From heroic Black Power Ranger to Atlantean Commander Murk, Chinese-Canadian actor Ludi Lin sits down with us for an exclusive interview to chat fitness, childhood dreams and his role as the leader of Atlantis’s frontline Men-of-War army.
Everyday Canadians like you and me could be forgiven for not knowing the name Ludi Lin. You might have missed him in his role as Zack, in the 2017 Lions Gate franchise film Saban’s Power Rangers film. Netflix and chill addicts might have scrolled past Season 2 of Marco Polo, in which he starred. Perhaps your buddy who is a fan of Chinese cinema failed to mention Ludi’s performance in Monster Hunt or the Chinese box office hit Lost in Hong Kong. The point is, unless you’re moving to Salt Spring Island to live off the grid (tomorrow), get ready to see a lot more of the man, starting with his most recent role as Commander Murk of Atlantis in the DC Comic film Aquaman. You know, the one with Jason Momoa. Paying attention?
Kick back and enjoy our exclusive interview with the Chinese-Canadian actor soon be on everyone’s depth finder.
LV: What lead you to world of acting?
I am 100% made in china. At least I think I was made in China? Growing up I spent a third of my life in Asia, a third in Australia and then moved to North America to live here in Vancouver. My roots in acting stem from my mom. She was a traditional Chinese opera singer that is specific to the province I was born in. I remember being a little kid in a massive crowd of people watching my mom. One minute she was putting on make-up and the next she would come out screaming with crazy fireworks and explosions all around her. That experience really made an impression on me. I was also spurred into acting because my mom forbade me to become one and so at the ripe age of rebellion, I decided I had to become an actor.
LV: Is the ripe age of rebellion in your teens?
Yeah, the first time I brought it up my mom was like you’ve gotta do something real, and for her that was being either a lawyer or a doctor as is the case with a lot of traditional Chinese families. When she found out I had enrolled in theater performance she really put her foot down and said study law or medicine, so I did a double degree in dietetics and medicine. Eventually, when the spankings stopped hurting, I decided to go for acting.
LV: If you could speak to your rebellious teenage self as the person you are today, what would you say?
I would borrow the words of very wise make-up artist I met during the filming of The Power Rangers movie. “Ludi, you can’t take this shit too seriously.” If I could have heard that way earlier on, then I would have had a better time and not worried too much.
LV: As an Asian male actor, what surprising challenges have you faced?
What I wasn’t prepared for was how over prepared I was. There is a process to things, so a lot of times you are preparing for the future, but you live in the present. So as a male Asian actor in the beginning you get many gangster #1, Chinese guard #2 or China-man in the restaurant roles. Maybe you have a line or two, “chopsticks please,” or you are asked to make up random Chinese lines, but you are over prepared for it. Normally when you ask someone for chopsticks you just ask for the chopsticks. You aren’t thinking, what’s motivating this character? How did he get to this point in his life? Did he go through some cultural revelation that lead to his longing for some home-style cooking and he can’t find the chopsticks? It’s not that complicated!
LV: So clearly typecasting is alive and well in Hollywood. How have you managed it?
I think that is just how the film industry works. It’s human nature to typecast someone or brand someone, because we are always categorized people. In a way, you can’t blame society for not completely understanding a culture or wanting to simplify something. You can take personal responsibility and welcome typecasting because as long as there is a mold to be put in, you have the challenge to break the mold.
LV: Speaking of breaking molds, I’ve read that you are one of the first Chinese-Canadian actors to be cast as a super hero in a North American film, is this right?
I grew up with a lot of mythical heroes that are in Chinese Legends. Those are super heroes to me. They did stuff that I thought was impossible, like with Qi Gong and using qi (chi) powers to fly. I think that a lot of people caught on to this ‘first Chinese-Canadian super hero thing,’ and I think that is catchy and that’s fine if that is how you want to see it, and I’m proud of that. I am especially proud when little Asian kids come up to me and they don’t even realize that Asian dudes can be seen as attractive, and once they see that, it gives them a change in perspective that I’m proud to be a part of.
LV: Tell us what you’d like to say to the young Asian aspiring actors out there?
I would tell them, there is no box. I wouldn’t even tell them to think outside the box, because that is just framing them in relation to another box. I would just tell them to have fun because I think the only thing that separates us from the animals is our imagination. We can imagine ourselves in all of these different types of scenarios. Your imagination is your most powerful tool. Don’t let anyone’s imagination infringe upon what you think of yourself as and just have fun. Do something crazy but pull it off.
