Greetings valued Dan's Movie Report readers. After watching the amazing 'Black Salt' short film I wanted to interview Sheena Chou. Fast forward a year and the talented actress is cast alongside Scott Adkins and Juju Chan in Jesse V. Johnson's action film 'Savage Dog'. Needless to say following her most recent film, I had many questions for Sheena that were burning inside my mind. Once again, another Dan's Movie Report exclusive interview, read on as Sheena Chou chats about her diverse character on and off screen. Enough of my ramblings, time to deal with Sheena!
DMR: Rather than chatting about the usual stuff to start out, can you expand your ideas on your 'About me' quote on your home page, and what inspires your creativity?
SC: "I am Oscar Grant. I am Mike Cho. I am Trayvon Martin." Being an Asian American girl, I am treated one way. I do not encounter the same prejudices that say, an African American boy does. The "About Me" section on my website is as it is because I want people to see me for who I am on the inside, and to treat others as who they are on the inside. I am particularly tired of the overabundance of police shootings in the U.S. Mike Cho was a personal friend of mine, and one of the gentlest and kindest souls I've ever had the honor of knowing.
My creativity is inspired by humanity, by love, by the good and kindness in people. But the opposite inspires me as well. I hope to have a voice to bring light to the things that matter to me, the things I think need fixing in the world. I'm also inspired by brilliant people and brilliant performances. I love film and film-making because you get to be immersed and surrounded by such creative and amazing people and you get to learn so much from them and through them.
DMR: Chat a bit about the Ron Yuan film, 'Unspoken: Diary of an Assassin', perhaps share some of the action training you did, and were you able to work some of your own ideas into the film?
SC: Working with Ron Yuan is a dream. I mean, we all know Ron's an incredible actor and a highly skilled martial artist, but he is also quite the actor's director. Armed with decades of experience, a clear vision, as well as patience, generosity and insight, Ron is able to draw out amazing performances from his actors.
In 'Unspoken: Diary of an Assassin;' I play Blunt Girl, a music video vixen by day and a trained assassin with blunt rolling skills by night. It's been such a fun project to be a part of. The slew of talent on this film!! It's an on-going project because we are all doing it out of passion and the actors involved are so busy with non-stop work elsewhere, lol, it's been difficult to gather all the talents together. There's been some awesome fights and action sequences as well as storylines shot so far though and it's already looking fantastic. "Unspoken" has shot in Tokyo, Hawaii, New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans so far. Where will we go next?
I haven't interjected any ideas into the film. It's Ron Yuan's baby - his passion project, so I shall just follow his lead. ;)
And as far as action training goes.. I was a boxer when I met him. After Ron, I am now an ass kicker! Lol! He's taught me Kali (Filipino stick fighting) as well as mixed martial arts and stage combat.
DMR: Sexy and dangerous Sheena. Curious if action is your favorite film genre, and what other genres would you like to tackle?
SC: Action is my favorite film genre to be an actress/butt-kicker in.. but Sci-Fi is my favorite genre to watch. My favorite TV show of all time is 'Battlestar Galactica' (the 2004-2009 one). There really isn't a genre that I don't like.. I want to experience as much as possible! :) I'd really like to play a smart, wise-cracking attorney and a fighter jet pilot and motorcycle racer, lol.
DMR: Right into 'Black Salt', as I am sure you know, the film made a huge splash and even was on Cinemax! Tell me your take and ideas you brought to the character of Li Jing.
SC: Yes, I'm thrilled people got to see 'Black Salt' on Cinemax! We all worked so hard on this project. Many of us are friends and it's always great to see your friends' hard work and awesomeness showcased. I really wanted to make Li Jing strong and mysterious. I wanted to show that even though Li Jing was attracted to Samuel Lincoln Tharpe aka 'Black Salt', that had nothing to do with why she wanted or needed to do the right thing. Luckily I had a wonderful director in Ben Ramsey, who helped me mold a strong female character with resolve in Li Jing.
DMR: Li Jing has a sorrow that is seething, a sort of melancholy sadness, when you work with the damaged and sad characters, do you get into a different mindset?
