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Crazy Rich Asians: Chris Pang Interview

Along with good mate Remy Hii, fellow Australian Chris Pang appears in massive new hit film Crazy Rich Asians. His role of Colin is really the basis of the inner script revolving around the biggest wedding event in Singapore. It was a pleasure to discuss such things as how culture and busting stereotypes is important to him, an admiration of towering Michelle Yeoh to being a part of masterpiece I, Frankenstein.

CP – G’Day Shane, how’s it going?

I am good but not as good as you at present with a hit movie!

CP – You say you’re not as good but I haven’t slept in three weeks.

Did you actually feel like you’re married after such an enigmatic lush shoot of the wedding scene?

CP – We had that venue for five days with a wrap in wrap out either side, so the shoot was three. Set design was ridiculous, glamourous, I’ve never been married on screen before but felt so real. Even though the shot of me looking at my bride, I’m actually looking at a giant crane with a camera on it rolling down the aisle with a mini green X to stare at pretending it was her. Even the camera towards me in the aisle made me cry (laughs). Now if I ever do get married, I’ll probably just go to a reception to sign the papers. Apologies future wife, go watch the movie scene (laughs), go watch my 36 million dollar wedding video.

Is there a shift in Hollywood now for Asian stereotypes to be broken?

CP – We are now no longer going to be martial artists, we are now all rich (laughs). For me, I am not educated or smart enough to learn about everything except knowing bits or pieces about various cultures. We are creating new stereotypes, breaking down the old ones slowly. Diversifying to understand cultures in a different sense, widening scale of the people involved in life. At the end of the day, our film is fun, we went in there to make people laugh or cry over a quality two hours.

It is a bit of a reunion for you and Michelle Yeoh.

CP – Third time working with Michelle, she is an amazing delight to work with, talented and ultra cool. You always want to hang out with Michelle, a good time when she is around. At the same time it’s intimidating, it’s living legend of cinema Michelle Yeoh! We first worked on Crouching Tiger: Hidden Dragon sequel, Sword of Destiny, in 2014 filming down in New Zealand. Then Marco Polo series but had never had a photo, I just couldn’t ask until really recently. As cool as she is, warm and open, I’m still like I don’t want to cross that line.

Did you always only audition for the Colin part?

CP – First audition was for Nick, the lead. I had a sneaky plan that everyone else seemed to go in perfect prince charming in a suit as Nick, while i went in a t-shirt because I liked Nick but resonated with Colin, playing it casual. It made sense when I got the call to be Colin.

Before Crazy Rich Asians, what was the turning point in your career?

CP – Tomorrow When the World Began (2010) – biggest Aussie box office film of that year. Absolute turning point, fortunate to be part. My role was solid, cool cast, great story, while again a character breaking stereotypes – an outsider Asian kid gets the white girl. At the time, I guess I didn’t get how important it was what I was achieving with that character. Even in a scene when I was set to do martial arts, I was so excited as a martial artist which is great but didn’t see I was set in a stereotype that moment (laughs). It got cut from the film for the better.

I liked you in I, Frankenstein (2014), sorry it was a flop.

CP – You were one of sixteen people who saw that movie, appreciate that thank you (laughs).

Will Colin be back in Crazy Rich Asians?

CP – No info on that, I hope so. People like Colin and he’s in the books.

What Asian performers do you admire?

CP – Moved to LA in 2013 and slowly meeting more Asian-American or international actors but biggest inspiration for me, Bruce Lee, who did more for Asian culture than many. Maybe he started a stereotype but I looked up to him. As a teen, I turned to Asian cinema thirsty for culture. Yun-Fat Chow or Tony Leung are heroes to me.

What does it mean to be part of Crazy Rich Asians?

CP – Film is perfectly cast, I look at Henry Golding (Nick). He is Nick, he is being him and saying stuff on screen (laughs), that’s how I feel about most of the characters except the bad ones (laughs). They are all good humans, we got along well. As a distinguished actor, you always bring part of yourself to the role. The film has blown up as cultural phenomenon, it’s lovely to be a part of from a success stand point while also the work it’s doing to open representation or diversity is insane. I am getting heartfelt messages saying: Thank you, I have never seen myself on screen like that.

That’s terrific Chris!

CP – I know Shane, even simple things like a scene where I’m eating food, break open some chopsticks and rub them together to get the splinters off, I do naturally. A message thanked me saying he did it everyday but never seen it on film before. Couldn’t be more proud of the effect on people and be part of it. 

CRAZY RICH ASIANS (Rated PG – 120 min)
IN CINEMAS NOW

Shane A. Bassett 

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