Qualified is one word you might use to describe David Lim. If you were to look at his resume from top to bottom you may be a little confused. Starting with a degree in electrical engineering it takes a slight right to some time in real estate as a loan officer and then a sharp left to model and now actor. He certainly can hold his own in any number of conversations.
David is on a mission, one role at a time to diversify and break the misleading racial stereotypes in the film and television industries. He’s smart, he’s creative, he’s talented and he is absolutely on his way to the top. We had the pleasure of chatting with him and here’s what he had to say.
What are your three favorite apps on your phone?
David: Instagram, Maps, and I like the Stock Market app.
What was your favorite toy growing up?
David: My favorite toy growing up was a basketball hoop called Countdown that I got from Costco. Just boom, boom, boom, boom, balls coming back to you and tally up your score.
What was the last gift you gave someone?
David: I gave one of my co-stars, it was a Cuban cigar.
What three words best describe you?
David: Hardworking, easygoing, and fun.
What’s the farthest you’ve ever been from home?
David: The farthest I’ve ever been from home was Australia. That’s pretty far.
If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
David: I would find a cure for cancer.
If you could learn the answer to one question about your future, what would the question be?
David: I don’t want to know anything about the future. I like surprises.
If you could drop in for dinner with one famous television family, who would it be?
David: Roseanne‘s family.
Where are you from?
David: I’m from San Ramon, California. The Bay Area.
You have an electrical engineering degree. What drove you in that direction?
David: I grew up in a very traditional Asian-American family where we study hard, get a good education, get a good job and provide for our family. I wanted to go in that direction. I wanted to find a stable job with a good income. My dad had always wanted to be an electrical engineer. It never worked out for him. He steered me in that direction, and that’s what I chose to study in college.
Was there ever a point before actually achieving that degree that you knew you might want to do something else like acting, modeling?
David: No, never. I don’t come from a family of artists or actors. I never saw anyone that looked like me in TV and movies. In the back of my head, I didn’t think it was possible. I never thought about acting. I never thought about doing anything creative. I always thought I was going to get just a regular nine-to-five.
Tell us about the progression of your career from a degree in electrical engineering to actor.
David: I graduated with my degree in engineering. I found out very quickly that I did not want to become an engineer. I got into real estate, and I was working as a loan officer for about three years. I loved my job. I was doing well. I thought I was going to work my way up the corporate ladder. I think I hit a quarter-life crisis. I was 25 at that time, and I remember feeling that I was meant to do something else. I wasn’t being challenged at my job at that time.
A couple of people had mentioned to me, “Hey, you should try modeling or acting.” Again, I come from a family so far removed from that world that I never thought it was something that I could actually do for a living. I took a leap of faith and decided that I was going to give it a shot. One day I had too much time on my hands at work and I just started doing research on the internet and figured out, “Oh, you have to get an agent to act. Oh, you’ve got to study to become an actor.”
I dropped everything, got into a class, eventually fell in love with it. I moved to LA, and the rest is history.
You were a model first?
David: Yes. I always wanted to become an actor. I was getting more modeling jobs when I started out. That was my way to support myself and pay the bills while I was pursuing this acting thing. I always knew from the start that I wanted to be an actor. I knew there was a shorter lifespan to a modeling career, but acting, you can act until you’re old and gray.
What was your first big break as an actor?
David: My first network show, Quantico. That was the first time that I had a role with substance, and I was a regular recurring character on a prime time show.
You’ve done Quantico and now you’re on S.W.A.T. These shows are very action-based. Do you do your own stunts?
David: I do, when they let me. We have a pretty athletic cast. All of us are former baseball players, basketball players, football players, so as much as we can we do. The only ones they don’t let us do are the ones where we might kill ourselves, or for insurance and liability purposes, they are like, “David, you cannot do that stunt. The studio will not let us.” We do have stunt doubles but, I’d say, 80% of the time, we’re doing our own stunts.
If you could share the screen with any other actor or actress, past or present, who would it be?
David: Brad Pitt. He was my favorite actor growing up. I idolized him and I just loved his work.
Is there anyone that you credit as the rock or the inspiration behind your career?
David: The inspiration behind my career would be my parents. They came here with nothing. They grew up very poor. Through hard work and dedication, they were able to have a great life and provide a great life for their kids. I get a lot of my work ethic and my values from them. That’s a large part of why I have had the success that I’ve had in my career.
How did your family react to you choosing to take the leap into acting?
David: They were thrilled.[laughs] I come from a pretty traditional family, so part of them was just probably so taken aback. They wanted so much for me to just go into a traditional, normal job. “This is why we sent you to college, we paid for your college education”.
At the same time, because they had been at their jobs for so long, my mom is going on her 40th year, they knew that it can be a grind and at times, not so fun. So that part of them wanted me to pursue what I was passionate about. I have had more success and I get to share everything with them they feel part of my life and they’ve been very supportive.
Describe the experience the first time you watched yourself on television.
David: It was a commercial for Gillette. It was during the NBA finals when the Celtics were playing the Lakers. It was my first time on national television. I remember getting all these texts like, “Hey we just saw you on TV” Then they ran this thing for a year. I would see it anytime I was watching TV. I watch a lot of sports and they’d always be playing this commercial during live events. It’s a cool feeling and I was like, “Alright, that’s pretty cool. I can do this for a living”.
What are your goals for the future?
David: More SWAT. We were almost done filming the first season, we’ll find out in a couple of months if we get picked up for season two. Fingers crossed. It’s a fun, entertaining show, it’s got kick-ass action, it’s got a lot of heart. I get to play an action hero every Thursday on national television. I really don’t think it gets better than that. Especially me being an Asian-American who used to watch TV and movies and I’d never see an Asian in a cool role. So for me to get to do a role like this, it doesn’t get much better. So I am hoping SWAT goes many seasons, and of course I’d love to do a studio film or and independent movie. More roles that have a lot of substance and where I can really show what I can do.
If you could go back and give some advise to your younger self, what would it be?
David: That’s a tough one. I don’t think I would change anything about who I was in my younger self or what decisions I made because I think they all led me to where I am now. I think it might throw me off that path. Who knows, maybe I might be an engineer right now. If anything, just patience, be patient, let things come to you as they do. Everything happens for a reason.
Anything that you would want to go OnRCRD about?
David: Asian Americans don’t get many characters on mainstream television shows that some kid might look at and be like, “I want to be like that person”. Part of the reason I never thought acting was an option was because I never saw anybody that looked like me on television. If I did, it was in a very stereotypical role. I was always like, “That’s not what we’re like. That’s not accurate.” With SWAT, I get to play a bad-ass action hero, so that is really rewarding. A role like this, I think it’s hugely important.
Hopefully, some kid out there now, can look at it, see me on here and maybe see acting is a possibility or maybe just, “Hey, I can be cool, I can be an action hero, I can be a SWAT officer”.
Since I’ve gotten into the business, I have seen it get a lot better for minority actors, particularly the Asians but we still need more diversity in front of and behind the camera. We need more Asian-American directors, writers and filmmakers to fill these roles. I don’t think anything happens overnight, but diversity and inclusion is at the top of network executive minds. Executives, casting directors, writers, it’s at the top of everyone’s minds which is great.
And I am just going to go OnRCRD and say that SWAT is the most entertaining show on network television. So tune in every Thursday night, 10:00 PM on CBS.
For more from David Lim follow him @davidbradleylim
Photographer – Mario Barberio
Grooming – Kimberly Johnson
Wardrobe Stylist – Joi Salvador