SC: Yes, definitely.. There are many sides to me and depending on the character and the story, I draw from different experiences and different aspects of myself. In order to make this make believe world believable, I have to put myself in different mindsets and believe it first myself.
DMR: OK Sheena, did you secretly want to kick ass like Michelle Lee did, the physical stuff in Black Salt? I feel that your energy was just as intense but channeled for dramatic flair.
SC: Hehe, YES!!! I always want to kick butt in action films. But Michelle Lee is amazing and was perfect for Horse Ripper.
DMR: Curious as to your thoughts on 'Black Salt' after you saw the finished project as compared to when you shot it? Any changes different ideas? In general are you judgmental of your work after it comes out? I ask this as many of the people I interview do not watch the final product cause they have 'lived' with it for so long.
SC: I am one of those highly self-critical actors. It's always hard to watch myself and much like in social situations, I sometimes think of great ideas after-the-fact! Lol.
DMR: Chat about the passion for indie films, and if someone offered you a chance to star in a great indie film you loved the script, would you pick it over a bigger budget film, smaller role of course.
SC: To be honest, this highly depends on where I am in life and in career and many more aspects than just the details laid before me. ;)
I love indie films and indie filmmakers and the creativity and passion that go into indie film-making but the support, experience and resources that come with studio films make the experience fairly easy and relaxed, and the guarantee of distribution is always nice. ;)
DMR: How did you connect to Jesse for 'Savage Dog'? Chat about training prior to principal photography.
SC: The lovely Roger Yuan and Ron Yuan put in a good word for me and put my materials in front of director and writer Jesse V. Johnson. And I'm so glad and grateful they did! Jesse is incredibly kind and passionate and I absolutely loved being a part of "Savage Dog."
DMR: I know a bit about the film and I saw you play a character named Samsip-Sam, curious if you were able to have any interaction with actress Juju Chan on set or off as she is one of the stars in the film also?
SC: Yes, Juju and I had a couple scenes together and she is a sweetie. I saw her bring different layers to her character and she was a pleasure to work with.
Above Photo: (C) 2016 Ben Burton exclusive for Dan's Movie Report
DMR: Do you feel that when working on an action film such as 'Savage Dog', with many very talented action people you push yourself harder?
SC: I play the girlfriend of Valentine (played by Keith David). Keith David is a vet in the business and it shows. Working opposite such a fantastic actor, you must bring your A game. What was wonderful is that Keith is a sweetheart and is a very gracious actor and human so playing his girlfriend who loves him is easy. ;)
The very talented action star of the film Scott Adkins really brought it on 'Savage Dog'.
Above Photo: (C) 2016 Ben Burton exclusive for Dan's Movie Report
DMR: Without spoiling the plot, is any physical action for you in 'Savage Dog' or is it dramatic like 'Black Salt'?
SC: Unfortunately, I didn't get to do any action on this film either. But I was the heart of the film. I play a "ride or die" kind of woman, whose strength and resolve is the backbone of the film. Though I didn't get to film any fights, I was fortunate enough to witness some of the action. If you love action, you're gonna love this film!
DMR: Again without spoiling the plot of Savage Dog, what attracted you to the script, perhaps a tease of one or two ideas?
SC: The script. The script was incredible. I couldn't put it down. The action was so well-written and was so exciting and there were a couple scenes with Martin (Scott Adkins) that were so hard.. it really intrigued me. There's also a very nice story of revenge behind it all and who doesn't like a good revenge? :)
DMR: Did you connect with any of the cast or crew from Savage Dog. after shooting, friendships?
SC: Cung Le is my brother now. Fam for life!
DMR: Do you enjoy your action films balanced with the ladies getting in on the detailed fighting scenes?
SC: I love seeing women kicking butt. Angelina Jolie is fantastic in 'Wanted' and 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith'.I don't think there's enough of a balance of women in action films. Hello Hollywood! We want to see more ass kicking ladies!!
DMR: Blackjack? How did you get bit by the game of chance and a bit of strategy? Any cool table stories? Do you also play and or watch Celebrity poker?
If so, who are your favorite players?
