially my sister who would constantly encourage me. So although there are artists like Jackie Chan and Will Smith who have motivated me to be the best I can in this career, honestly it’s my family who inspire me to do better and to create work that resonates so loudly that it’s felt the world over.
“...literally hop-skip-and-jumping all over the world in my Mohinders has birthed a valuable nugget of wisdom: don’t do flips with slip ons. Especially near bodies of water.”
Alex in Halong Bay, Vietnam • image credit: @kungfualex
You’ve roamed the world in your Mohinders. Have you ever done something totally impractical in them? How’d it go?
I like to teeter totter along the lines of practical/impractical when traveling…it makes for awesome stories! However, literally hop-skip-and-jumping all over the world in my Mohinders has birthed a valuable nugget of wisdom: don’t do flips with slip ons. Especially near bodies of water.
Where was the most memorable place you’ve taken your Mohinders?
Most recently I bounced around Europe in my Mohinders. The black iron-dyed city woven shoes have laid foot prints all over the continent, but Paris has got to be my favorite spot so far. Its fashion-forward culture and passion for the arts provided the perfect setting to break in the beautifully hand-woven shoes. However, these babies still need to get their passports stamped for travel to southeast Asia and Africa (hopefully soon)!
Alex in Paris • image credit: @kungfualex
Where do you come from, where did you grow up? What most influences your personal style?
I was born to amazing parents who emigrated from Vietnam to Manhattan, NY. I was raised by my grandparents in Roanoke, Virginia where I grew up around the culture of southern hospitality. After graduating college, I built the foundation of my professional life in Los Angeles, CA. And after ten great years of living in sunny SoCal I decided to return to my roots in New York City where life has really come alive in a big way.
When it comes to my personal style, what influences it on the daily is asking myself, “what do I want to put out into the world today?” Every day is a chance to add a little life to the world (and in return get a little living back) so I try to drape myself in threads that reflect whatever vibe I feel inside.
Also, weather influences my style. Because NYC gets face-getting-poked-by-ice-daggers cold as well as soul-melting hot.
“NYC is like this massive body, the subways its circulatory system...however it is you come into each other’s orbit, at the end of the day, you’ve shared in their adventures and they have in yours.”
You live in NYC now—what is your favorite thing about living in New York?
My favorite thing about NYC is realizing we’re all a part of something bigger. Whereas in LA I felt a part of a larger community, here in New York City I feel a part of a greater family.
NYC is like this massive body, the subways its circulatory system, and the people being transported all over the city are the lifeblood that keeps this incredible machine moving. Every day in New York is an opportunity to be a part of a bigger story by just interacting with others. Every interaction brings you into someone’s story and they get to be a part of yours. Every person you meet in NYC has their own thing going on that involves successes, struggles, joys, drama, chaos, craziness…all sorts of stuff. And however it is you come into each other’s orbit, at the end of the day, you’ve shared in their adventures and they have in yours.
Alex in Baltimore • image credit: @kungfualex
Favorite NYC restaurant?
There are so many! But the one that stands out the most is Saigon Social in the Lower East Side. It’s like a true taste of Vietnam’s diverse cuisine - from north to south - all in one fun location.
image via @sigonsocialnyc
What moves you?
“Favorite road snack: Twizzlers and Combos (pizza flavored, of course).”
Favorite road snack: Gas station foods? Diner foods? Sweet or salty?
I used to commute two hours up and two hours back from Richmond, VA to Washington, DC for wushu training, and on that regular trek I’d always snag a bag of Twizzlers (it’s low calorie after all) and Combos (pizza flavored, of course). This has since become my go-to for any road trip.
As for diners, Golden Diner in Two Bridges has got me hooked on their Chinatown Egg Sando and their Chicken Katsu Club Sandwich!
What initially drew you to Mohinders heirloom, woven leather slide style?
In high school I once borrowed a pair of my uncle’s huarache slippers in an effort to imitate the style of two cool detectives I watched on Miami Vice. When a colorful array of Mohinders showed up on one of my friend’s Instagram stories it felt like a reunion. Reading up on the story of Mohinders, its roots in Indian shoemaking traditions, and its respect for the extensive process, I knew this was a shoe I needed to wrap my feet in.
Favorite Mohinders style: woven or solid? Natural leather or colorways?
Woven and natural all the way!