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Sam Song Li, Navigating the Complexity of Acting

In the realm of storytelling and the silver screen, actor Sam Song Li embarked on an unexpected journey that began with aspirations of becoming a filmmaker. Initially uncertain about the possibility of a career in acting, Sam's foray into filmmaking equipped him with a robust creative voice for storytelling. Despite not being a cinephile in his earlier years and confessing a fondness for anime, Sam's cinematic epiphany occurred around the age of 16 or 17. Certain films, notably Richard Linklater's "Boyhood," left an indelible mark on him, kindling a passion for the industry and inspiring his eventual transition into acting. The nuanced impact of films like "Boyhood" fueled his desire to become a storyteller, with acting emerging organically as a complementary avenue for expression. One of Sam's standout roles is that of Bruce Sun in "The Brothers Sun." We caught up with Sam Song Li on set of IRK's exclusive fashion shoot.

Coat: Pringle of Scotland @pringleofscotland

IRK: Can you share a bit about your journey into acting? What or who inspired you to pursue a career in this field?


Sam: You know, I actually wanted to be a filmmaker while growing up. I wasn’t sure if it was even possible for me to really have a career as an actor! Filmmaking really allowed me to discover my creative voice for storytelling, and I think having a strong filmmaking background has given me a lot of confidence in my acting in general! 


Funny enough, I wasn’t really a big film buff growing up. I didn’t watch a lot of movies, I liked anime haha. But at some point around 16, or 17 years old, I discovered cinema in a way that I never considered before. I felt deeply moved by certain films, and I walked out of certain movies feeling like I couldn’t see life the same way anymore, that the impact or message lingered with my soul. Boyhood by Richard Linklater was one such film and I think that was one of the first movies that really made me fall in love with this industry. I knew I wanted to be a storyteller and tell my own stories like that one day. Acting was definitely a by-product of that. 


IRK: Collaboration is key in the film industry. Can you share a memorable behind-the-scenes moment or collaboration that stands out to you, perhaps a challenge you faced and overcame with your fellow cast or crew members?


Sam: There are so many. This entire industry truly is collaborative and i feel like everyday was a collaborative experience! But a memorable collaborative experience I had while filming The Brothers Sun was when I got the chance to do Groundlings improv with my castmates who were, and played actual Groundlings performers! They were the real deal, and I’m not as experienced as they are with improv so I felt like I had a lot to learn. But they were so nice and supportive, I think all of them helped me find my footing and gain confidence in the scene. So much of groundlings improv is supporting each other, and I feel like they truly did their best to support me in those pivotal scenes! 


Coat: Fradi @fradi_brand

IRK: Do you have a favorite role you have ever played? If yes, who and why? 


Sam: I definitely think Bruce Sun is up there, if not my favorite to date. Bruce is such a complicated character. He’s going through a lot, his world is flipped upside down almost overnight, and begins to cave in rapidly throughout the series. He’s unsure of where he is morally, and he’s torn between all the expectations the people around him have for him. I think this kind of nuance and complexity is so beautiful to explore as an actor. There’s so much there, and his mannerisms are so unique to himself. Playing Bruce Sun will forever be an unforgettable experience for me. 


Coat: Fradi @fradi_brand

IRK: Technology has been rapidly changing the landscape of entertainment. As an actor, how do you navigate the integration of technology in filmmaking, and do you have any preferences for traditional or cutting-edge approaches to storytelling?


Sam: Haha, this is an interesting question. I’m not sure. There’s a few ways to approach this question! I think in terms of specific technologies being used in TV and movies, I would love to learn more about it. I haven’t been a part of any epic fantasies or sci-fi yet, so I’m not sure! 


But I do think that social media and AI has changed the entertainment landscape in so many ways than we can really even understand. For one, social media has made content accessible to so many more people. All the movie companies are basically turning into tech companies because everyone and everything is just trying to fight for our attention span. It’s really fascinating to see how the industry has changed to keep up with these trends. And as someone who has made a living in both industries, I’m particularly invested, haha. 


Coat: Jerrykey @jerrykeyjackets

IRK: Favorite skincare routine? 


