[JayneStars Exclusive] Ludi Lin on Filming “The Ghost Bride” and “Mortal Kombat”
With a deep passion for acting and sharing fascinating stories, Chinese-Canadian actor Ludi Lin (林路迪) has appeared in diverse roles in both Hollywood and Chinese productions. Born in Fuzhou, but later spending the majority of his youth in Canada, Ludi loves “living in the world” and embraces the creative energy that each acting opportunity offers, whether they are big studio productions or small independent films.
After starring in Chinese box office hit Monster Hunt <捉妖記>, Ludi’s breakout role was in 2017’s Power Rangers reboot as Zack Taylor. He subsequently appeared as Murk in Aquaman and Lance in Black Mirror.
In a recent Skype interview with JayneStars, the 32 year old spoke about what inspires him as an actor, and shared his filming experiences on set Netflix’s The Ghost Bride and the upcoming reboot of Mortal Kombat. An outspoken advocate of Asian representation, Ludi believes that the increased opportunities for Asian artistes in Hollywood are a step towards the right direction, but more changes need to take place in the film and television landscape for further progress.
The Ghost Bride
Released in January, Netflix’s original Mandarin-language series, The Ghost Bride, is based on the novel written by Yangsze Choo. Set in 1890s colonial Malacca, the suspenseful story revolves around Li Lan who becomes a “ghost bride” and marries Tian Ching, the recently deceased son of the wealthy Lim family, in order to pay off her family debts. Her ghostly husband soon haunts her nightmares, until Li Lan agrees to solve the mystery behind his murder.
As The Ghost Bride revolves around a supernatural tale, does he believe in the existence of supernatural phenomena? Ludi said, “Sometimes there are just things that we’ll never understand…Those things that are beyond our grasp, that’s what the supernatural is. We can just feel it with our emotions and gut instinct.”
He cites unintended humorous moments on set with his co-stars, “Kuang Tian, who plays my brother Tian Ching, is very sensitive to the spiritual side of things. Also Teresa Daley, who plays my wife, is quite easily frightened.”
Asked what attracted him to the role of Lim Tian Bai in The Ghost Bride, Ludi said he admires the character’s honorable traits. “He is very responsible towards what he is supposed to do in life. That’s a quintessential part of being Asian, especially from a Chinese heritage. I like anything that is very authentically, culturally Chinese.”
While some scenes required 20 to 30 hours of continuous filming, Ludi was too absorbed by the energy on set to feel tired. He said, “You don’t really feel the time pass. You don’t feel cold; you don’t feel pain; and you don’t feel tired. Nothing at all–you just feel engaged in the work. After the work is finished, that’s when you feel really exhausted.”
The Ghost Bride was filmed in Malaysia, which Ludi finds to be an eclectic and vibrant country due to the mingling of cultures. Although he has traveled to Malaysia as a backpacker more than ten years ago, Ludi experienced the country on a more intimate level this time. “I explored a lot of places I haven’t been to before, where there is really old Chinese legacy in those cities. I went to Penang, Ipoh, Taiping and Johor. I haven’t been to Taiping or Johor before. In Penang, we explored a lot of the heritage buildings such as the mansions. That was great. The streets were filled with smells of good food.”
With the positive feedback that The Ghost Bride is getting, will Netflix green light a second season? Ludi would love to resume his role if the series gets another season. “If people like it, I definitely think there will be a season two. There’s a lot of unfinished business in The Ghost Bride. It was very short at six episodes and we had a lot of things to tell…so much background in the story.”
Slated for a January 2021 release, Mortal Kombat is Ludi’s next big Hollywood movie. The successful video game franchise spawned two movies in 1995 and 1997, and two decades later sees a reboot. The martial arts fantasy film wrapped up filming in December and is currently in post-production. Filming in Australia was “one of the best experiences” Ludi ever had and he thanks producer James Wan, whom the actor worked with in Aquaman, for being supportive at all times.
Portraying Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat, Ludi draws parallels between the character and himself. Both believe in the fight for justice. “I got into fights when I was a kid. I didn’t like it when people picked on the weak, and I didn’t consider myself to be weak. I lost a lot of fights too. I also fought for what I thought was right. What I think is true. So that’s very Liu Kang.”
Asian Representation in Hollywood
The Hollywood film and television landscape has posed increased opportunities for Asian American artistes in recent years. While Ludi notes signs of progress, he remarked, “Representation means equity to me. We should get what we properly deserve because it’s very hypocritical for a country/ nation to brand itself as a tapestry of different cultures, a country based on freedoms and opportunities and acceptance, yet rejects some of its own people. Asian Americans are Americans. Asian Canadians are Canadians. So why aren’t we getting the chances to represent ourselves, our emotions, and our feelings in their stories?”
