Ludi Lin (林路迪) is one of the hottest Asian celebrities in Hollywood right now. You may know him as the Black Power Ranger from the 2017 reboot, Captain Murk in “Aquaman”, Lim Tian Bai in the Malaysian-Taiwanese Netflix series “The Ghost Bride” (彼岸之嫁), or even the Wind Monster Hunter in the Chinese blockbuster “Monster Hunt” (捉妖记). Lin is dedicated to putting himself on a global scale and is truly setting an example for Asians out there.
Hollywood has been advocating for more Asian roles lately. Although there’s still room for improvement, there has been more widespread attention. “Crazy Rich Asians” dominated the box office in 2018 and the South Korean film, “Parasite” (기생충), even made history last year when it won the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director.
Now, get ready to see Ludi Lin kick some serious ass in the upcoming “Mortal Kombat” film. Ludi will be playing Liu Kang, a character who is described as one of the most significant characters in the lore of “Mortal Kombat”. Liu Kang was one of the main leads in the 1995 film version, and will once again be major presence in the new iteration.
Fans of the Canadian Chinese actor can also look forward to seeing him in the upcoming CW series, “Kung Fu”. Lin will take on a recurring character named Kerwin, who is described as dashing, good-looking, fit, and charismatic. But don’t be fooled by his playboy act, this charming character is filled with rage and disdain towards his father.
Of course, with his involvement in all these martial arts movies, Lin has expertise in the art. His interest started young. When he was a kid, Lin would climb trees, roll around, and even do flips. He began learning martial arts and its many forms when he graduated from high school. He traveled around Asia for two years, learning Muay Thai kickboxing from Thailand and jiujutsu from Japan. Lin also does Olympic-style wrestling.
His years of perfecting martial arts have finally led him to utilise them in his various projects. In fact, Lin’s background in martial arts and performing his own stunts on set has given him confidence in his acting career and it clearly shows. Through Lin’s experiences and travels, it was very apparent that he would be proficient in martial arts.
Lin was born in the coastal Fujian province of China, he later studied in Australia, and is currently residing in the United States. As you may have heard in the news, the Asian community there have been victims of racists and hateful attacks. Recently, 9 people were shot (8 were killed) – 6 of whom were Asian women – at 3 massage parlours in Georgia.
By using his platform, Lin has been very vocal about the struggles and hardships Asians have faced due to racism in the West. Growing up as a young Chinese kid in Canada, he’s faced bullying almost every day and got into a lot of fights. Sadly, Lin was always getting picked on in school simply because he was Asian. In 2020, he joined the #WashTheHate social media campaign together with other well-known Asian American celebrities, where they shared their personal stories on how the coronavirus has impacted their lives.
Lin was featured in a variety of magazine interviews that detailed his martial arts background. The 33-year-old Chinese actor went on Toofab to raise awareness about the #StopAsianHate campaign and the violence against the Asian community has been facing in the West.
We managed to get an exclusive interview with Ludi Lin where he shared his Malaysian experience over a decade ago, discussed Asian racism, spoke about his role in “Mortal Kombat”, revealed potential future projects, and much, much more.
Thank you so much for taking this time to talk to us. We’re really excited.
Thanks. I love Malaysia. I missed you guys so much.
I remember the last time, we managed to talk to you was during the promotion of Netflix’s “The Ghost Bride” in Kuala Lumpur last Chinese New Year.
Oh yeah, that’s right. Yeah, I’ve done quite a few things in Malaysia now. I really miss it.
Did you manage to explore Malaysia while you were here?
About 10 years ago now. I spent maybe five months in Malaysia. Just backpacking and exploring a lot of different cities, you know, Penang, Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur, Perhentian Island, some good surfing over there. Went to see some orang utans and stuff.
It was wonderful. I love the culture, it’s so diverse and it’s got everything. It’s got a bit of my culture and it’s mixed with all the different Chinese cultures from way back when that came. In China, we call it 娘惹 (Niang re, or Nyonya) culture. It’s like from 400 to 500 years ago when the first Chinese went over to Malaysia and the cultures mixed. They came up with their own style of clothing and everything like that. It’s beautiful.
Did you have a favourite cuisine/ food while you were here?
Malaysian food is quite special and so unique, like the food courts outside. So in one corner, it’d be Malaysian food like Muslim food. One corner would be Indian food. Another corner would be Chinese food. And most of the Chinese food is from my hometown.
