Chen Tang talks about the pressure of Mulan and excitement for Warrior Season 2

Warrior Season 2 -- Photograph by David Bloomer/Cinemax
Warrior Season 2 -- Photograph by David Bloomer/Cinemax /

Chen Tang talks Mulan, Warrior Season 2, and so much more

Chen Tang has quickly made a name for himself as an actor. His two most recent roles are those that stand out for the Asian-American community, bringing true representation to the screen. And all we can say is that it’s about time that happens!

Chen Tang has talked to us exclusively about the two projects, as well as his dream role. This is an actor who loves to step in others’ shoes, which gives us a lot of hope that there are far more exciting roles to come. Just take a look at what he has to say about MulanWarrior Season 2, and more.

Warrior is one of those shows you need to check out right away on Cinemax, if you haven’t already. With one season available right now and the second beginning on Oct. 2, there’s plenty of time to binge-watch—and once you start, you won’t be able to stop!

Hidden Remote: I would love to start with the Mulan live-action movie. It’s something my two girls adored from start to finish. In fact, the whole family did. Was this one of those movies where there was a lot of pressure?

Chen Tang: Oh, hearing stuff like that makes my day. You try not to think about the pressure, but you also can’t deny the truth. It was sort of like putting my hand on a hot pan. I couldn’t be like, “this is fine.”

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I have never done a project where pressure came from every side. The studios, the people who liked the 1998 movie, the people who didn’t like the animated movie. I just wanted to play the role the best I could. That’s all you can do as an actor.

When we got there, we all knew the pressure. A lot of people did like the animated movie, but as to Asian performers, especially Asian-Americans, it meant something extra for us. It was one of the first projects where I got to see our culture, people in our culture, on screen. That means something extra to us.

We tried not to let it affect us, because, at the end of the day, you’re never going to make everybody happy. You just try to make the best shot, the best movie, you can.

HR: Did it help that while your character was from the animated movie, Yao was very different to what we remember?

Tang: That was a running joke in New Zealand when we filmed. A lot of people assumed I was playing Li Shang because I’m tall.

But yeah, I loved it. Niki Caro [the director of Mulan] told me early on that I am not him. I could model as much as I wanted, which is what I did. I love the cartoon and I wanted to take as much energy from that as fully, but I also accepted that I’m not five feet tall or a middle-aged man. I wanted to honor the spirit of the character, but feel like a younger guy just joining the Army.

I felt like I was walking in my own shows.

Chen Tang
Chen Tang. Photo credit – Ryan West Photo /

HR: So, Mulan is big for Asian-Americans, but so is Warrior, which you’re coming into during Season 2. What drew you to the show in the first place, made you say yes to it?

Tang: Warrior is such an underrated show. It’s a freaking good show. It’s got a very unique angle, and I enjoyed being able to work creatively more on Warrior than I did on Mulan. HBO and the producers gave us so much leeway, like how we want to move and how we want to see the world.

It has a little extra since Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter, is the producer, and the show is based on a Bruce Lee pitch. To honor that is amazing.

And it touches on important history. If we forget history or don’t talk about it, it just goes away. It’s one of the things that drew me to acting. I like exploring somebody else’s story. I do hope in the future that someone will say “oh, that show” instead of “that Asian show” or “that Asian character”

HR: Can you tease your character a little?

Tang: Hong is a happy-go-lucky guy, who’s not quite there in the head, and who happens to be [spoiler redacted because you’ll want to be surprised]. I joined the gang from the Old Country. Let’s just say that.

HR: There is definitely some backstory there to him. You can tell from the minute he steps off the cart.

Tang: There were many layers and it was very, very fun.

HR: As you were saying, there’s a lot of history in the show that needs to be talked about. Is there anything from this show you hope viewers gain while watching?

Tang: Well, No. 1, I really hope they’re entertained. Warrior is not just historical, but it’s made for entertainment. But I do hope people stop to actually think about it, like just how human a lot of these characters are. Nobody is a good guy.

There are some pretty good points about why people feel and do what they do. I hope when people see that, they’re not only entertained but realize that everybody’s got a story. The moment we step out of our own shoes and put ourselves into another, we can start to understand more and start to empathize.

HR: Definitely. While watching it, I’m wondering who I’m meant to root for. They are all the heroes in their own stories.

Tang: I can tell you to root for Hong, but you’re right. I know why I hide, why I put on this happy face, even why I fight the way I do. We got into those specific details.

HR: Wow!

Tang: Yeah, Brett Chan, our stunt coordinator, we a true joy to work with as a creative artist. We would call each other in the middle of the night to talk about doing moves here and there. He’d be like “No, you can’t do that because that’s what this character does here.” We got down to the fact that Hong is from the Late Qing Dynasty China, which is hell on Earth. They would pile heads on the side of the street after executing people.

Hong is starving, so he’s skinny. He can’t fight people face to face, so always has to hide. So, he has to attack in a roundabout way.

Chen Tang. Photo credit – Ryan West Photo
Chen Tang. Photo credit – Ryan West Photo /

HR: Do you have any scenes that you can’t wait for people to see on the show?

Tang: I have two. The first is around the middle of the season. There’s a fight scene. It’s short, but it’s in the middle of the night and it was just so much fun shooting that episode with Jason Tobin and Andrew Koji. Our chemistry was instantaneous.

I also remember some scenes around a dinner table or a picnic table. One thing I would try to do is get Andrew to smile, so some weird stuff comes out.

HR: So with all these great roles you’ve already played, what would your dream role be?

Tang: Oh, that’s hard. There are so many. I think what speaks to me right now is Song Liling from M. Butterfly. I’ve always connected to that play, and there’s something about that sense of transformation, like a butterfly, that I’m always connected to as an actor. I want to play people who are not like me, which is why I so enjoyed playing Hong in Warrior because it was so different from Yao in Mulan, and they’re so different to me in my normal life.

With M. Butterfly, I would like to explore the feminine and masculine at the same time.

Next. Ming-na Wen's cameo on Mulan. dark

Warrior Season 2 premieres on Oct. 2 only on Cinemax, with Chen Tang as a series regular you will want to watch out for.