James Chen is best known for recurring as ‘Kal’ in the hit AMC series “The Walking Dead”, which returns for its season 8 on October 7, 2018.
“Iron Fist” follows Danny Rand who returns to New York City, after being presumed dead for 15 years, to reclaim his family company from Harold Meachum and his children. When a threat emerges, Rand must choose between his family’s legacy and his duties as the Iron Fist.
James Chen plays ‘Sam Chung’, who is a volunteer for the Bayard Community Center.
Tell us about Marvel’s “Iron Fist”! Who is Samuel Chung in season 2?
Iron Fist season 2 continues the adventures of billionaire martial arts master and chosen Immortal Iron Fist, Danny Rand. While Danny wrestles with complications in his responsibility to bear The Fist and protect New York City, Colleen hunts down clues to her family history.
Sam Chung works in the Chinatown Bayard Community Center. He and Colleen have a great friendship and rapport there and he helps Colleen on her personal quest. As larger, dangerous forces descend upon Chinatown, I work together with both Danny, Colleen, and local leaders to help serve and protect our community. I see Sam as being a representative and advocate for the common people.
Will the vigilante superhero Blindspot be making an appearance in season 3 and why is the character important for the Asian community?
Great question! It’s on everyone’s minds for sure, and I know fans are super eager to see this exciting character!
I think Blindspot is one of the most important characters to enter into comics in recent history. As an illegal immigrant who is self-taught, a genius, a dreamer, and an amazing fighter for justice… his story is incredibly timely and so important for positive representation. There are so few Asian leading men in the stories of this country’s past, let alone a bonafide hero who’s depicted as powerful and resourceful as he is.
The fact that he’s an Asian-American hero is also really needed… as world-class as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li all are… there’s always been something foreign about their cultural identity. I think it’s incredibly important for an Asian-American kid or even adult to be able to follow Blindspot and see someone powerful, important and dignified who’s like them — in appearance, in nationality, in the hyphenated Asian-American experience — adventuring through the world, battling with not only Defender-level darker forces but also very personal, human struggles as well. It’s representation like this that makes powerful impressions upon a person’s identity, self-esteem — that they matter, that they can and should feel awesome about themselves.
And that when they daydream or talk with their friends about superheroes that they can see someone who resembles themselves in those visions. On another level, it’s also great for our multicultural society as a whole to normalize Asians and Asian-Americans as leading men. It’s time. Critical and box office successes like Crazy Rich Asians, Searching are just the latest tangible proof that the demand is so there!
I think it would be incredible for the Asian-American community as well as for the Iron Fist / Defenders world for Blindspot to be developed. As for season 3, we’ll have to wait and see, but until then I’m so glad this conversation is happening and that our community and the greater Marvel fandom at large continues to express the desire for strong Asian male leads. I’ve been keeping up with my mixed martial arts training, so I’ll be ready.
You are recurring in the new CBS series “FBI”. Who do you play in the series?
I play Ian Lim, who works with the Bureau to solve issues in computer and electronics analysis as we tackle high-level threats to our nation’s security. Whether it’s on the defensive end working with crime scene evidence or the offensive end working with surveillance and infiltration, Ian’s got it covered with a pro-bono serving of snark and wise-ass thrown in.
You are best known for recurring on “The Walking Dead” as Kal. Do people always ask you for spoilers?
Always! But the AMC/TWD culture on and off set is very good about being super super SUPER mindful about not spoiling any of those great story points for the fans. My first time on set, I passed a guy up in a tree with a telephoto lens about a half-mile out from our shoot location. Gotta love the passion of the fans!
Up next, you will be guest starring on “Broad City”. What was it like working with the cast?
In.cred.ible. Ilana and Abbi are nothing short of my artistic heroes. As actresses who’ve written and performed their own material and taken it to such a successful level, they inspire me every day. And they are both the most professional and coolest and funniest people to work with, which is such a magical combination. Ilana and I actually grew up not too far away from each other out in Long Island, so we had fun riffing on that. They were also super generous as actors and directors giving me and my castmate, the hilarious Ben Rameaka, the chance to really have fun and improv and play on lines and within the scene. Just a really great place and people to be creative with.
How did your training at Yale help prepare you for a life as an actor?
I’d wanted to go to a rigorous conservatory so I could have a solid foundation for the rest of my career, and I have to say younger James had a good idea! I think once you learn the principles of your instrument and of rehearsal and scene work, you have so much more flexibility to interpret the work of different playwrights, screenwriters, characters, or genres of story. We also spent a good time in work-study doing theater load-ins and strikes so it was a great lesson in a very literal kind of hard work, manual labor, sweat equity, teamwork, and the love and respect for every profession involved in making a production happen. Plus a marked increase in my alcohol tolerance so… yeah, practical skills people.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I’ll be appearing on The Last O.G opposite Tracy Morgan and Allan Maldonado later next spring. Great time, hilarious actors and writers! I also have an indie film called Fluidity coming out later this Fall… it’s about the intersecting story of 10 millennials as they navigate relationships, sexuality, and technology in a fast past world.
And just last week I wrapped on doing one of my funnest characters to date on Madam Secretary, a billionaire … just making my Crazy Rich Asians dream come true. That episode should air this Fall in November, so stay tuned!