So, they have a lot of Hokkien food, where I used to eat when I was a little kid, like these fried dumplings, or what we call (锅贴). It’comes with rice, noodles, and soup. And the desserts are awesome. What’s that dessert with the coconut shaved ice? When you pour the coconut milk on? I think it’s ‘ais kacang’. Anyways, it’s all brilliant.
Now unto something we’ve been anticipating – What can viewers expect from your role as Liu Kang in “Mortal Kombat”?
Well, I just want to tell the fans that we really tried to pay respect to what’s out there in the “Mortal Kombat” canon and the original lore. We tried to get as many fun things that are taken from different video games, things that the fans have come up with and things that are built into the Mortal Kombat universe over the years.
I was really honoured to play Liu Kang obviously because he’s been the chosen one throughout every single “Mortal Kombat” iteration. And for me, every single different iteration of “Mortal Kombat” is like another spin on the karmic wheel, like that Buddhist concept of karma where the story restarts, you get to an ending. But it doesn’t end from there, it restarts again.
And then for our rendition, I think the movie is about blood and family. because every human bleeds. It’s a story about humanity fighting against evils that are about to overcome us. If blood is the story, then I think Liu Kang is the heart because he is the person that pumps blood throughout the “Mortal Kombat” universe. It’s to keep us alive basically.
What was your impression of the previous interpretations and how is your version different?
My first impression when I was a kid is that it was one of my favourite movies. What’s so brilliant about that movie was the imagery, the imagination, and of course the representation because as an Asian person you didn’t see so many Hollywood movies with Asians in it and you instantly connect. It’s so easy to bond with the characters. It’s the blend of that and then the music. A movie takes a long time to watch, but a piece of music, like a track, can play over and over again.
That’s how I watched “Mortal Kombat” when I was a kid. I felt like watching this movie over and over again would give me the same feeling, although I know where the story is going. In our iteration with the new “Mortal Kombat” that’s coming out, we try to recapture that feeling that’s just as instantly connective to what you feel inside your soul.
Of course, what’s vastly different is that our version is 1000 times more bloody and violent. So it’s got an R-rating. But I don’t think Simon (McQuoid), our director, just for his own ends, uses meaningless violence. All the violence feeds into the story, as you’ll see all the fights tie into each other and really tells the story of the character. The story is basically about each character discovering their inner truth and hidden power.
You are also currently filming “Kung Fu” and you’re playing a recurring character named Kerwin. If Liu Kang and Kerwin were to take on each other, who would win?
That’s a good question. If Liu Kang and Kerwin fought each other… Look, Kerwin can fight. He’s got a few things to his advantage. Kerwin can fight well and he’s trained ever since he’s a kid. Just like Liu Kang, he’s got a billionaire for a father. So, he’s got men on his side. He’s very rich. So yes, technology is on his side as well where Liu Kang is a Shaolin monk so he’s pretty much forbidden from using technology. He just lives very simply.
What else does Kerwin have? Kerwin has the Bentley, so he can drive away in case he’s in trouble. At the end of the day, if you make Kerwin stand toe to toe, he can just drive away in his Bentley and drive to the airport, jump in his G6 private plane and fly to another continent so that Liu Kang has to catch up. If he has to stand and fight, I think he would definitely be devoured by Liu Kang’s dragon.
But, if he could take his time and really run away and hide away on some private island so Liu Kang never finds him and waits until they’re both very, very old, and then just get his men to come and assassinate Liu Kang when he’s like 123, that may be Kerwin. But right now, at this moment, I would say Liu Kang would win.
We’re wondering if training for both “Mortal Kombat” and “Kung Fu” were very different or similar?
It’s quite different because “Kung Fu” is like a TV series. We’re filming, as they write, so we didn’t really have that much time to prepare for our fights. But luckily, I did “Mortal Kombat” first so I got a ton of fighting and choreography training as I was doing that. So, what I got from that, I can bring to “Kung Fu”.
That’s the beauty of being an actor. The roles that I play always teach me something and that’s why I enjoy it. So, the roles I play always make me realise something, and it makes me become a better actor, a better person, and a better martial artist.
“Mortal Kombat” has a huge cast of Asians. Do you feel inspired acting around these people?
