‘Kung Fu’ star Olivia Liang talks about the importance of CW’s new show


Olivia Liang said she hardly needed to act for her lead role in the CW remake of “Kung Fu.”

“After reading the pilot I thought, ‘Oh, okay, so Nicky is just me!’” Liang, 27, told The Post. “Our incredible showrunner and creator Christina Kim brought a lot of heart, nuance, and specific expertise into the script; It was the first time I’d read something and I was like, ‘Yeah, I get it.’

Released on Wednesday (April 7) at 8 pm, “Kung Fu” follows Nicky Shen, a Chinese-American woman who drops out of college and embarks on an adventure to China, learning martial arts skills at a monastery. After his mentor is murdered, he returns home to San Francisco, only to find it overrun with the crime and corruption his new skills require.

Meanwhile, she also reconnects with her family, including father Jin (Tzi Ma), mother Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan), sister Althea (Shannon Dang), brother Ryan (Jon Prasida), Althea’s fiancé. , Dennis (Tony Chug) and Nicky. estranged ex-boyfriend, Evan (Gavin Stenhouse).

Olivia Liang as Nicky in "Kung Fu"
Olivia Liang as Nicky in “Kung Fu”
Dean Buscher / The CW

“My life experience gave me what I needed to play Nicky, because she was so spot on and so specific,” said Liang, who also appeared on The CW’s “Legacies.”

“Nicky’s mom is kind of like a tiger mom who’s loosening up a bit, and that’s exactly what I had growing up. I am also an older sister and Nicky has a younger brother on the show. The things she goes through were so easy for me to identify. “

However, there were some aspects of Nicky’s life that were new to Liang.

(From left): Tony Chung as Dennis, Jon Prasida as Ryan, Tzi Ma as Jin, Olivia Liang as Nicky Shen, and Shannon Dang as Althea.
(From left): Tony Chung as Dennis, Jon Prasida as Ryan, Tzi Ma as Jin, Olivia Liang as Nicky Shen, and Shannon Dang as Althea.
Katie Yu / The CW

“My experience with martial arts before this was just taking my sister to her Taekwondo classes,” he said. “So I had to learn it for the show, but it has been a lot of fun, rewarding and difficult. It is a really beautiful sport and art. If you add it all up, I’m probably doing 65-70 percent of the stunts. Anything cool is my amazing stunt double, Megan Hui. I’m trying to do as many stunts as I can because it’s very important to me to be able to do all the martial arts. “

Nicky Shen (Olivia Liang) learning martial arts at "Kung Fu"
Nicky Shen (Olivia Liang) learning martial arts in “Kung Fu”
Kailey Schwerman / The CW

“Kung Fu” originated as a 1972 series starring David Carradine as a monk and martial arts expert who traveled the American West. (It also spawned a syndicated sequel series, “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues,” which aired from 1993 to 1997 with Carradine again starring.)

“That show was a little before my time, but my uncle and my mom would watch it when they were growing up,” Liang said. “So it was very surreal for them when I got this role. I’m really happy that we can re-imagine it, and maybe do it the way it should have been done, with Asians at the forefront. “

Olivia Liang as Nicky Shen in "Kung Fu"
Olivia Liang as Nicky Shen in “Kung Fu”
Bettina Strauss / The CW

Liang said a version of “Kung Fu” starring a largely Asian cast resonates during a year in which hate crimes against Asian Americans have been on the rise.

“It is really impacting in a different way since we will premiere this show in April 2021,” he said. “We knew the show was going to be important, but we could never have planned how moving it is for this moment and what is happening in the world today.

Olivia Liang as Nicky Shen in "Kung Fu"
Olivia Liang as Nicky Shen in “Kung Fu”
Kailey Schwerman / The CW

“For the promotions that have come out, we filmed the scene of [co-star Tzi Ma] lying on the ground, beaten up, months ago, before the media really started shedding light on hate crimes against Asians. Seeing that image is so chilling in light of what is happening today. Our program is really necessary at this time, to humanize Asian-Americans in the world ”.

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