• Friday, December 02, 2022


Exclusive: Fala Chen: “It means the world to me to be part of Shang-Chi”

Fala Chen (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

By: Mohnish Singh

Fala Chen was already on top of her game when she left her successful TV career in Hong Kong for Juilliard. When she returned to America with renewed energy and enthusiasm, she was flooded with several powerful roles.

Chen is currently in news for playing the central character of Jiang Li in the high-profile American superhero film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. What makes the project even more special is the fact that it’s Marvel Studios’ first film with a predominantly Asian cast.

In an exclusive interview with Eastern Eye, Chen talks in detail about the film, the character she essays, what she really appreciates about the film, and much more. The actress also opens up about how becoming a mother in real life helped her play a mother on reel-life.

You are part of Marvel’s first film with Asian-American leads in the majority. Does it hold a huge significance for you?

Of course, it means the world to me to be part of this film. And I think this film will be ground-breaking in many ways not only in the Marvel Universe but as a global blockbuster. I feel, hopefully, this film will influence not only the current but the whole next generation of kids growing up. Having their own superheroes who look like them is great. Also, this is a very entertaining film. So, I hope people will have fun while watching this film.

It’s so nice to see such strong female characters in the film. Is that something you enjoyed yourself and appreciate about the film?

What I especially appreciate about this film is the way Destin (Daniel Cretton) wrote and directed it. I think Destin intentionally wanted to create characters who are not just stereotyped, you know, mystic or sexy Asian women on screen. But also, he did not want to portray just one aspect of each character. So, there are always these complexities, these juxtapositions within characters’ relationships, to give humanity to each character.

As for my character, even though she is super strong, we also wanted to see the light-hearted, nurturing, loving side of her. And I really loved that about my character. She does not only have superpowers – she can fight, she can fly in the air – but she can also tell bedtime stories to her children.

Ying Li (Fala Chen) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021.

Why do you think your character’s presence is so powerful in the film?

Because she is like any other mother in any family. The mother is always the center, the core of the family. She binds everyone together. Just like my mother. Whenever we have any decision that we want to make, we always ask my mother, we are always like, “We cannot make this decision without mom. Let’s wait mom to get home.” So, I honestly think this story also serves the same purpose. She is the creator of this family but, at the same time – I almost felt it when I was playing her or when I was reading the script – she knows a lot not only about the past but also about the future. She can plan if something is going to happen in some ways.

Also, she is very confident, reserved, and certain about her own fate that she never, you know, got upset or angry or worried about anything. She is always very calm and centered. So, yeah, that’s why everybody in the story loves her, admires her. And I hope the audience will do the same.

You welcomed your daughter in February earlier this year. Do you think now you can relate to your character in the film a little more because of your own motherhood?

Yeah, of course! You can always imagine what being a mother feels like, but once you really experience it for yourself, you realise it is very different than what you imagined. When I was playing a mother in this film, I only had to rely on research, and the young actors to give me ideas. Now, being a mother, I feel like it is my own individual experience. Even though I understand being a mother much more now, at the same time, I feel every family is different, every motherhood is individual, it is different. I am glad I had a practice round in the film first. Not the other way around that, “Oh, I already have a daughter. I know what being a mother is like so I know how to play it.” It is actually great to discover that with these young actors, with those kids, to have a very unique experience Li as the mother, whereas, in my own life, it is a different circumstance, very different experience. I am glad I got to do both (laughs).

(L-R): Wenwu (Tony Leung) and Ying Li (Fala Chen) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021.

You are already an established actress in the Asian film industry, but this is your first Hollywood film. So, how do you think this film has changed or going to change your life?

I do not know. I feel like I am always not thinking too much ahead. I always take things as they come. So, I have no idea what the future will hold. But I am just going to take one project at a time and really enjoy different opportunities that come my way because I really love my job. What I like most about it is that it is very different every time. You are collaborating with a different group of people, even if you work together again. If we work together, it will be a different time, a different story. So, everything will be different again. I am really excited to see what the future holds.

I am currently filming a TV series in France. So, the crew is totally different – it’s very French. The director is French. I am really enjoying this TV series I am currently filming as well.

You came to know about your casting in the film while you were on your honeymoon in Antarctica. It must have been a pretty surreal experience?

Yeah, it was actually around Christmas, so it was like an early Christmas gift to me. My husband and I celebrated it together. We literally could not tell anyone. Maybe that’s why Marvel told me this when I was in Antarctica. They knew I had no cell reception so that, you know, I could keep the secret because I was literally not able to tell my family, my parents or anyone. I had to keep the secret for the longest time. And then I directed went into training. So, yeah, it’s the best surprise that I have ever received.

Eastern Eye

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