I think while on set, we inspire each other. Yeah, I really get inspired and I feel right at home. Because when you grow up without role models and not many are in Hollywood, it’s difficult to pick the people you’re inspired by because it becomes harder to relate to them.
In “Mortal Kombat” we have Tadanobu Asano (浅野忠信) and Hiroyuki Sanada (真田広之,) who’ve been working in films for generations. So just looking at their body of work is inspiring. It feels right at home.
I think that’s important because I was born in China, and the concept of race and racism didn’t really come into my head until I moved to another place and experienced it firsthand because when you’re in China, everybody’s Chinese and everybody’s accepted. We’re like other cultures. It’s not that there is no prejudice, but I just didn’t understand the concept until I was judged for my skin colour and my culture.
So, to what kind of set actually represents the world that actually has lots of Asians in it… which is reality if you guys look around, right. I mean, people look at the population in Malaysia and it’s immense. Recently, we had “Raya and the Dragon” portraying a Southeast Asian princess.
The world is so big, and I don’t think people grasp that concept. If we really want to find better stories and have more fun and just get out there and be more interested, then we should look at the world as a whole.
— LudiLin (@ludi_lin) March 6, 2021
As an Asian actor in America, have you ever experienced outright racism in Hollywood? How do you handle it?
I would have to say there’s rarely just outright racism. But I think indirect racism is sometimes even more dangerous and insidious because people don’t take that as racism. They normalise it and act as if it’s normal. If someone punches you in the face, then you’re going to react no matter what. You either stand and fight or you’ll run but you’ll know something’s wrong.
But if they just give you little cuts every single day slowly, then you don’t realise you’re actually bleeding out until you’re already dead. What I’m saying is, you have to really watch out for those small cuts. Although someone’s not directly attacking you, they still do a lot of harm with the way they treat you and the off-handed jokes they make.
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Of course, now, a lot of people are getting outrightly attacked and that’s because there were so many indirect attacks that we didn’t feel threatened. It was small steps along the way that society has moved towards that extreme end of racism.
There were a few times I have been called names on the street or a very rude remark here and there, on set or in the casting room. Sometimes they don’t realise it but sometimes they do and it’s just a terrible joke. I tried to educate, you know, I tried. Of course, there’s a reaction by trying to set that rage aside and processing what’s right for me to feel.
I take all that anger and pain, especially pain that we’re feeling right now, as a signal that tells me that there’s something that needs to be done to change, rather than just feel it, and hurt myself with it. I want to turn it into positive energy and actually do something for the world and make people realise that this tells us it’s really time to act, time to talk about this, and time to not forget about this until we get some results.
You’ve also tweeted out that women, especially Asian women, have always been objectified as sexual objects, not just in Hollywood, but how they play a role in it, and so many, especially Asian women fall prey to that as well, right?
Hollywood plays the role and is complicit as the stories they tell reach the entire world and are accepted anywhere. If you had a way to just reach straight into people’s hearts and tell them how to act, what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s the importance of the value of a person, then that’s a huge power and a huge responsibility you hold in your hand. That influence and the imagery they painted of Asian women, women in general, and other races have always been so simplistic and stereotypical.
The thing is, the simpler you make a person, the less a person they become because we’re all very complex. That’s why we’re so valuable or so important. But the simpler you make them, the less important they become. The easier way is to say: “They’re not like me, they’re the other”. When you start using the word ‘other’, they become less of a person, then it becomes easier to eliminate them. It’s how all racism works, which is to objectify, dehumanise, and then you can do whatever you want with them.
You can eliminate them or kill them — it doesn’t matter. The history of this goes far back guys. It goes far back beyond Hollywood. It always has to do with the stories that people tell; by branding us as weaker, more stupid, lazier, making women weak, and dumber. It’s time to stop that. All this stuff is to make things unbalanced and to gain power. We need to realise that women represent half the entire population. We come from every single woman.
It’s time to stop that. Hollywood actually also taught men how to behave. They were men that objectified women. That was a sign of masculinity, which is how they thought men to conquer, seduce, and outsmart many women. But we need to start re-educating what it means to be a man. Right now, I think what it means to be a man is to actually step up and man up for women. I just want to get that into everybody’s heads so tragedies (like the recent shooting will) stop happening.
I think that’s one of the reasons why when it was announced that Chloé Zhao was the first female Asian to be nominated for Best Director, we were so proud and felt like that was a win for us as well to see her right there.
