Exclusive Interview with Kelly Hu!
Oz Comic Con is back in town! We love OZCC! Before the doors open we took the chance to sit down with ass-kicking Kelly Hu. Best known for shredding Wolverine as Lady Deathstrike in X-Men 2 and as China White in Arrow, Kelly had plenty to say about acting, modelling and beating up pretty boys!
Enjoy the audio version, or read along below!
G-Funk: We’re here at the Perth leg of Oz Comic Con, and tell me if I mispronounce it, we’re sitting with Kelly Hu.
Kelly Hu: No, that’s correct!
G: Really? Because I’m usually terrible at it.
KH: ‘Hu’ like ‘who’s on first’.
G: Well, you are!
KH: Are you to young for this? The Abbott and Costello thing?
G: I’m usually OK with references, but…
KH: You’re too young, you haven’t heard! I can tell by the look on your face! “What does she mean, who’s on first”? (Laughs)
G: I’ve already embarrassed myself. Should I…?
KH: No restarts!!
G: I should just go.
KH: No, you can stay. I’ll let you stay. You get one pass. That’s it; you’ve used it up.
G: That’s cool. Because I am a bit scared of you.
KH: You are? Why?
G: Because I’ve seen your movies!
KH: (Laughs) Those were just characters! I’m a lot nicer than the characters I play. I tend to play a lot of assassins and things like that.
G: That’s true. I think what most people recognise was Lady Deathstrike from the X-Men series.
KH: Yeah. I don’t come with those nails.
G: I wanted to ask about them. Were they CGI or did you have to wear them?
KH: There were some that they built for me that were made of a very lightweight plastic. They took these moulds of my hands and, lucky for them I have really strong fingernails, they super glued them under my nails. It took a little bit of skin off when they peeled them off. When it came to the actual fight scene I couldn’t have the practical nails on because it had to look like they go through Hugh Jackman’s body and things like that and they’d fly off and stuff. I moved too fast and the CGI mostly took place during the fight.
G: I’ve seen that fight quite a few times, I’m a big X-Men fan…
KH: It’s a great fight, isn’t it?
G: It’s one of the best in the series. You can see that it’s your face and that you’re participating in the fight. Do you do much of your own work?
KH: I try to as much as I can. I have a black belt in karate so I can do a lot of martial arts. But when it comes to the big falls and banging into glass cabinets and things like that…of course I use stunt girls. I have some of the best stunt girls in the business. Lucky for me because I get girls who are national Chinese Wushu Champions who are my stunt doubles and make me look great.
G: You’re in Australia now, and that scene is you taking the pieces Hugh Jackman, who is…
KH: …also Aussie! Right! I forgot!
G: One of our great pride and joys.
KH: Should I be wearing a Kevlar suit here or something?
G: I think you should put it on a tee shirt: “I beat up Hugh Jackman”.
KH: (Laughs) I don’t think that would go over well with the Aussies!
G: We have a good sense of humour. Still on Lady Deathstrike – I’ve got a few questions just on Lady Deathstrike – your character is so stoic, was it a challenge getting across what kind of character she was?
KH: By stoic you mean ‘I didn’t say a word’.
G: You had one line!
KH: I had one line, and that was as Mystique being me. The challenge when you don’t have any actual dialogue to help portray your character is that everything has to be done physically. It’s a whole different exercise in acting. It’s sort of like mime. You don’t get to use words and you rely purely on body language.
G: You’re very intimidating in the role even when you don’t say anything. We know from the beginning that this is going to be a dangerous character and then you get that great reveal at the end. Have you seen the character’s original costume?
KH: I did! I did! I have to tell you the truth, I was not X-Men fan before I did the movie, I did not know X-Men, the comic book, existed before I saw the first movie. When I got cast in this I did not know that I was cast as Lady Deathstrike. They had made up some fictitious character that was going to be in the movie because it was big secret. It wasn’t until I went to the first wardrobe fitting and the costumer actually said, “did you know you’re actually playing this character called Lady Deathstrike?” I thought, “oooh, she sounds so awesome!” I had no idea. I tried to do my research and looked her up in the old comics and things and thought, “why are they casting me for this? They really should be casting someone like the wrestler China”. That’s what she looked like, very testosterone driven, giant muscles. So when we put the costume together with the idea that I’d be doing this big fight I told them I had a friend named Jonathan Logan who had this leather company with this amazing stretch leather we could use. We designed the hair and everything so I could fight without blinding myself in my own hair. Everything about the new look of Lady Deathstrike was designed for fighting.
G: That makes sense, because the costumes she wears in the comics, she couldn’t fight with those shoulder pads.
KH: No, that looked pretty confining! That, and the giant muscles.
G: Yeah! You’ve gone from having the tightly controlled hair to the bright white wig on Arrow. This is another comic book character – is this something you like doing a lot of?
KH: I love living in this fantasy comic book world. I seem to exist better in fantasy more than I do real life. This character (China White) I get to play on Arrow is also iconic in that series. I get to wear this white wig and do all this martial arts and beat up on Stephen Amell…I’ve made a great career beating up on really hot guys.
G: They’re the new, up and coming young guys and then you come in and tear them to shreds?
KH: Right? It seems to be my role in life. (Laughs)
G: Do you worry about being typecast in this role?
