Personalities | The Ethnically Ambiguous Hero: Jay Hayden

For Battleground dramedy leading man, Jay Hayden, how he looks is only half the battle.

ISSUE: Spring 2012

DEPT: Personalities

STORY: Courtney Hong

“Is it weird that I don’t feel like I have any culture at all?” says actor Jay Hayden. “Korean people don’t think that I am Korean. White people don’t think that I am white. I’m other…the ethnically ambiguous hero.”

Although it may be hard to ethnically identify the handsome, 30-something Korean-Irish American, Hayden is anything but ambiguous. While at The University of Vermont on a soccer scholarship, he decided to take a break to figure out what he really wanted to do. Having only been in a few high school productions, he auditioned for a one-act play without telling anyone. “I just wanted to know if I’m good enough to do this,” he says.

Hayden got the part. At curtain call, he remembers thinking, “This is what I want to do.” Against his parent’s good-natured advice, the Vermont native returned to school to major in theater and in 2004, he packed up his car and headed to Los Angeles.


After several years of struggling and almost giving up, Hayden finally started getting some roles. “I think the secret to life is how well you handle Plan B in preparation to get back to Plan A,” says Hayden. When he’s told something is out of his reach, he’s compelled to try that much harder and work that much more diligently. “That may be my major character flaw,” he laughs.

So far, it looks like Plan A is going pretty well. Hayden landed the lead in Battleground, Hulu’s first original scripted series, a very timely dramedy about an idealistic campaign staff dealing with the day-to-day of modern politics to win a Senate seat for their underdog candidate. Hayden plays head campaign strategist, Chris “Tak” Davis, who wants to effect change, but has to make some tough decisions in order to win. “I got to work with amazing people. This is professionally the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done,” says Hayden, who considers his greatest personal achievement the day he became a father to now-3-year-old Amelia. “When someday your kids come up to you to ask if you ever did something that was just for you, that [achieved] your dreams, I can say, ‘yeah I did.'”

There’s nothing ambiguous about that.