Friday, December 2, 2022

Interview: Kim Rhodes Discusses New ‘Kung Fu’ Role! [EXCLUSIVE]

INTERVIEWSInterview: Kim Rhodes Discusses New 'Kung Fu' Role!

This season on Kung Fu, Mei-Li is facing a new challenge as she struggles to rebuild Harmony Dumplings after the earthquake in the season 2 finale. As part of that process, Kung Fu introduced new recurring character, Carrie, in tonight’s episode, “Risk.” A by-the-book representative for a restaurant investor, Carrie and Mei-Li form an alliance to help get Harmony Dumplings back on its feet.

Carrie is played by Kim Rhodes, best known for her role as Sheriff Jody Mills in The CW’s Supernatural and its backdoor pilot spin-off attempt Wayward Sisters (which was co-created by Kung Fu executive producer Robert Berens). We had the chance to chat with Rhodes about her new character, working with Berens again, and her relationship with the young cast of Kung Fu!

Note: Responses may be edited for clarity.

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Nerds & Beyond: So Kim, from the minute you were announced for Kung Fu, everyone has been so excited to see you team up with Robert Berens from Supernatural and Wayward Sisters, especially after Briana Buckmaster guest starred last season. How did this new role come about, and what was it like to work with him again?

Kim Rhodes: Now, I will be super honest because I actually prefer things this way: he asked me to audition. He did not call up and go, “Hey, come on over!” And I prefer things that way because he is very respectful of his fellow showrunners and the producers, and he and I were both confident that if I was the right person for the role, that it would be evident in an audition. He said there were a lot of good reads, so it was definitely not a pity gift! [laughs]

I will always and forever be excited at the prospect of working with Robert Berens. It’s the difference to me between eating chicken that’s flavored with salt and eating chicken that’s been seasoned. He finds layers, he finds complexities, he finds passions and perspectives even when you have a character that’s really just there to fill a purpose. For example, Carrie is really there to work as a foil, and yet there was nothing one dimensional or simple about the character that he created to do that. And I love that. I love getting to find nuance and balance instead of just playing one note.

Nerds & Beyond: She definitely comes across as this no nonsense person at first, but as we get to know her over the course of the episode, we see that she really does have a moral compass, and a softer side to her. What were your inspirations that you were looking towards when you were building that character?

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Kim Rhodes: I think one of the things I’ve been really focused on with my daughter is saying, “I hear the problem. Let’s find the solution.” And I think Carrie really exemplifies that. She is very much saying, “The problem’s clear. Let’s focus our energy, our time, and our communication on a solution. Even if we don’t like the solution, even if we don’t want it to be what it is, we’ve spent enough time on the problem, let’s move to a solution.” So I want to say, weirdly, that how I parent my child has really had an impact on who Carrie is becoming. Also consequences of actions. Sometimes you don’t like the consequences. That doesn’t mean you get to avoid them.

Nerds & Beyond: One of the coolest things about this character is that from the start she has this really great bond with Mei-Li, who’s a great character, played by the wonderful actress Kheng Hua Tan. What has it been like for you building that relationship between the two of them?

Kim Rhodes: I was predisposed to have Carrie love Mei-Li because I love Kheng! She has a background that’s very similar to mine. She comes from “rough and tumble, monkey rumble” theater, where you’re bringing your own props. And the magic is not lost on her. So she comes to play and find different flavors of a scene. We consistently got to try different things without running out the clock; it didn’t take all day. We would get one solid [take] and then say, “Okay, try it again with a slightly more adversarial note. Okay, try it again with a slightly more conciliatory note, try it again.” And she was always up for that.

For me personally, I can’t speak about the industry in general, but for me personally, it is hard for me to create a character who is despicable towards people I really enjoy! So I’m glad that they let Carrie and Mei-Li have a relationship where the situation may be adversarial, but their relationship is equals striving for a common solution even if they just might have different definitions of what that solution looks like.

Kim Rhodes as Jody Mills in ‘Supernatural.’ Dean Buscher/The CW

Nerds & Beyond: Absolutely. And of course, Kheng Hua Tan and Tzi Ma are such veteran actors that you’re working with, but you’re also working with the younger cast, many of whom probably grew up watching you on The Suite Life or on Supernatural. Your TikTok with Olivia [Liang] and Shannon [Dang] was absolutely hilarious! How has it been for you joining this show in their third season and getting to work with them as they’re starting out in their careers?

Kim Rhodes: I am so proud of them. I am honored that I have any sort of impact on their lives. I am delighted that their shiny, sparkly, brilliant capabilities are so contagious to me. I really came away from my interaction with all of these young actors with a new sense of inspiration for my own career. They are creative and grateful and motivated and yet still fun and funny. They’re people that I am proud to call actors in this industry. I don’t want to say, “Oh, they’re so professional for their age.” No, they’re freaking brilliant actors and deserve their own show! I am really, really impressed with them.

Nerds & Beyond: And we have to know: whose idea was that TikTok, who was filming, who set it up…?

Kim Rhodes: That was Shannon! [laughs] That was Shannon. And then Olivia said, “Yeah!” I just showed up and did what they told me to do. [laughs]

Nerds & Beyond: You were directed!

Kim Rhodes: Ha, yes!

Nerds & Beyond: And of course, it’s already been announced that you’re going to be recurring on the show this season, which is great because we always want more Kim Rhodes on The CW! What can you tease regarding Carrie’s arc for the rest of the season going forward and her place in the larger storyline on Kung Fu this year?

Kim Rhodes: Well, I think Carrie is a professional and is representing some corporate realities, which are not realities that Mei-Li has had to function in before. It’s just a structure that she is not used to, so it will seem uncomfortable. There are some truths of capitalism that are not always pleasant and Carrie represents those capitalistic truths. While she may not be a person who individually likes the message she’s conveying, she is 100% a professional and going to do her job well. So if her job is making sure that a contract is adhered to, then she’s not gonna cut corners.

Nerds & Beyond: Obviously your storyline is mostly with Mei-Li and Harmony Dumplings, but is there any action in store for you? This is a very action oriented show!

Kim Rhodes: I don’t think I’m giving anything away, but I have not thrown any punches of the physical type. There have been a couple metaphorical blows that I’ve planted pretty solidly! [laughs] But no, Carrie’s hair never gets messed up.

Nerds & Beyond: What are you hoping the audience is going to enjoy most about this season? What would you say to your Supernatural fans to get them to check out Kung Fu and give it a shot?

Kim Rhodes: I have nothing to do with why this show is so brilliant! The things I love [about Kung Fu] that feel familiar about what Supernatural did so well is the epic and yet grounded conflict with magical good and evil, and the way that heroes are stretched to explore their humanity. Also, the unbelievable creatives… there are some TWISTS this season that made me yell! I was texting Bobo during the last table read going, “I can’t believe you did this and I’m so glad you did this.” It pushes the envelope. It is incredibly exciting storytelling and yet still with the pathos and the humor and the vulnerability and the multilayered brilliance that we know and love from these writers. I think that Robert has found an incredible partner in Christina [Kim] and I think the two of them are making unbelievable magic.

Our thanks to Kim Rhodes for taking the time to speak with us! Kung Fu airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW. You can find our other coverage of the series here.

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