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A New York native from Elmhurst, Queens, Jake Choi’s been hitting the pavement since day one. Slugging it out in the acting world, Choi’s scored roles on Law & Order: SVU, CollegeHumor Originals, and a play that recently landed itself on the New York Times’ Critic’s Choice list. Outside of work, Choi keeps it active, tearing it up on the basketball courts and maintaining his Muay Thai and yoga practice. Oh, yeah, he boxes too. As someone who’s lived in the city his whole life—aside from a four-year stint in South Korea—Choi has a grounded view on what making a life in this city looks like. Here’s what he had to say:

Things that make living in New York easier:

JC: I love so many things about NY. The ethnic diversity is probably what I love the most. Also, there’s a great art scene, especially independent theater. And the women are hot. 

Who or what do you find the most inspiring here?

JC: My mother and her story. She immigrated here 30 years ago, and hustled ever since to raise two bad kids. Now I guess you can say we raise her.

What does New York teach you?

JC: Being from NY teaches you that the world doesn’t revolve around you. You’re not more or less important than anyone else because everyone here has something big going on in their lives, whether they know it or not. And, as an actor, it’s crucial to know this. It’s so easy to be self-absorbed in this business. Once you let go of this notion that everything is about you, then it becomes much easier to be free and to enjoy work as an actor.

What’s your martial arts practice mean to you?

JC: I’ve been doing Muay Thai kickboxing and boxing for about two-three years on and off. It’s great because you get a great workout, meet new people, and learn discipline as well as self-defense.

Favorite type of person to pass on the sidewalk:

JC: Someone who’s smiling—that person is already shining bright to me. Or someone who’s crazy. Both are interesting.

Do you ever slow down and soak in the city or is full steam ahead?

JC: If I’m not in a rush, I always look up at the beautiful buildings, especially in the city, while trying not to bump into people. But if I’m in a rush, then it’s head forward, speed-walk time.

What’s this city mean to you?

JC: Integration and inspiration.

You’ve lived here your whole life. Could you ever move?

JC: Never. Maybe if they built a subway system as big as NY’s in LA. Maybe.