Canadian actor Donald Heng followed a downright unorthodox route to break into the business, but it’s definitely working for him. The Vancouver-born Heng’s recurring role as Deputy Larry Foon on the new SyFy network fantasy/horror television series Ghost Wars encapsulates the Heng story, an offbeat, pan-professional mash-up of career choices that has placed him alongside some high profile stars.
“Quite frankly, I never felt I was attracted to acting for necessarily the right reasons,” Heng said. “I grew up admiring the police I saw portrayed in films and I wanted to be a police officer. I studied criminology in university. In the end, I figured being an actor would provide the positive aspects of being a cop without having to deal with the public pressure and boring administrative work.”
Born in Vancouver B.C., Heng had flirted with acting as a teenager, but after graduating high school and studying for a Bachelor of Arts Degree for Political Science and History at Simon Fraser University, he decided to obtain representation and study the craft in earnest.
“Despite that initial ambivalence, I fell in love with acting for all the right reasons. I acquired an agent and jumped in headfirst,” Heng said. “I studied acting with Jeb Beach for the next 5 years. And also worked with Matthew Harrison, Robin Nielsen and most recently, Andrew McElroy.”
“Initially I just wanted to be on TV,” Heng said. “I can pinpoint the exact moment I decided I wanted to be an actor and that I was in it for the long run. My second class ever with Jeb Beach coincided with a deeply depressing moment in my life and Jeb helped me channel that energy into something I was able to illustrate through acting. I realized that I could take all the bad things I’d experienced in life and turn these into something good. Meryl Streep articulated it best as she remembered Carrie Fisher, ‘take your broken heart, and make it into art.’”
Heng swiftly parlayed that emotional breakthrough into a successful television career, with a small but memorable role in Disney’s T.V movie Girl Vs. Monster, a string of appearances on such series as Supernatural, Ransom, Arrow and, most recently, the elegantly terrifying Ghost Wars.
“This was a project that checked so many boxes on my list,” Heng said. “First off, I got to play a police officer which has always been a dream of mine. Secondly, I deeply respect the actors on this series. It was a wonderful experience to work with Vincent D’Onofrio [Full Metal Jacket, Netflix’s Daredevil], Meatloaf and Avan Jogia. I had some challenging experiences working on this as my character goes through some traumatic events in the series premiere. But it was a challenge that I welcomed and deeply appreciate the opportunity to have experienced it.”
His co-stars agree. “Donald was an absolute pleasure to work with,” Ghost Wars lead Avan Jogia said. “It’s so nice to act alongside someone who understands what each individual character brings to a scene and then, ultimately, the entire piece.”
Heng is also fully invested in his new role. “I am very excited about Ghost Wars,” Heng said. The horror/fantasy has experienced revitalization in recent years and demand for quality stories in the genre is at an all-time high. New shows have to meet that demand by integrating a very human story into the horror and develop a show that can stand on its own and be mainstream without just catering to a niche market. Remove the ‘creepy factor,’ and there’s still a very human story beneath it. By attaching that human component, it becomes easier to think about the character’s relationships and also about what might be at stake because of that ghostly entity.”
Heng stands at the cusp, savoring a rich, loaded professional moment in a fast moving career that has already come far and is poised to reach full bloom
“I just want to make good movies and TV,” Heng said. “And I want to do it for the same reasons that I fell in love with acting—I want to continue to push that goal of consolidating all the bad that is in my life and make it into something beautiful.”
Donald Heng will next appear as a guest star on episode 2 of the 4th season of The Flash airing on the CW, Tues., Oct.17th.