That’s amazing. I felt like I could finally breathe. It took 93 years for an Asian man to be nominated as best actor and for an Asian woman to be nominated or any woman of colour for the best director. 93 years! Do you guys remember when you were going to sleep, and your mothers were telling you stories? You always cuddle up to your mom as she’s trying to calm you and she tells you stories.
That’s what women do. Women are caring and they tell stories that are sensitive. They tell stories that really touch us. But how come it took 93 years for women to become nominated as the best director? I hope she wins! I really do think it’s very much needed.
Also, you’ve been working with James Wan who’s a director for “Aquaman” and he’s also a producer for “Mortal Kombat”. What did you enjoy about James Wan as a director and a producer?
Well, he’s a huge supporter of Asians. As you guys know, he’s a Malaysian Australian. Yeah, he’s a great supporter. His mind works in such miraculous and intricate ways. He’s just such a cool person to be around. He always calls you, “bro” and that’s who you are, you’re one of his brothers.
He once told me how he comes up with his ghost stories for his horror projects. We would go into his bathroom and just turn off the light. Whatever scared him, or whatever his mind made him think of -he’d go “Okay, that’s a great story to tell”. So, he’s very much in it and his mental process is impressive.
You’ve been involved in a number of franchises already. We were wondering if the one on “Power Rangers” is still in the works? Previously Dacre Montgomery said that they were finding a new cast. Is that true?
Yeah, well the Power Rangers is always going to be a legacy. It’s passed around a lot. It started in Japan and then Saban bought the rights to the TV series and aired it in America. It’s filmed in New Zealand and I think Brazil now has their own Power Rangers. The movies were done in the 90s and we rebooted them.
I think they’re finding a different vision because now it’s transferred from the hands of, I think, Lionsgate to Hasbro, the toy company. I think they’ve got their own vision on that. So, I’m actually excited to see what they come up with. Power Rangers is another one of these things that’s like karma or like the wheel because it keeps coming and going around. It’s like the next life. It’s like being reborn.
Would you will be reprising your role as Captain Murk in “Aquaman 2”?
Oh, we don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening with “Aquaman 2”. There are just so many things going on. But Murk’s story wasn’t finished. I hope I do. I don’t know much about it right now. I know they’re working on it.
If you could decide on character development for Captain Murk for “Aquaman 2”, how would you like to see his storyline or arc progress?
Captain Murk was in the first “Aquaman”. He was just beginning his journey as a captain. In fact, he had two hands. In the comic book, he had one hand missing and replaced with a sword and he was a general. Because under the old kings’ and the old princes’ influences, obviously, he’s a very strict and mean guy.
But under the new law and under the new king, I like to see how he advances in the army to become the general of the whole Atlantean army and what kind of army he gets, which should be a really cool story. To see him on screen again? Why not? Snyder’s “Justice League” just came out today and people love it.
Have you had the chance to watch it?
Yeah, I think it’s a great platform for HBO Max and I’m glad that “Mortal Kombat” is going to be released somewhat on it because more people will get to see it.
Especially this past year, streaming has been at the forefront of entertainment due to the closures of cinemas have been shut down. But we’ve been blessed with so much new content.
Yeah. I think that’ll be good because, in Malaysia itself, you guys make great films too, so then you have more platforms to show it on, more chances and more opportunities for the world to see it. Hey, if you ever hear any director needing me to do something in Malaysia, I can come back anytime.
Yeah, we would love to have you back. Please come. We also heard you currently have two Chinese films in the works?
Yeah, I’ve actually got a Chinese TV series released just around Lunar New Year. So that just finished airing 30 episodes. It was quite good. People loved it. It was one of the top streaming shows when it was released. The other one was this very independent tiny film where we had to go to Sichuan. They filmed right after the Chinese TV show. It was quite good.
This was filmed last year?
This was filmed the year before last year — before we all had to lockdown. In fact, that film was doing the festival circuit. So, we went to the Tokyo Film Festival and won the Best Future Film Award in 2019. It’s called “Summer Night” (夏夜骑士). I really had fun doing it because I was playing this role that was very different from what I usually play.
He was a retired soldier and he’s a chained smoked. The story took place back in the 90s when I used to grow up and it was a story about a little kid whose family bicycle got stolen. That happened to me all the time in my family. Back then, in China, a bicycle was like a car to people. All we had were the bikes. When people talked about accidents that killed people, they were talking about bike accidents that actually killed people back then.
