Fala Chen on the Importance of Family in Shang-Chi and What Surprised Her About Making a Marvel Movie - VRGyani News and Media

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Thursday, September 2, 2021

Fala Chen on the Importance of Family in Shang-Chi and What Surprised Her About Making a Marvel Movie

From director Destin Daniel Cretton and Marvel Studios, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the superhero origin story for a guy named Shaun (Simu Liu), who’s living in San Francisco and working as a parking valet with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) when he is suddenly faced with the past he thought he left behind. Pursued by his estranged father (Tony Leung) and needing the help of his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), if they are to defeat the mysterious Ten Rings organization, Shaun must push past his childhood trauma and embrace every part of himself, in order to fully step into his power as Shang-Chi.

During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, which you can both watch and read, Chinese actress Fala Chen (who plays Li, the devoted mother of Shang-Chi and Xialing, and a skilled martial artist in her own right) talked about almost not getting the call when the offer for her role came in during her honeymoon, why she fell in love with this character, how her family feels about her joining the MCU, what she enjoys about her fighting style in the film, and the importance of family, in both the story and in real life.

Collider: I absolutely loved this movie. I thought it was just incredible to watch, and the fighting is amazing. It’s beautiful, it’s graceful, and it’s gorgeous.

FALA CHEN: Thank you. I’m glad you like it.

In the very beginning, how much did you know about this? Did you even know that you were actually auditioning for this project?

CHEN: Actually, I have a funnier story. I didn’t audition for this part. It was offered to me, but I almost didn’t get it because I was on my honeymoon in Antarctica and I was out of reach. It took them awhile to find me. But when I received the offer, I was very, very gladly surprised.

Once you did know who the character was, what did you think of her? What were you most excited about with her, once you knew you’d actually get to play this role?

CHEN: Initially, I really didn’t know what I signed up for because they were so secretive about it. When I arrived for training, I still didn’t know much about my character. I just stepping into training, from day one, and I knew I had to do a lot of physical action, but I didn’t know exactly what, until they showed me one of the most important scenes for my character – the long fight scene that you would see in the beginning of the film. They shot that scene before we even arrived for training, so I was able to see the whole scene in its entire glory with all of the special effects and everything, with the stunt team. Immediately, I fell in love with the character because she is so strong, but at the same time, nurturing and loving. This scene with her husband, Wenwu, was just such a beautiful, romantic story that I just was really, really excited about it. And to play against Tony Leung was also a dream come true. So, I was super excited, going into training.

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What does it mean to you to be a part of this project? What do you hope it will represent for audiences, and what kind of excitement are you hearing from your own family and friends?

CHEN: My own family, like a lot of Asian parents, are like, “We don’t know if it’s good until we see it. We don’t know if you’re good until we actually see it.” They haven’t seen the film, so they’re sitting back and waiting for it. I had to explain to them how big a Marvel film is and how important it is to have an Asian led film in the Marvel universe, for the world to see. And then, my parents finally understood how big of a film this is. My dad really got excited over my little figures. He asked me to buy dozens of them, and I had to sign all of them. My dad took all of them and he’s literally, right now, distributing them among our relatives, friends, and everybody, so in that sense, they’re really excited about it. They usually never praise me for anything I’ve done right or good, so I’m not expecting compliments coming from their way, but if my parents say, “Not bad,” then that’s pretty good. That’s the biggest compliment in the world.

What did you most enjoy about the fighting style that you got to do in the training that you did for this, and what was the biggest challenge in how you had to approach that?

CHEN: From the physical aspect of things, I really enjoy Tai Chi. I fell in love with Tai Chi, which inspired my character’s fighting style. Tai Chi is not super masculine. It’s not super pushing and strong, but it’s has so much power in its movements. It’s so smooth and it’s so subtle. It takes years of training to even understand how to balance every move. It’s constantly in motion. It’s beautiful to watch. I got obsessed with it. I was on YouTube all the time, watching different Tai Chi competitions and different demonstrations. And I really loved flying around in the air on a wire. That was my first time twirling in the air 360, learning how to flip, and doing all of that. Also, I was lucky enough to work with the stunt team and my stunt doubles, who took on some of the most dangerous movements that I couldn’t do myself and just to help me to complete all of my movements. It was definitely a great learning opportunity for me to fall in love with Tai Chi. With Marvel movie magic that elevated our movements and the scenes, it’s just visually stunning to watch.

Some of these fight scenes are so graceful and beautiful. Do they feel like that when you’re shooting them? Do you have mishaps or awkward moments happening?

CHEN: Oh, yeah, all the time. I was imagining something similar to this, but I could never imagine what it would look like fully, after they’d done all of the editing and everything,. There were times where I just wasn’t sure if I was doing it right because the Tai Chi movement is so precise, but it also requires you to be so free in your form and you don’t have to think about it. You can’t look like you’re thinking about it. It has to come so natural. It’s about finding that balance. I’m an actor, after all. I’m not a martial artist. So, to really focus on the acting part of it as well, it was a lot to juggle. With multiple takes and trial and error and having the best support in (director) Destin [Daniel Cretton], really letting us try different things, and all of that, I’m glad it came out really beautifully.

You started your career as a film and TV actor in Asia before going to Juilliard, and now you’re working in Hollywood productions. What most surprised you about being on a set like this?

CHEN: Just how big everything is on this set. I’ve been to quite big sets, but just how many people are working on set and behind the scenes, the fans just don’t know. There are literally hundreds of people on set. It’s an army of people trying to do even scenes where you see two actors on screen. There are just so many moving parts that are happening behind the scenes, and I was just in awe of the producers who can put such a great team together. It was my first time stepping back onto a film set, after five years of not working in front of the [camera]. I was in school and doing theater. Just stepping back felt very familiar, but at the same time, really fresh and new. It was an incredible feeling.

There are such beautiful themes of family in this. What do you most love about that aspect of the story?

CHEN: I’m incredibly close to my family and I think family is such an important thing, in Asian culture especially. This really spoke to me personally, but hopefully the audience will resonate with that as well. Not only Asian audiences, but also audiences from all over the world, everyone and anything can relate to the unconditional love that you share among a family and between family members. No family is perfect. We all have our differences, misunderstandings, and ups and downs. I hope people can see that we are who we are because of our family and because of our ancestry, and respect that. Given what’s happening to especially our elders and older Asian people in America, I hope the world understands how much we value our older generations, our parents and our grandparents, who worked so hard and sacrificed so much for us, the new generation. I hope people respect them more, and give them peace and the respect that they deserve.

Shang-Chi opens in theaters on September 3rd.



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