Ask Ludi Lin where he’s based out of and he’ll hesitate. It’s a question he’s heard many times, and one that may not be the easiest to answer.
Days before speaking with Cold Tea Collective, the 32-year-old actor was braving the -15 C weather in Beijing. But as he spoke over WeChat about his budding film career and the progression of Asians in entertainment, he found himself battling the 26-degree heat of Malaysia, no less inside a gym which had lost power and, subsequently, air conditioning.
However, if Lin — the “Citizen of the Earth” that he is — were to pick a home, he points to Vancouver, Canada.
“It’s the closest thing to home,” Lin said of the city where he attended parts of high school and university. “I always look forward to being back. My mom lives there, so whenever I’m there that means I’m not working, unless I get a lucky project like Power Rangers.”
It was exactly that 2017 film, which was filmed in Vancouver and where Lin played Zack, the Black Ranger, that put him on the proverbial Hollywood map. Since then, the Chinese-Canadian has been in DC Comic’s “Aquaman” and is now filming a Netflix series in Asia. As his film credits continue to grow — which includes appearances in the hit Chinese film “Monster Hunt” and Netflix’s “Marco Polo”, along with his many past projects in Chinese film — worldly experience is certainly not lacking in Lin’s resume.
Born in Fuzhou, China, Lin moved to Hong Kong when he was about three years old. The next stop was Australia for elementary school, before Canada in his teenage years. Since his accent was different wherever he ended up, he was considered an outsider, and became the perfect target to be picked on.
“I had to fight a lot as a kid,” Lin said, referring to how he “learned” street fighting just to defend his different accents.
His interest in professional fighting peaked with a trip to Thailand, where he was inspired to pursue multiple martial arts for the purpose of inner peace and discipline.
“It’s a shame that Asian artists turned away from martial roles in reaction to being stereotyped,” he said. “People should embrace and support it because it’s part of our culture. The best thing about martial arts is that it builds the toughness in you. It gives you the confidence and body awareness, while the mental toughness comes in use too on set.”
That experience has been handy, with the spotlight on him shining brighter these days. In 2017, Lin was named by Variety as an Asian rising star to watch. Since then, it’s been a prosperous, yet humbling, journey upwards in the industry.
“The last couple years has been a realization of how ignorant I really am,” he said. “On every set, whether it’s Power Rangers, Aquaman, or indie films, in English or Mandarin, you always learn something new. There’s so much to making a good movie. The most important thing I’ve realized though is why I should do this, and it’s that stories are the only thing that brings meaning on Earth. It’s a shame that so many Asian stories aren’t being told, and if we don’t tell those stories, we lose meaning. That’s why it’s great for push for Asian pride and stories.”
Lin’s story might not have been told either, if he had chosen a different path — facing similar pressures that many who grew up in Asian households face.
“My mom was vehemently against me going into the arts, she knew how difficult it was to make it into a career,” he said, adding that his mother was once a Chinese opera singer. “She had to give up a lot of things and had to sacrifice when she got out of China into Hong Kong. She gave me two choices: law or medicine. I’m sure that resounded with a lot of Chinese kids.”
“Basically all your parents want to do is make sure you’re O.K., and you want to make sure that they don’t worry about you.”
It’s worked out, and more, so far for Lin’s acting career. And much like how 2018 was an important year for him, so too was it one for Asians in the entertainment industry.
“Last year was a lot of firsts,” he said. “But what I look forward to is when we stop being the first and start becoming the norm; that will be big. It’ll be nice when we become one of and not first of.
“For many Chinese people, we are still so attached to our culture and want to entertain people that we share a lot in common with. I just want to tell stories wherever available and infuse my own identity into it. We want a seat at the table.”
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