But anyway, the bike was the family jewel. So, that was what the story was about. It’s very nostalgic. I miss those stories. Childhood means a lot and that’s why I think “Mortal Kombat” is so important because it’s such an integral part of my childhood. Things like “Power Rangers”, “Mortal Kombat”, and all these legacy series — anything that has to do with comic books. Parents always told you to “stop wasting your time on them, it’s not important”. But it’s actually important. Because they were like friends to us.
On the topic of franchises… Now that you’ve experienced being in the DC Universe already, does venturing into Marvel or “Star Wars” appeal to you?
It’s very appealing to me. Anything that has to do with universe-building is very appealing to me. Anything that has to do with what I saw when I was a kid is very appealing to me because I guess I never grew up. I think childhood is important.
In fact, I think all grown-ups are just pretend-grown-ups. Everyone that has grown up, I think they’re just pretending like they know what they’re doing, but all they want to do is to relive their childhood, and if I get that chance, I definitely will no matter what.
The other end is, I think any Asian actor that gets in these big universe-building series is positive for the world because it just makes people more familiar with our faces. There are so many stories that we can tell, with the personalities that we are. It’s important to make our characters a little bit different, to think outside of the box and make it a little bit complex and attractive because that’s the way forward I think.
Back to some “Mortal Kombat” questions. We were wondering what was your biggest challenge in tackling this role?
My biggest challenge? It’s funny when you mentioned my biggest challenge – everything was challenging but everything was so much fun. I guess my biggest challenge was trying to convince our director to use some of the crazy ideas that I wanted to do.
You’ll see that in the movie, I always try to inject something a little bit different into the movie, and sometimes it’s hard for me to explain or sometimes it just seems too crazy to do or we don’t have time or have the money. But I really tried to phrase it in a way that’s very convincing. Yeah, I don’t want to give anything away. I’ll just give you a clue, “TCM”, and then lookout for something like that in the movie. So, that was a fun one to try.
But the other stuff like the physical stuff, I love to do. It’s always going to be challenging but I love it. I always rise to the challenge. Shooting through the night and the fighting… it was all challenging. Shooting on sets in the middle of the night and it’s in the Australian desert where the closest city is six hours away and you’re in this granite mined and things are exploding all over the place and you have to fight all night — all that was challenging but I love it. I wouldn’t pick it over anything.
I guess, the other challenging part is actually waiting for viewers to see it because only then the film is complete. So, waiting is challenging.
Was filming during the pandemic much more challenging?
The thing with people is if you want to do something, you’ll find a way to do it. I’m up here in Vancouver, they found a way to do it. Sometimes I have to test every single day to go on set, especially during intimate scenes when I’m very close to another person, then the testing goes up even more, and everyone’s hyper-vigilant.
But we found a way through it, and we made a whole TV series during this. In “Mortal Kombat”, we filmed before the pandemic and during the pandemic as well. Before the pandemic, it was great. Everything was so physical. We hardly had to do with too many blue screens because the director really wanted real fighting, real background, not much CGI, and the CGI was just added for the extra effect. I tried really hard but I really don’t know how to throw a fireball, so they have to CGI things like that.
But during the pandemic or filming, it was very different because everything had to be in the studio. We’re lucky that Australia kept the numbers very low. So when we were filming, we felt really really safe.
So just remember that for people who want to do anything, just set your mind to it, keep trying and you’ll do it. It’s a difficult time but we’ll get through it.
Why do viewers need to watch “Mortal Kombat”?
Okay, well, I think everybody should go watch “Mortal Kombat”. Bring your girlfriends, it’s very romantic. I’m just kidding, but they’ll love it too. There are lots of strong women in it and there are strong men too. We’re all fighting it out for all humankind.
So I don’t think there’s any movie that’s going to be more appropriate at this time because we’re facing, literally, an invasion, like an evil threat from another source that’s not human and that’s what the movie is about.
It’s about getting bonded by bloodlines and having an awesome time. It’s action-packed and I’ve never fought more than I thought in this movie, and I’ll fight for you guys to go see the movie and enjoy yourselves.
We’ll finally get to see Ludi Lin in action when “Mortal Kombat” comes out in local cinemas on 8th April.