Up-and-actors would sometimes claim to know a wide variety of skills considered for roles, but Olivia Liang set a limit early in her career.
“When I started in the industry, people used to ask me why martial arts is not on my resume because it was a typecast for Asians to do martial arts roles,” Liang said. “So I made a promise to myself. I was like, ‘Unless someone pays me to learn martial arts, I will not learn martial arts.’
Liang fulfilled that promise. She learned martial arts as the head of the CW’s new series, “Kung Fu” – and she’s paying for it.
“Kung Fu” is inspired by the 1972 series starring David Carradine. It stars Liang as Nikki Shen, who joins a monastery while visiting China, where he is taught Shaolin values and martial arts. When her mentor is killed, she returns home to find her community disrupted by a local gang. He must use the martial arts skills he learned to protect his neighborhood and family, and soon discovers that he is being targeted by the same assassin who killed his Shaolin protector.
Liang says what makes “Kung Fu” different from the superhero show, known to The CW is that Nikki is not a vigilante.
“Nikki is heroic, but she doesn’t see herself as a hero. She doesn’t have a hero complex where she’s going out to find the bad guys. She sees the bad things and realizes that Something needs to be done about it. “
The series features mostly Asian American actors Christina M., an Asian American listener and executive producer. Are with Kim. Kim said, “I’m so excited that I got a chance to let some people shine.”
“When I was on set for the first time, we did a camera test and I was really staring at the monitor and it hit me. I was like, ‘I’ve never seen a screen full of Asian American faces like this.’
Kim says that her writer room is also diverse. She has five Asian-origin writers on staff. Half of the writers are also women, which Kim says is a novelty. “Usually it’s just me and another woman in a room.”
“Kung Fu” premiered on Wednesday in The CW and the pilot will air again on Sunday on TNT.
Tzhi Ma, who plays Nikki’s father Jin, says that it is remarkable to have so many people with Asian people working on the show, because they don’t have to explain Asian experiences to people who are making such a creative assumption. .
“Not only is the representation on screen, but we carry it from our writers room to all our guest directors. It is a wonderful view. I have been doing this for a minute now and I have never seen this kind of makeup.
Ma hopes the authenticity of the series will help change public consciousness when hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise.
“The camera is a very interesting tool. I want the audience to finally have the opportunity to see what the real reputation is. And when they become educated … they will begin to develop their taste of what is good, what is real and what is true. “
Asian American communities are also paying attention, not only to see their stories on TV but to see how they have been told. Valerie Soe, a professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, hopes that producers and authors will be wary of what fiction will present to the audience.
“The tricky part will be for those in charge to make sure the show doesn’t participate too much in the old stereotypes and tropes.” She describes the gang’s story as potentially problematic because it promotes the theory that “all Asian men are gangsters and villains.”
Overall, Soo says the series is a win because it is about an Asian American story being told.
“There is a phrase called ‘narrative abundance’ that the Viet Thanh Nguyen writer uses – there is a lot of different stories to take out there so we don’t just like to focus obsessively on one Like, are we rightly representing ‘Crazy Rich Asians’? Is ‘Joy Luck Club’ representing us right?
“As much fun. I think not everything is great and not everything is what we want. But, if you have a lot of options, you don’t expect everything from one.