Olivia Liang on Kung Fu and Asian American Illustration

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Olivia Liang on Kung Fu and Asian American Representation


Picture Supply: Shane McCauley

Olivia Liang had by no means dreamed of securing a lead function. In truth, she entered the trade anticipating to play the principle character’s stereotypical quirky greatest good friend, and she or he would have been “very happy” to take action. However after portraying recurring character Alyssa Chang on Legacies, all of that modified because the 28-year-old landed the function of heroine Nicky Shen on The CW’s Kung Fu, a gender-swapped reimagining of the ’70s collection and the first-ever community drama with a predominantly Asian American solid. After an awesome preliminary response, the present was rapidly renewed for a second season solely 4 episodes into its first.

“Is that this my dream function? Sure and no,” she informed CelebrityPie. “Sure, as a result of, now that I am in it, it is so superb and I simply by no means thought it was potential. However no, as a result of I simply by no means pictured a lead function for myself as a result of I simply did not dream that it was potential. Moving into this character and having the ability to infuse my tradition and inform a enjoyable story, but additionally an impactful one, is a dream come true.”

“I entered the trade pondering I might play the lead character’s quirky greatest good friend . . . I simply by no means pictured a lead function for myself as a result of I simply did not dream that it was potential.”

I think about many different Asian Individuals might need felt the identical manner I did after I heard there was a kung fu collection within the works. I could not assist however elevate my eyebrows, anticipating one more challenge perpetuating Asian stereotypes. And Liang will get that. She admittedly used to have an aversion to martial arts, a lot in order that previous to Kung Fu, driving her sister to taekwondo classes was essentially the most coaching she’d achieved associated to the artwork. (She now does 65 % of the stunts on the present.) “We’d come on display screen, with no character title, no backstory, nothing,” Liang mentioned, talking to the East Asian trope we regularly see on display screen. “We’d simply go, ‘Hello-yah,’ throw a few kicks and punches, after which bounce. We did not know something about that individual.”

Olivia Liang on Kung Fu and Asian American Illustration

Picture Supply: The CW

However with Kung Fu, the solid and crew goal to reclaim and honor “this actually wealthy a part of Asian tradition.” “We’re in a position to infuse a whole lot of emotion and cause behind the fights that we do,” Liang defined. “The aversion was truly by no means to martial arts; it was to the truth that we have been nothing however that. However with our present, if you’re rooting for these characters of their private lives, you are going to root for them after they’re kicking ass.”

Past the badass preventing scenes, Kung Fu tells the nuanced tales of Asian Individuals via its majority Asian solid. “Sure, there’s a med pupil. Sure, Nicky was going to go to legislation faculty, and naturally, Althea (Shannon Dang) is a tech genius, however we’re not simply that anymore. We’re attending to see these characters dwell full lives,” Liang mentioned. Like Nicky, a younger Chinese language American lady who drops out of legislation faculty to study martial arts at an remoted Chinese language monastery and later returns house to San Francisco to guard her more and more endangered neighborhood, Liang’s path concerned going towards her mom’s needs and embarking on a journey of self-discovery, although maybe on a much less dramatic scale. “I did have a strict mother rising up, and I used to be the golden youngster of the household,” she mentioned. “Discovering my very own path was a protracted and winding street, however finally very rewarding.”

“It form of offers me chills that I get to be one of many representatives of what it may appear like to be that form of Asian lady who’s unapologetic.”

Enjoying Nicky has truly impressed Liang to make comparable tough selections in her private life. “It is laborious for me as Olivia to make use of my voice generally, however actually after enjoying Nicky, I’ve felt an inside transformation inside myself,” she mentioned. “Particularly within the yr that we, as an Asian neighborhood, have had, particularly after the Atlanta capturing and our present premiering the week after that, it hit actually totally different to play an Asian lady who was preventing again and taking over house. It form of offers me chills that I get to be one of many representatives of what it may appear like to be that form of Asian lady who’s unapologetic.”

Olivia Liang on Kung Fu and Asian American Illustration

Picture Supply: Shane McCauley

Whereas Liang actually feels the burden of illustration, she is honored to carry that duty and takes it extraordinarily significantly, particularly alongside her Asian solid members (apart from their “token white man” Gavin Stenhouse) who “simply get it.” She defined, “While you’re round individuals who have an identical expertise as you, there’s a lot much less explaining you should do. There’s simply that shared expertise the place we need not qualify or broaden on something, and couple that with having to work within the bubble due to the pandemic and actually solely having one another, we grew to become shut so rapidly. They are surely my household.”

Although she is at the moment immersed within the Kung Fu world and genuinely needs to work with the solid “for the remainder of [her] life,” she does dream of her subsequent gig: a very good previous rom-com. “When I’ve a protracted day at work and I wish to go house and really feel good, I throw on certainly one of my favourite rom-coms, so I might like to be in folks’s houses like that. In a spot of pleasure and luxury and laughter.”



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