KH: I just love working. I don’t worry about being typecast at all, I just love to work. If I continue to work as this kick-ass assassin, then so be it. There are worse things to be typecast as, I suppose.
G: That’s true, you’re not typecast as the pretty boy. You’re the one who beats him up!
KH: (Laughs) Right!
G: In addition to the martial arts roles, you’re doing a lot more voice work now. What’s the difference between doing voice acting and the physical acting?
KH: It’s funny, because we said earlier, as Deathstrike I didn’t do any dialogue and I only had my body language to rely on, but in voice acting it’s the opposite. I don’t have to worry about anything else but my voice. I can show up in my pyjamas or my underwear and not brush my teeth – I don’t, but I could – and no-one would know. Here all I have to do is concentrate on one thing, which is a different exercise in acting. You can close your eyes and imagine things and just concentrate on your voice.
G: I’ve been looking at all of your work in the past week. I didn’t realise that your career spanned back so far…
KH: Are you saying that I’m old?! That’s another way of saying that I’m old!
G: I wouldn’t know it to look at you!
KH: It’s ok, I am old. I admit it.
G: You don’t look it!
KH: Thank you.
G: You acted with Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street, and with Kirk Cameron?
KH: I did! My very first role was, while I was still living in Hawaii, right after high school, Growing Pains decides to do their season premiere with the Seavers go to Hawaii for vacation and Kirk Cameron has this little affair with this local tour guide, which was me!
G: Before that you were working as a model…
KH: I did, I did a lot of modelling in Hawaii and Japan. I was contracted to go to Japan and things like that. I was also involved in pageants. Well, I did one pageant, which was really just supposed to help me get more money for modelling in Japan. But it ended up being a whole turning point in my life.
G: Your participation in the pageant turned out pretty significant and not just for you. I understand that you were the first person of Asian heritage to place in Miss USA.
KH: Yes, in Miss Teen USA. I was 16 at the time and it was huge for the Asian community as well as myself, because there was not, back in the 80s, this was in 1985, there was not a lot of Asian role models on television or film or anything like that. I had no idea of the significance until much later because I grew up in Hawaii, born and raised in Hawaii, where Asians are the majority. It never really occurred to me that this would be something that young Asian Americans across the United States would look up to, or be a significant thing for them. I was just trying not to fall on my butt the whole time. Truly, that’s all I hoped for. (Laughs)
G: At the end of the day you might have opened the doors for a lot of people.
KH: I hope so…I think so. There was certainly a lot more people before me. My only Asian role models to look up growing up were Nancy Kwan…there really wasn’t much more than that. Of course there was George Takai, and he’s STILL awesome! I just saw him on broadway and he was fantastic! Now, of course, you see a lot more Asians being represented in television and in film, and I think that’s great.
G: Do you think that they’re getting good representations? If you don’t mind me being a little political here, do you think Asian people are being represented well in media now?
KH: I think that they are, there’s always room for growth, of course. But we’re definitely on our way. I would like to see more Asian men in lead roles, I don’t think we get enough of that. We have the Jackie Chan types, but to see an Asian American – or Australian – sex symbol. As a male sex symbol, that is very, very rare. I would like to see more of that.
G: So we’re putting the call out to all attractive, young men to get in the business!
KH: Right! And surround me with them, please!
G: And then you could beat them up! They’ve seen what you do to attractive young men!
KH: (Laughs) I think it’s great there are more Asians coming out in these kinds of roles but i would like to see them in more significant roles, not just doctors and things like that.
G: And martial artist types.
KH: And martial artists. Which isn’t a bad thing. Martial arts is cool.
G: Yeah, when we see you in a role, particularly a comic book role like Arrow, we know what we’re going to get and we know that it’s going to exciting.
KH: I hope so!
G: So far so good! You are best known, particularly to the Oz Comic-Con crowd, for Arrow and X-Men – that’s what you’re going to signing pictures of this weekend – is there another project or another role you wish people were more aware of?
KH: I do a lot of this action type roles and I really do love it. I’m very physical, I’ve got that black belt in karate…
G: Which is cool.
KH: …which is cool, and it’s fun! I love that I can use it! For me a great day is when I can show up on set and I don’t have any dialogue to memorise and I just get to beat up on boys all day long. That, for me, is my perfect day. Hopefully people will see more of my comedy roles and things like that, but I am really proud of these action roles I’ve been getting.
G: You absolutely should be. Is there one role you want people to see.
KH: There’s a movie I did a while back in Bulgaria, it shot in Bulgaria, called The Tournament, it was an English production. It’s with Robert Carlyle and Ving Rhames and Ian Somerhalder – and once again I got to beat up on Ian Somerhalder!
G: I’m noticing a trend…
G: I know I’m safe.
KH: I don’t what it is with me getting to beat up on all these pretty boys! I’m really not that bad in real life! Well…maybe. I don’t know. Depends on who you ask!
G: You always strike me as a dangerous character, that’s not really true?
KH: No, I think people would be surprised to find out how quirky I really am in real life.
G: I’m feeling the quirky here. We’ve got to wrap up, have a really good weekend here at Oz Comic Con and we’ll see you down on the floor. I want to get a Deathstrike photo signed, so I’ll be there.
KH: Please do, come by.
G: Thank you so much for talking to us.
KH: It’s been great! Thank you!