If you are like me, you have been breaking records streaming films, tv, and movie trailers from your couch due to the pandemic that disrupted our way of life this March. Over the last six months, I have rewatched some of my favorite comic book films, like Man of Steel, Thor, and Black Panther. I also have become hyper-aware of who looks like me on screen and who doesn’t. There is no denying the magnitude and importance of Black Panther when it was released in 2018 and the universe called Wakanda starring the late Chadwick Boseman.
As I started to watch Mulan ahead of the world release; I was reflecting on how important this film was for young Asian boys and girls who have grown up dressing up like Batman, Wonder Woman, and Spiderman because there wasn’t someone that looked like them to reflect. As a four-year-old myself Christopher Reeve was my hero. We were both caucasian had dark hair and blue eyes. I wonder how much more powerful I felt when I dressed up like Superman because we looked the same? Surely, it was something a child wouldn’t even explicitly recognize. We have seen countless new reports about what Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal meant to young black boys around the world. That representation matters. As I watched the story unfold, introducing more and more Chinese architecture, costumes, and characters I realized this was not just a Disney animated film brought to life “in a live-action” reimagining but this was also shattering walls and ceilings for Asian actors to be the heroes for tomorrow’s children. Young boys and girls will want to take up archery or learn self-defense because they saw Liu Yifei show them they can.
Mulan introduces us to an exquisite world of beauty and history that also celebrates Asian representation in its lead actors and cast something no comic book movie has ever done. Acclaimed filmmaker Niki Caro brings an epic tale of China’s legendary warrior a fearless hero to life where the lead is a young woman that risks everything out of love for her family and her country to become one of the greatest warriors China has ever known. We caught up with actor, Chen Tang who plays one of Mulan’s funny comrades Yao. He shares more about how he got started acting, the training for this epic film, and more.
You were about 10 when Mulan the animated film came out, do you remember seeing it?
Actually, to be honest, I didn’t see it till I was about 13. I remember feeling a connection to the film when I did see it. I grew up in the deep south and there were not a lot of people that looked like me in my neighborhood. My parents were immigrants and working-class and we didn’t grow up really watching movies. The first movie I ever saw was Jurassic Park and I was 8. I also remember seeing Jackie Chan in Rush Hour.
How did you get your start into acting?
I was actually kind of a late bloomer. I didn’t participate in theatre or anything in high school. It was when I was in my first year of college when I gave it a try and really liked it. My first play was “On The Town.”
It has been a long road to the launch of Disney’s MULAN, and it premiers on Disney+. How many times have you seen the film now?
I think it could be even better on Disney+ where it can reach everyone. I have watched it twice.
I grew up very athletic playing a ton of sports. This bootcamp was serious and very intense. It was a lot of physical labor type training, nearly four hours a day. You could say it was our “300” version of the training. The horseback riding was the toughest for me since I didn’t have any experience previously. On the other hand, I had a lot of fun with archery practice, I could have done it all day long.
Niki Caro our director was great to work with and the cast was like a family, especially when we were shooting the scene around the fire before we went into battle so it was very easy. There was no playback of our scenes or watching the dailies. Niki would just quietly walk up to each of us and whisper some direction one by one and then cameras would roll for another take. I’m really proud of the way Mulan honors Chinese History.
I have to quote, William Shakespeare. “To thine own self be true.”
Chen Tang can be seen later this year in Warrior Season 2 this October on Cinemax. Follow Chen on Instagram
Disney+ will offer Premier Access to “Mulan” for $29.99 on disneyplus.com. Once you have Premier Access to Mulan, you can watch as many times as you want on any platform where Disney+ is available.