After starting to act at just 7 years old, actor Albert Tsai quickly proved he had the chops to work alongside huge names including Ken Jeong, Michaela Watkins and Marcia Gay Harden. Now, six years later, the star has a number of impressive credits under his belt, and has most recently made his debut on the brand new CBS sitcom 9JKL, which he spoke to Movie Pilot about.
9JKL — which airs Monday nights on CBS — follows Josh Roberts (Mark Feuerstein), a recently divorced TV actor who moves into apartment 9K, adjacent to his parents in 9J and his brother, sister-in-law and baby nephew in 9L. While the show largely focusses on the obstacles that come with a family living so close to each other, Tsai also stars as their precocious neighbor, Ian. Described by Tsai as "really mature" and "kind of a cinephile," Ian is mostly found in the lobby of the apartment building in the series:
"He's a latchkey kid who likes to hang out in the lobby with Nick the doorman, and they kind of just have this banter going with anyone that passes through the lobby."
It's in these lobby scenes that Tsai — who has previously starred in the shows Trophy Wife, Fresh Off the Boat and Dr. Ken — really shows off his comedic timing, particularly in the frequent burns that Ian makes towards main character, Josh. As an actor known for his performance on a show titled Blind Cop, Josh's work is obviously not held in high esteem by his cinephile neighbor:
"[Ian]'s a movie buff, so often when Josh comes through the lobby, he'll tease him about his TV career"
Take a look at the trailer for 9JKL below to see Tsai in action as Ian:
While working alongside such stars such as Feuerstein, Elliot Gould (Harry), David Walton (Andrew) and Linda Lavin (Judy) may have have some actors quaking in their boots, Tsai says that it's nothing but fun to work with the talented cast. He even adds that the group all help each other improvise on set:
"It's great being able to work with everyone, and we all kind of bounce ideas off each other. We'll sometimes improv some lines after doing out main take, we'll do another take where we kind of mess around and improv, and we'll kind of bounce ideas off of each other for lines. It's really fun working with them, we're kind of like a big family."
Although working on comedies is second nature to Tsai, whose first TV credit was for an episode of How I Met Your Mother, he notes that 9JKL's weekly taping in front of a studio audience really adds something to the experience:
"Every Tuesday a live audience comes in, and we'll do the entire episode for them. And what's cool about that is we get the live, immediate reaction from them off of the jokes. So if we know a joke works because it gets a big laugh from the audience then we'll keep that, but if something doesn't get that big of a reaction we'll tweak it, and change it, and maybe use a couple of alternative lines. So it's good to have that kind of energy. It really brings another aspect to the comedy."
And does Tsai think he'll always focus on the comedy genre? Maybe, but he's also pretty keen to try his hand at some new genres as well:
"I've always loved making people laugh, and doing comedy, although I also wanted to maybe to do some action or adventure stuff in the future. Maybe like a feature film or something, that would also cool."
And considering he only recently turned 13-years-old and is already slaying the comedy game, something tells us the acting world is mostly certainly Albert Tsai's oyster!
You can see Albert Tsai as Ian in 9JKL which airs Mondays on CBS.