Acknowledging that “there is still a long way to go,” Ludi believes authenticity is key for pushing the movement forward, “We cannot give up portraying stories without authencity and nuance as much as we can.” He suggests helping studio executives, if they come from a different culture, to better understand how an authentic Asian character behaves. “I think they have good intentions to support it. There’s a lot of Asian money to be made and if you want to make the bottom line, you need to get at that money…. As Asians in the know, we need to help them understand what it’s properly about. Help them understand and support ourselves.”
Furthermore, Ludi urges scriptwriters and directors for including more Asian characters in their works, especially in science fiction and fantasy genres, which are very lacking in Asian roles. “I’m a huge fan of Game of Thrones, biggest show on television, not a single Asian. I think there was one, and she was a sex slave and she died in one or two episodes.” He further cites that there are few Asian characters in Star Trek, Star Wars, and new Netflix shows such as The Witcher, “These shows are conjured out of pure imagination. I don’t understand why there isn’t proper representation in these stories, because you’re making it up right now. I say to the authors and scriptwriters, to please imagine us Asians in those roles.”
Asian representation promotes greater cultural understanding, which Ludi believes is necessary for peaceful co-existence, “More than half the world is Asian. American culture is the dominant culture and force in the world right now. So if these giant forces we don’t come together and be able to hug, then we’ll come together to fight. It’s as simple as that.”
Enjoys “Living in the World”
Born in Fuzhou, Ludi moved to Hong Kong and Sydney as a child, and received his university education in Vancouver. Living in different parts of the world has made Ludi realize firsthand the importance of communication between different cultures. Recalling how he had gotten into a lot of fights in school, he said, “A lot of it was due to miscommunication. They just couldn’t understand my point and I just couldn’t understand their point, so the only way we could talk was through our fists, right? But after you learn to talk, then you can talk things through and make each other understand and appreciate the sharing of cultures.”
Observing the key difference between the cultures in the East and West, Ludi said, “Our cultural background has a very feminine energy to it. Whereas the Western culture has a very masculine energy…it is always aiming to penetrate into other people’s minds, hearts, and thoughts. That’s why American culture is everywhere.” In contrast, he finds Chinese culture to emphasize peace and harmony.
Asked which part of the world he wants to live in, Ludi said, “I enjoy living in the world the most. Ideally, I would never have a base. I want to live out of a suitcase my entire life. I treat myself and my career as a road show rather than it being based in a cinema. I really admire the theater troupes back in the day, and even the circus when they went from town to town to do their shows and to work on their craft. That’s what I want to do as well. There are so many different stories to tell all over the world. I really don’t have a base. I enjoy everywhere that I am. The more uncomfortable it is, the more interesting it is.”
Although he is well traveled, he has not been to South Africa and wants to visit scenic Cape Town someday. Due to rapid climate changes, Ludi also wants to experience Antarctica, “We can take a snapshot of what it’s like at this time, because we’re losing it very fast. I would also love to do some European films. I just need to get a handle on languages, which I’ll love to learn.”
Loves to Tell Different Stories
Although he has starred in action films such as Power Rangers, Aquaman, and Mortal Kombat, Ludi enjoys portraying layered characters the most. “I like characters that are quite psychological acts. They have substance in them. Even if they are physical roles, they should come from a very emotional place; they should have a root to them where they come from. Characters that have something in them that change the world view. I like things that don’t flat out don’t tell people what to feel, or what to want.”
Approaching each role by tapping into his character’s motivations, Ludi looks for ways to deliver performances that can give audiences a new take. “I start to think of ways to pull off a scene that is not too crazy, but different enough that’s never been seen before.”
In his spare time, Ludi enjoys writing his own scripts, which allows him to be creative. He likes writing “smart stories that contribute to the world” with “meaningful dialogue”. One day, Ludi hopes to also direct, “All the directors whom I’ve had the chance to work with, in China and the United States, have been so different. I need to find my own feelings, voice, and vision before I can properly pull off a directorial effort. It’s something I want to conquer someday.”
Doing Charity Work for Coronavirus Outbreak
Asked what is in stall for him next, Ludi responded that he had hoped to do more filming projects in China. With the plans put on hold due to the coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic, Ludi has been doing charity work for the virus outbreak in Los Angeles. Observing the current sensitive climate and the rise of racist attacks towards Asians, Ludi said, “I hope people have more acceptance and less xenophobia.”
Considering possibilities for his next project, he remarked, “In this industry, you never know. Sometimes, it’s a good surprise. Sometimes, it’s disappointment. There’s a lot of value to disappointment, so I need to learn to enjoy that too.”
JayneStars’ Exclusive Interview with Ludi Lin
This article is written by Jayne and MelodyC for JayneStars.com.