Wednesday, May 25, 2022

‘Kung Fu’ Interview: Gavin Stenhouse Talks Evan Hartley’s Evolving Role in Season 2 and More [EXCLUSIVE]

Nerds and Beyond recently got the chance to sit down with yet another wonderful member of the Kung Fu cast, Gavin Stenhouse, to talk about Evan Hartley’s evolving role in season 2 of the show and more. Without further ado, check out what Stenhouse had to say below!

*This interview has been edited for clarity*

Nerds and Beyond: So to jump into the questions, Evan’s had it kind of rough in season two.

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Stenhouse: [laughs]

Nerds and Beyond: Yeah, it’s been a little rough [laughs]. “Disclosure” is the first episode we’ve seen in a while where Evan is really in on the action, which we haven’t seen as much of as of late since he got the boot from his ADA position. But with him finally taking down DA Hughes (which didn’t necessarily feel like a win), do you think this will be the start of an upward trend for Evan?

Stenhouse: I think so. I think that the entirety of season one and up until the point where he loses his job in season two, I think that Evan has been increasingly constrained with operating inside the boundaries of being an employee of the DA’s office. Or in the position in the DA’s office that he’s in. And I think that you know, maybe after drowning his sorrows for a few days day drinking with Althea, he has come to a realization that actually … this system is broken and his ambitions of being able to change the corruption from the inside out is not as fruitful as maybe Nicky and Henry’s approach.

Jack Rowand/The CW

And this is seen in series one, where he talks about this with Althea, and that was really iffy for him to realize, “oh, we can get more stuff done with better outcomes by just direct action in these situations.” And I think that it’s a new world for Evan, and I’m excited that Evan gets to take a part more and more in the missions. I think that he will lend himself to the Scooby Gang well in the field. I mean, in episode one, you know, he has shot with the rifle taking down the Jeep, and there’s more of that to come in future episodes. So yeah, it’s an exciting time for Evan. I think it’s something that we really wanted to get his hands into himself. Like he was maybe too constrained within the department.

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Nerds and Beyond: Yeah, and that actually leads me into my next question. Evan didn’t seem super thrilled about the prospect of getting his job back once Hughes was detained. Do you think his priorities have shifted, and if so, what is Evan starting to realize is more important and impactful to him than serving the community as an ADA? I know you touched a little bit on that.

Stenhouse: Yeah, I think that going into the job fresh out of college, I think that in his head, he had this idea that “oh, well, you know, corruption inside the DA’s office is gonna be lead by the DA. The DA is the source of corruption within the office. So if you get to a DA position perhaps, or get to a position of power in the office, you can change that.” But I think that, especially the line that Janet Kidder has, that DA Hughes has, at the end where she says “this system is built to protect men like him,” I think Evan is starting to realize that it’s so much bigger than just the DA officers or these positions of power. It’s the entire system. It’s systematic. And I think that working within the boundaries of staying “legal,” I think he’s realizing that that whole dream was naive. It’s a new coming of age for Evan to be able to recalibrate, learn new things, new techniques, new attitudes from Nicky and Henry, and I think it’s it’s going to be an exciting time for him when we see how he decides to apply those new skills to helping the Shen’s and taking down Tan.

Nerds and Beyond: So, shifting gears a little bit, I’m not sure there’s very much you can say, but with last season’s love triangle having come and gone, is it possible that we’ll be seeing a new romance brewing on the horizon forever or is it just not in the cards for him at the moment? There have been a lot of fan theories floating around about him and Nadia…

Stenhouse: I mean, never say never. I can’t really elaborate anymore [laughs].

Nerds and Beyond: I got you [laughs]. So when I was doing a little bit of research to try and come up with some questions for you, I found out you were born in Hong Kong and lived there for like a while, right?

Stenhouse: I am yeah, born and raised. Till I was like, nine-ish.

Nerds and Beyond: Oh, that’s so cool! Do you feel like those cultural ties stretching back to your childhood have given you a better sense of appreciation and connection to the heart of the storylines on Kung Fu?

Stenhouse: Yeah, one hundred percent. I mean, I have such fond memories of being in Hong Kong. I think that so much of my identity is tied up in traditional Cantonese culture that it feels like I certainly — you know, even more so in season 2 because I know everyone, but in season one, when we were still forging friendships and learning who everyone was — it felt in a way like I was coming home because there was a shorthand between me and Tzi [Ma] because Tzi is from Hong Kong as well! I spent time in Singapore and Malaysia, so Kheng [Hua Tan] and I were talking about things exclusively in Singaporean and Malay. And I speak a little bit of Bahasa as well as Malaysian, and she understands that.

So there’s just so many of these points that felt like unspoken connections and very familiar to me without anything having happened or anything being said; it just felt familiar. One of the things that happened during the pilot before lockdown was that everyone sat in a circle and went around talking about their heritage and a little bit about their own individual culture. So, like Eddie [Liu] spoke about Hakka, and Kheng talked about Hokkien, and Tzi talked about Cantonese. It was just like, it’s a familiar world for me. It felt like I was coming home. It was really lovely.

Nerds and Beyond: That’s really awesome. And if I have my facts right, you also had a lot of involvement in your past in martial arts with Taekwondo and Muay Thai and some other fields. Is that right?