LV: You are in great physical shape. How do you maintain your human vessel?
It doesn’t matter where I am, I always stretch. I try to do different types of stretching. I find that people tend to go to extremes, too much flexibility, too much stretching and not enough strength. I look to find a good balance between strength and flexibility, so when I stretch, I try to move through my stretches, kind of like Tai Chi, I guess. It’s been around for thousands of years, so there is something to it.
LV: Is your exercise regimen self-taught or do you follow a certain discipline? I would imagine spending time in LA, you’ve come across people promoting the next best exercise program.
It’s all crap and it’s all good. It’s all good crap (laughs). I used to be a personal trainer when I was going to school and I started a gym in Vancouver called AMP with my friend Owen and now he has taken it over. He loves getting very strong and healthy and fit. He loves the fundamentals, he is a perfectionist with functional training. Training smart, whatever that means, right? The meaning of functional training has kind of evolved over the years, so it is kind of a fad word. For me, coaching is definitely important, but the most important thing is self-coaching. I think everybody has the capacity to take responsibility for their own health and I think everybody should take responsibility for their own health.
LV: Have you ever surprised yourself by achieving a physical goal that you initially thought would be impossible?
Yeah, from the day I was born! As a baby, being able to project myself into my baby socks. Watching big people walking around seemed impossible, and eventually I learned how. I thought making it to my twenties was impossible. The first time I went snowboarding I thought it was going to be impossible, and then the second time it worked out. There is some mystery behind sleep. Even with learning lines for film or acting, if I memorize my lines one day and then sleep on it and try again the next day, it is so much more solid. Sometimes when I don’t get enough sleep, it works against my theory.
LV: You do a lot of travelling between films, how do you stay sharp when it’s go-time?
I think that is why I love acting so much, there is something really magical about hearing the word “action!” You could be feeling bottom of the barrel and when they call action you just get swept away by the moment and you are in the zone. Trust the director, they have the vision, they will tell you what is needed so you can relax in to it. I hear this all the time, and you don’t actually understand it until you are there doing it. Everyone is there for your sake, to make you look good, because if you look good, then their art looks good too. After a while you realize everyone is there to help you, so you can relax and that is when you do your best work. Somethings you just can’t express in words, so don’t worry about it, you will get it! It’s kind of like learning to snowboard. You can’t learn through words alone, you’ve got to go and try and when it starts to make sense, then so do the words. Keep your center of gravity low. What does that even mean? I’m not a physicist!
LV: You’ve been in the media a lot lately, so I’ve got to ask, what doesn’t the world know about you?
There are things I keep private in terms of emotional things, but Google knows a lot about me. I don’t know what it doesn’t know about me? I have a very flat head. The back of my head is like a table. My mom made me sleep on my back as a young baby because it was fashionable at the time. I think some great Chinese leaders had great flat heads at the back. It was a desirable trait that I am now stuck with!
LV: Ludi, Google already told me about that!
Oh god, you do good research! I didn’t even know that was out there (laughs). Hmm, I have strange eating habits compared to most people. I can eat the same thing almost every single day. In fact, I was thinking about that this morning. I was taking my calcium pills thinking if I had about 80 bottles of calcium, I would have my calcium intake set for the rest of my life, which lead me to thinking that someday we will design a pill that we can just take, and we wouldn’t have to eat food.
LV: Would you actually want to do that? I mean, what about the joy of flavours and cooking and sharing the experience of enjoyment with others? You could omit the eating experience all together?
I could do that. Here is something google doesn’t know. Everyone knows about the concept of the social drinker, but I am a social eater. If I go out to a restaurant it is to be social and eat the food if its healthy. I enjoy the social aspect of it more than the food. I would have the specially designed nutrition pills and still go out and eat with people and enjoy the social experience.
LV: You want the nutrition taken care of by the pills so you can focus on enjoying your company. I get it.
Imagine how society would change if basic nutrition was a guarantee? To know that in your shelf, no matter what happens, you have the nutrition to live covered.
LV: It’s like a guaranteed basic income for your belly. That would be a game changer.
Yeah, I could talk for hours about this. Imagine if we could photosynthesize nutrition like plants?