Sam: I don’t do anything fancy! But I have a very specific approach for healthier skin these days. It’s just 2 things that matter the most to me. Drinking a gallon of water a day/eating as healthy as possible. And wearing more sunscreen. Paying close attention to these 2 things has been a game-changer for my skin! 


IRK: Do you have a favorite sneaker? 


Sam: I do. I’m a huge sneaker head, but weirdly enough, really only for basketball shoes. I have a pair of the Kobe protro 5, Bruce Lee alternative colorway. It’s just such a beautiful shoe, and the performance while on a basketball court is some of the best you can get in a shoe. I’m absolutely obsessed with that pair of shoes. 


IRK: Favorite song or musician? 


Sam: There’s too many to name! But if I must, I’m a big fan of Joji. I resonate with his music a lot, it’s phenomenal, but the most interesting part about him is that he started off as a very off-beat YouTuber. I loved what he has done with his career. And it’s actually very inspiring for me in so many ways since I’m an actor who also had my start on YouTube. 


IRK: Did you learn martial arts for your performance in The Brothers Sun? What was that process like?


Sam: No I didn’t! But I had martial arts experience prior to filming! Apparently, our stunt team thought I was overqualified and wanted me to stay away from the training as much as possible, they wanted to make sure I looked as clueless as possible haha! 


IRK: Can you share a moment or project in your career that you consider a turning point or a milestone, and how did it shape your trajectory?


Sam: To be honest, I don’t think I would even be here if not for landing my first TV role ever, my first professional acting gig as Carey Anderson, Howard Hamlin’s unofficial favorite intern in Better Call Saul. To be on an Emmy nominated show like that really set the standard for the quality of work I wanted to be presenting and doing. It taught me a lot about what it means to be a professional actor. What an honor. 


Sweater: Paul & Shark @paulandshark

IRK: As an actor, you often embody different characters. Is there a particular role that you found especially challenging or transformative, and how did it impact you personally and professionally?


Sam: You know, as much as I relate to Bruce Sun and share so many similarities with him. I think there are still distinct differences between us. He’s such a heightened version of me in so many ways, and to really channel that kind of sheltered energy was draining at times. Bruce is a soft, sensitive kid. he’s learning and he doesn’t want to disappoint or let anyone down. He’s also going through the most catastrophic and traumatizing experience of his life, all within the span of a week or so. This sort of emotional state is tiring. It’s draining. And there were days where after being in this state for 10, 12 hours, I just felt like I had nothing left in the tank. I was pooped emotionally and physically. 


Coat: Fradi @fradi_brand

IRK: How do you manage your time and maintain a healthy work-life balance, especially during busy periods of filming or production?


Sam: Unfortunately that’s the sacrifice you have to make as actor! I think people forget how much work goes into acting when it comes to the preparation and homework of a professional actor. We need to be fully prepared and locked in the moment the camera is ready and the director yells action. When I’m filming, I don’t have time for anything else. My life quite literally revolves around the project. Luckily, as an actor you also have a lot of downtime. It’s rare to be constantly working all year round for multiple years. You have extended gaps of free time in between, and I think that’s when you can really relax and recover. That’s when you can enjoy the “life” side of the “work-life” balance! But hey, maybe I got it all wrong. Who knows. I’m still relatively new so maybe there’s a better approach I don’t know about, haha. 


IRK: Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for your acting career? Are there specific directors, genres, or types of characters you are eager to explore in future projects?


Sam: Everything is on the table. I want to explore it all! After all, that’s the beauty of storytelling and acting. We’re here to explore the many different  facets of the human condition. But I love to surprise people. I love doing things that people don’t think I can, or couldn’t picture me doing. I like to keep people on their toes like that. We’ll just have to wait and see! 

Yellow Jacket: Jaded London @jadedldn

Pants: Ksubi @ksubi


Photographer: Jayme Thornton @jaymethornton

Creative Director: Cannon @thecannonmediagroup @raybrownpro @artistmanagementmiami

Talent: Sam Song Li @thesamlitv Jill Fritzo PR @jillfritzopr

Groomer: Andreas Schönagel @andreasschonagel @artistmanagementmiami

Assistant Stylist: Winnie Noan @winnie_noan

Fashion Assistant: Alaye Alleyne @alayealleyne



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