Stenhouse: Yeah. Yeah, I started taekwondo when I was about four or five. And it was just, I’ve always loved movements. It was an obsession for me for a long time. I did it until I was maybe 15 or 16? International Taekwondo Federation, so, not the full kicking … I did a couple of competitions. I am not very good at fighting. So I got my ass handed to me several times [laughs]. But I enjoyed actually practicing it. And later on, when I moved to London, I discovered other martial arts like Capoeira, like Muay Thai. I really felt an affinity for boxing. Kali, Eskrima, the Philipino, and the Southeast Asian martial arts as well — which I’m super excited about because JB Tadena has some Kali and Eskrima experience, and I’m excited for more of that to come out as well.

Because Kung Fu isn’t just about, you know, traditional Chinese Kung Fu. To bring in other elements, other martial arts and other disciplines and other cultures, is such a joy to see because there’s such an individual character language and each martial art. They come from very specific places, depending on the terrain, the weather conditions, fighting style. Like the Filipino style is very close, and you’re able to fight within a constrained area and not get stuck in the bush and trees. It’s really cool to show these beautiful art forms. It’s amazing. To be a part of it is just the icing on the top because I’m just … I’m very much a nerd about that kind of stuff.

There was a show that I was obsessed with. I think it was called Mind, Body & Kick Ass Moves. It was hosted by this British Kung Fu expert, and I highly recommend it to anyone. It was from the early 2000s, I think. And he goes around every episode seeing a different form of martial arts. Like MAC, Ba ji, Tai Chi. That kind of stuff I’m just a nerd for. I go all-in for it because I’m obsessed.

Nerds and Beyond: The times that we’ve seen Evan kind of get thrown into the fray fight-wise, we see him take on a very American brawl style of combat. Do you think at any point in the future, Evan might get to break out some Kung Fu of his own, and you’ll get to use some of those past influences? Is that a direction you’re even interested in having the character going?

Stenhouse: Given how much training goes on for Olivia and Eddie, I think I’ll stick with the lawyer job for now and brawl every now and then [laughs]. I mean, there’s an obscene amount of extra hours that they have to train. Everyone who does martial arts on the show, they put their blood and tears, and sweat into training with the stunt team. I also think that it doesn’t really track with Evan all of a sudden coming to the level of Kung Fu that Henry and Nicky are at because they are both like … WAY up there. Like borderline superheroes, you know? Nicky’s a superhero [laughs]. So I just think Evan would definitely end up biting more off than he can chew. But with an occasional brawl here and there, you know he’s not afraid to hop in. I just think his technique is never gonna be on point [laughs]. I think Nicky and Henry will always be like, “Evan, you take lookout. Just let us know if there’s any issues. You don’t need to come with us.”

Nerds and Beyond: Something that’s been very obvious to fans from the get-go is how tightly knit the cast and crew of Kung Fu seem to be. What do you think is the main factor that’s enabled you all to form this sort of pseudo-familial relationship, and what are some of your favorite memories together on or off-set?

Stenhouse: Man, how to distill that down … super interesting question. I think that casting has an important role to play in the chemistry of a cast. And I think that the casting department and Christina and Bob have done an incredible job of picking people that not only are the characters but also just good people. We’ve always gotten on from day one, and it’s always felt like a family. I think that going into lockdown in season one, our bubble for COVID was the cast. We didn’t see anyone outside of the cast because we didn’t want to put the show at risk of shutting down because of COVID.

So that was a very kind of tight bonding formation experience, and I can only liken it to a new theater troupe. You spend every day with each other rehearsing, spend the evening doing shows, and then you’re buzzed coming off the show, so you go out together and have a drink or meal or whatever and unwind. It’s a very intensive process. Whereas on TV and film, that’s not usually the case. But because of the COVID lockdown measures, it became a very formative experience for all of us.

I also think we’ve been completely blessed with the crew. There’s just no bad apples in the crew. There’s dozens and dozens and dozens … more than a hundred people, and everyone is just super lovely. We work really well together, and it really shows on screen as a cohesive piece of work. Everyone just gets on, and it’s one of those things that it’s not necessarily something you can manufacture. It’s just the way the stars have played out.

Nerds and Beyond: And for my last question, since we’re running short on time, I’ve asked Olivia, Ludi, and Vanessa a variation of this question, and I wanted to get your perspective. Kung Fu is the first network drama to feature a predominantly AAPI cast. For you personally, especially in the light of your connection to Asian culture, what has been the most rewarding part about being able to help spotlight and uplift this underrepresented community here in the US and bring that level of representation on screen?

Stenhouse: I think the whole thing is its own reward for me. I’m feeling so privileged in the position that I am in to be able to be a part of such an important piece of art and storytelling. I think in some senses, education is one of the most important parts that any ally can do is to educate themselves. But having access to cultures via the TV screen, I think for people who may not have access to that culture in their local communities, is such an important part of understanding a culture and breaking down the “otherness” that can lead to racism.

So, while there’s no one answer to dealing with the situation, I think that Kung Fu provides a looking glass into a rich and beautiful culture that people who don’t have exposure to it can see, can relate to, can feel with these people, can emote and be moved by it. I think that for me personally, being part of that with my connection to Hong Kong and also seeing Tzi speaking Cantonese, it’s just so beautiful. It’s such a beautiful language and dialect and to be a part of that is a privilege.

Thanks again to Gavin Stenhouse for his thoughtfulness in taking the time to speak with us about these new developments!

You can catch Kung Fu on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on The CW. As always, make sure to stay up to date with all of our coverage here, and stay tuned for more updates!

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