Sunday, May 22, 2022

Interview: Lewis Tan Talks ‘Fistful of Vengeance’ and ‘Shadow & Bone’ [EXCLUSIVE]

Netflix’s new action-packed martial arts movie Fistful of Vengeance hits your screens on February 17. The film is a follow-up to the first season of Wu Assassins. Before the big premiere, we caught up with actor and martial artist Lewis Tan who plays Lu Xin.

You can watch our interview with Tan here, and read the full transcript below.

Nerds and Beyond: So speaking of Wu assassins [and] Fistful of Vengeance. What did it feel like learning that you’ll get to play Lu Xin again?

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Lewis Tan: Well, it was really cool. You know, because I love the character, and I think in the first season, they went through so much together as a family. And we were really looking to, like, expand on that in season two. But when they brought up the idea of doing a film, it really kind of made sense, because it just kind of streamlines the story; condenses, you know, parts of the series that, you know, maybe felt a little convoluted, and then all the things that the series got right, like the action scenes, and you know, the stuff that people really wanted to see, we kind of just condensed it and made it like easier to digest, you know? So we took some of the weak points and made them better. And then we took the strong points and just like amplified it, put it on steroids. So, it’s like a literally… like a non-stop action film from the first 10 minutes. It just goes to the end.

Nerds and Beyond: That’s awesome.

Lewis Tan: Yeah. Have you seen the movie yet?

Nerds and Beyond: I haven’t. I haven’t. I’m gonna watch it. A group of my friends and I, we’re actually going to have a watch party for it when it comes out.

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Lewis Tan: Okay, cool.

Nerds and Beyond: Yeah. It’ll be very fun. I’m very excited about it. Um, but speaking of those fight scenes, and the stunts, was there any scene that was like, particularly hard for you? And was there a lot of collaboration when it came to those scenes?

Lewis Tan: Yeah, there’s always a lot of collaboration. So on this one, we worked with… we always work with Iko [Uwais]’s team, obviously… Iko’s team from Indonesia. They’re awesome. And then at the same time, we had a collaboration with the Seng stunt team who did Ong-Bak and a lot of really great action movies. So they’re a Thai stunt team, and I actually worked with them a long time ago when I was a kid when my father was doing Bloodsport 2 in Thailand. So like, it was pretty crazy to see because they were like, you know, I’m all grown up now. I call him uncle, so it was cool. So it was like a collaboration of these two awesome teams. And yeah, they were really collaborative in the way that we could design stuff and they would show us some choreography, and we would kind of like, you know, throw ideas out and work on the whole scene together. But there’s one in particular that we used for the first time. We used what is called, like, a bolt robot camera rig. And what it is, is it’s a giant, like six-foot robot that’s on like a track, and these specialists come in and they design an algorithm of exactly how the camera can move at different points. So we did like a one… basically, the idea was to do, like, a one-shot fight scene for as long as we possibly could, with the camera moving all around, through, up, and down. But we had to basically dance around this… this huge robot, which could at any point, if you make one wrong move, could take your head off and has injured a lot of people before in the past. But it hasn’t been used like this, so this is a particularly cool fight scene, and that was particularly dangerous. So yeah, really fun.

Nerds and Beyond: Oh man.

Lewis Tan: It’s good.

Nerds and Beyond: That sounds very adrenaline-inducing. [laughs]

Lewis Tan: Yeah, we had a lot of rehearsals for that one.

Nerds and Beyond: Oh, I’m sure. I’m sure you have to be so careful with that. Speaking of Iko and Lawrence [Kao], what did it feel like reuniting with some of the old Wu Assassin crew?

Lewis Tan: I love those guys so much. So they’re like my family, you know? I mean, it’s so nice. It was sad that not everyone was with us, but we have some new additions to the Wu Assassins family. And then, of course, you know, Iko and Lawrence, they’re really a dream to work with. They’re just really fun people, and it was difficult to get the movie done in… during the pandemic in Thailand. And there was a lot of complications, but to work with those guys is like, it’s a dream, you know. I hope that people watch this one and we can make another… another one or a whole series of it, you know? So yeah, that’d be really fun. I love those guys. They’re great to work with.

Nerds and Beyond: Awesome!

Lewis Tan: And this time we get to see Tommy doing some fight choreography!

Nerds and Beyond: I saw that in the trailer! That’s awesome!

Lewis Tan: Yeah ’cause he was complaining before. He was like, “I want to do some fights next time.” So we put him to work this time, and he killed it.

Nerds and Beyond: That’s awesome. I love that. Um, you did talk about seeing new faces. Pearl Thusi, in the trailer at least ’cause I haven’t seen it, seems like an ex-love interest… also a possible current love interest. What was it like working with her and finding that chemistry together?

Lewis Tan: Yeah, Pearl was incredible. She was… she jumped right in. She loved the idea of, you know, trying to train with us and do as much as the action that she could herself. And I really love actors that do that. I love actors that put in the work, you know? If you’re gonna make an action movie, it’s… it’s a lot of physical work. And it’s part of the performance. It’s part of the emotional performance even… is in the physicality. So Pearl was great because she was training with us six hours a day, six days a week, and she would even come out on her off days and train. So yeah, she was great. And then as far as the chemistry between us, it’s, I think it works really nicely. You know, she’s a really kind of honest and open person. And, and we had a lot of conversations about the characters and kind of like their backstory and their history, and I think it really shows on screen. And you know, for me, as an Asian… as an Asian man, it’s nice to see these kind of like diverse couples on screen, because you’d never usually see like an Asian man and a black woman romantically on screen, which is like, it’s very rare to see that, which is weird. But I’m happy to like, you know… me and Pearl actually, we’re both happy to kind of like, just add a different color to the narrative and hopefully people enjoy that.

Patrick Brown/Netflix

Nerds and Beyond: I’m sure they will. I’m sure they will. So the end of Wu Assassins alludes to Lu Xin possibly being the next leader of the Triads. Without giving anything away, obviously, will we get any answers about that, or see that aspect of the movie at all?

Lewis Tan: What I can say is this: you don’t need to have watched the series to watch this film. So we wanted to do something unique, which is to the people that have seen the show, they are going to have… you know, they know the character’s history and they know their backstory, and they’ve kind of been on a journey with them before. So you know, they’ll be more invested when they watch this movie. But if you haven’t seen the series, you can still watch this movie and go in blind, because what it really is, at the end of the day, is — obviously, it’s a revenge story — but it’s about a traumatic experience losing a loved one, and then, you know, going on a journey to discover answers. And you know, they want to find answers… they want revenge, and during that journey, exploring their relationships together as a family. You know, so anybody can just jump in and watch it. And if you’ve seen the show, then you’ll kind of have a good, you know, grasp on the characters already.

Nerds and Beyond: Right. Well, I love that. That gives more people the option to watch it for sure.

Lewis Tan: Yeah, exactly.

Nerds and Beyond: You kind of touched on this, but … do you think that this movie will open any doors to continue the story like a second season or another movie? Or what do you think?

Lewis Tan: Yeah, I think it’s always kind of difficult getting stuff off the ground in the first season. And the story of Wu Assassins, you know, it was a little complex, and there was like many different timelines and stuff. So I think what we took away from that series — based on fans, comments, and you know, kind of like what we understood people liked and what we understood we thought were maybe weak points — is to kind of like adapt the story and make it something that we can develop in the future and keep developing it. Almost like the Fast & Furious franchise where we keep bringing in different people, you know, different cool people like Peral Thusi [and] Jason Tobin from Warrior… and keep adding new faces while we go on this journey and kind of like develop the action so it continuously just gets wilder and wilder. And you’ll see when you watch this film, like when I tell you it’s non-stop action from the first 10 minutes of the movie… after the first ten minutes of movie… it’s nonstop action. Like legit. So yeah, hopefully we can keep, like, upping the ante [and] doing crazier and crazier things.

Nerds and Beyond: My favorite type of movie: non-stop action. That’s what I love.

Lewis Tan: It’s kind of an homage to that old, old-style action film, you know? Like, there is some VFX in the movie, but 95% of it is practical. And 98% of it was shot on location. So yeah, I’m proud of that, because I enjoy those old action films, you know, like the 80s and 90s. And so we were kind of hoping to make an homage to that period as well.

Nerds and Beyond: Yeah. I love that. Is there a character trait of Lu Xin that you admire or try to implement in your own life? He’s a complicated character. [laughs]

Lewis Tan: Yeah. Well, I think what’s cool about Lu Xin that I relate to, in a way, is I think his ability to learn and grow and kind of like, you know, take traumatic things from his past and, and try to develop as best as he can, as a human. I think that… he’s a very flawed character and so am I, you know, everybody is. And I think that the desire to want to grow and progress is the most important thing, as opposed to knowing… you know, knowing that you can do better and not trying, or knowing that you can do better and not exploring that hard truth.

Nerds and Beyond: Right.

Lewis Tan: You know, I think that’s… it’s very valuable for people that want to explore it and choose to, and he does that, and I am doing my best to do that, too.

Nerds and Beyond: He does. That’s a… that’s a really great trait of his for sure. Okay, so I do have to ask about Shadow and Bone for one question. It’s one of my favorite book series. How excited are you to be bringing Toyla to life?

Lewis Tan: I was so excited. I met Leigh Bardugo like two days ago and I was fanning out. It’s incredible, man. The cast is really cool. And I love the first season. I love what they did. I’ve read the first two books, and really enjoyed them. And uh, going to get into the next ones as well. But yeah, I’ve really… I’m excited to bring, you know, a different level of action or a different level of character work… and bring Toyla to life in a more specific way.

Nerds and Beyond: Yeah.

Lewis Tan: So yeah, I’m really excited. I can’t say too much about it.

Nerds and Beyond: I know!

Lewis Tan: Everybody on the cast is super cool. And they’re like, you know, one big family, so they embraced me and Anna [Leong Brophy], who plays my twin, Tamar. So they embraced us with open arms, and that was really sweet. And it’s not always like that, that you get a cast that is really caring and kind. So yeah.

Nerds and Beyond: Oh, that’s nice! Yeah, as soon as I saw you were cast as Toyla, I was like, “Oh, the action in the show is just going to be next level.” [laughs]

Lewis Tan: Yeah. And when, you know, when they cast me they were like, they were just like, yeah… so when I went in to check out the, you know, the props and stuff, and they kind of had all these different props on a table, and I can’t be too specific about it, but I was excited. There was a lot of different weapons that looked fun.

Nerds and Beyond: Yeah, love that. Okay, so finally, at Nerds and Beyond, we like to end our interviews with a fun question. If you could choose any supernatural power, whether that’s Wu related, Grisha related, or anything else, what would it be, and why?

Lewis Tan: That’s interesting. Well, I’ve been exploring more of this heartrendering, you know? And I think that’s, that’s a pretty, pretty unique trait. You can kind of… well obviously, you can do damage with it… but you can also kind of, like, get reads on people. And I think that that’s pretty interesting. So I’ll go with that one for now. Because that’s the one that um… well obviously if I could summon the sun, I mean, that’s, that’s the number one. [laughs] Yeah, but, uh, no, the heartrendering one is something that I’ve been exploring. And kind of, um, even playing like a twin, you know, because twins kind of have that, that sixth sense about them already; that kind of, like subconscious connection already. And I think like with this kind of, like power on top of it, it’s really unique to explore kind of how they can reach each other without having to say anything.

Nerds and Beyond: Right.

Lewis Tan: So yeah, it’s awesome.

Nerds and Beyond: That’s awesome. Yeah. Heartrending is…

Lewis Tan: What’s your Grisha power?

Nerds and Beyond: I’m a heartrender also.

Lewis Tan: Yeah! Alright!

Nerds and Beyond: I took the quiz and everything and that’s what I’ve gotten.

Lewis Tan: Oh okay! That’s cool. Like you’re legit one of us!

Nerds and Beyond: Yeah, of course! Of course I am! Well, awesome. Lewis, thank you much for taking your time out to talk with us. It means a lot to Nerds and Beyond. But I’m sure it also means a lot to all the other smaller outlets that you’ve given the chance to talk to.

Lewis Tan: Yeah for sure. It’s my pleasure. You guys are awesome. And you know, I appreciate you getting the word out. Especially for movies like this, you know, that are very diverse and, kind of like, original stories. It’s good. It’s great to have everybody’s support.

Check out Fistful of Vengeance on Netflix on February 17.

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