SC: Oh man.. I love blackjack.. I always have. I was taught poker at the age of 4 and have loved cards ever since. I prefer blackjack over poker, however, because of the pace. I'm still working on the patience that is necessary to be a great poker player. I haven't been watching the recent poker players but I once played poker against Gus Hansen and Howard Lederer. Howard Lederer taught me how to stack chips and Gus Hansen complimented me on my game, lol.
There's too many stories of the highs and the lows of blackjack.. too many instances where I bet too much and then got a pair of 8's, then had to split it even though the dealer is showing a 10, and then needing to split it again, then doubling down, and splitting again, etc. I would be betting $50-$200 the entire night, then all of the sudden I'd get impatient and ballsy or whatever and would bet an outrageous $500, and then I'd get a hand like that.. and then with all the splitting and doubling down, out of nowhere, I would suddenly have $2500 on the table and I'm shitting bricks. I. Love. Blackjack. Lol.
DMR: Back to films, I know you like action, is there an actress or stunt person who you look up to in the business?
SC: I'm in love with Angelina Jolie. I love her in her action films like 'Wanted' and ;Mr. & Mrs. Smith' and I love her when she is crazy, I love her when she is tough, I love her when she is sexy, I just love her.
Right now, I'm fascinated by young actress Millie Bobby Brown. If you haven't seen it, you must watch "Stranger Things" on Netflix.
SC: I don't know if I have the be-all answer to this very big problem, but I do think if we banned together people as a people, if we showed our spending power by supporting Asians and Asian Americans as a whole (and not let our very unique and smaller ethnic groups keep us from supporting other Asian ethnic groups), we may be able to show those with the $ and power in Hollywood who are making the casting decisions that we are here and we want to see Asians and it is in their best financial interest to do so. I don't care if you're Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Thai, Japanese, Filipino, Malaysian, Indian, etc., etc., I want you to rise. We will rise together!
It helps that there are a growing number of Asian writers and filmmakers who are trying to offer more and better material for Asian American actors but even if they are going in with those intentions, I'm hearing that they are finding quite a bit of resistance. It takes a very strong and willful person to not allow others to force their hand, someone who is willing to lose the deal to get projects made the way they originally intended. If we had more people like this, incredibly brave and passionate people with resolve like the wonderfully talented Angie Wang of upcoming indie film 'Cardinal X', we will make our way.
I love that 'Fresh Off the Boat' actress Constance Wu has been vocal about the difficulties of Asian Americans in Hollywood. By the way, "Fresh Off the Boat" is one of my favorite shows right now. It's very well made and it's hilarious! Constance Wu is so wonderful; really, the whole family is incredible. The kids are just too cute and the 90's hip hop is right up my alley.
It starts by getting people to know what the problem is. It continues by us as Asian American actors working our butts off and perfecting the craft. It is changed by the people's support of our plight, first by Asians supporting all other Asians, then hopefully by non-Asians supporting us. We need our Asian parents to support our plights as artists, whether we want to be a painter or a writer or an actor. We have to tell our own stories. If we collectively create wonderful, entertaining, thought-provoking, tear-jerking, brilliant content, can we be denied? So let's show the $ they can make plenty of $ showcasing us, that we want and Need to see more Asians in film and TV. Bruce Lee and the Wu-Tang Clan did wonders for the Asian kids of my generation, showing America that Asian culture is cool. We need more of that and we need it now.
Thank You, Danny Templegod, for doing your part in helping us with visibility. :)
DMR: Thanks for the compliment, it is humbling, chat about your future projects, what is in the pipeline for 2017 for you?
SC: I have a really big film coming out.. It's a small role in a huge movie that I can't really talk about.....
DMR: Finally: Advice to people just coming into the acting realm, that you wish you would have known when you started?
SC: It's A LOT of hard work.. But if you work hard, stay focused and committed, and always be a good person, it will happen. You will learn the ropes and get the support even if you get into it not knowing a single person in the business. Learn everything - acting, cold reading, improv, drama, comedy, and do everything - student films, indie films, commercials and get a job that allows flexibility like Uber driving! ;)
Thanks for your time Sheena, we shall catch up later on your new projects in the meantime, I invite my audience to check out her official websites: