Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Ludi Lin may be a Hollywood newbie with his first major role as Zack, the Black Ranger, in “Saban’s Power Rangers,” but acting is nothing new for him. While growing up in his native China, Lin would watch his mother perform in Chinese theater. From there, he caught the acting bug even though his mother did not want him to follow in her footsteps. He attended boarding school in Australia from the age of nine, and then went on to graduate from college at the University of British Columbia.
Lin, 29, took time off after college graduation to travel across Asia, which lead him to train in the martial arts of Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu. He eventually returned to Vancouver, where his mother now lives to concentrate on his acting career. He divides his time between China and Vancouver, where he works on various film projects. He appears in the second season of Netflix’s “Marco Polo.”
It’s been an exciting ride for Lin, especially landing the role of the Black Ranger in his new action movie.
While on a whirlwind publicity tour for “Saban’s Power Rangers,” Lin took a moment to talk more about his first encounters with the Power Rangers and being part of the new wave of Asian actors in Hollywood helping pave the way for future actors of Asian descent.
“Saban’s Power Rangers,” directed by Dean Israelite, also stars Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader, Dacre Montgomery, Becky G, Naomi Scott and RJ Cyler.
Q: I recently watched your independent film “Pious Son.” Now you’re in this potential major Hollywood blockbuster, which is considered your first major role. How do you feel about that and what was your reaction when you got the part at The Black Ranger?
Lin: Man, (“Pious Son”) was a long time ago. People told me that I look older then than I do now. Obviously, I played an older character then. This is very exciting for me but it’s a very early beginning for me. I feel that it’s a part of renaissance for all Asian actors and I’m a part of this new wave that is coming. I hope this adds momentum behind the wave.
Q: Do you think these roles may become color-blind because the original Black Ranger was played by a black actor? When you auditioned for this role, was the casting department looking for a black actor?
Lin: For this role, it was more color-blind. Naomi Scott (Pink Ranger) was the first to get confirmed. For the role she tested for, she tested against Latinos, African-Americans, Caucasians and Asians as well. So, for this role, it’s more color-blind. It’s becoming more color-blind in this industry. I was having a conversation with an agent friend of mine and still when they propose or pitch me for certain roles that are written as the typical Caucasian role in Hollywood, she still feels the resistance. What I need to do is a good job in the roles I’m cast in and bring more dimension and understanding to these roles. Hopefully, that will change things slowly. It’s going to take a process and it’s not me alone, thank God. On the plane to L.A., I saw the “Edge of Seventeen” and (Chinese-Canadian actor) Hayden Szeto had a great performance. It takes that. It takes people to love the roles we bring to performances and open their minds.
Q: Your co-star, Naomi Scott, is part-Asian herself, being of Indian descent. I know you do Muay Thai and martial arts. How hard was it to prepare for this role?
Lin: Martial arts is like school; it’s kind of like University. What you learn, it really doesn’t matter. It just teaches you new things. Martial arts teaches you how to learn new things physically and to be mentally prepared for them. What Naomi said was very on point (in the press conference). She said that a lot of her training was done mentally for how daunting taking this massive action film on was going to be, and for me to. Although I have training in Muay Thai and I have training in Jiu Jitsu, for Zack’s character I wanted something powerful. Sometimes Muay Thai helped but we had to blend in a lot of wrestling and power actions to design Zack’s moves. For me, fighting on set was more like a dance. It’s more like measuring your distance and seeing how you can work together with your partner rather than try to destroy them.
Q: Both at the press conference and in the film, you see a great camaraderie and very humorous moments like talking about Elizabeth Banks’ rear end. How was the ambiance on set and working with the cast when the cameras were off? Were there jokes or pranks?
Lin: There were some good pranks on set and off. We would hang out all the time. Thanksgiving, Naomi’s family came to visit. A lot of parents came. By coincidence, we went over at their house and they’re board game addicts. We pretty much bought out the board games in one of the shops in Vancouver. We played board games all night. Just like in the movie, we have our special relationship because we’re all so different. I mean Dacre and RJ could bond for a while and we’d cruise in their rental cars, and the girls, obviously, have things in common. I would see Dacre in the gym all the time doing physical exercise and I would joke around with RJ. Because my mom lives in Vancouver, I spent a lot of time with her, which is very fortunate because a lot of other cast members’ families were far away. I can sympathize with them. It’s definitely a cool relationship and that’s why if there was ever sequel, I would be in it 100 percent because I can’t imagine being a part of another production that wouldn’t have the five of us together. It’s a such a strong bond that we built.
Q: Did you get to bond with Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks and Bill Hader, and what did you learn from them?
Lin: Yeah. They’re veteran actors. Performing and working with them made the deepest impression (on me). I just had to not be daunted by their performances and just to soak in and learn from it by being in it rather than taking myself out of the scene and being in awe by it. They definitely brought up the intensity and the stakes. Like Elizabeth said in the press conference, she wanted to give these kids some stakes to fight against. We definitely felt that. It made everything all the more exciting, and seeing Bryan Cranston’s performance on screen with the CG all mixed together brought out the character of Zordon, who is a patriarchal figure to the Power Rangers, and how that connected. It’s just amazing how seamless these things are. It goes to show how much craft they have in this film.
Q: Talking about connecting, you mentioned in a previous interview that you mom bought you Power Rangers figures when you were young. When did you start watching “Power Rangers?” Did you pull anything from the TV series or the previous films to help you with this role?
Lin: The figure was a very important symbol for me because Zack has a deep connection with his mom and that’s a direct connection to the Power Rangers. So that action figure meant a lot to me. I don’t know where it is now, but I so clearly see it. I always thought maybe because of the action figure, the Yellow Ranger had the coolest costume, especially the retro-costume with the teeth coming out of the visor. I thought that was so cool. How I drew from it, mentally, I could put myself back in the shoes when I was a kid and how cool these things were. With nothing but my imagination, I could create whole stories around them. That’s what we do as actors, we come up with stories out of nowhere and pretend it’s real, For kids to think it’s totally real. When I was playing with the Power Rangers action figures on a desk fighting with utensils, I was having the best time of my life. I was taking over the dinner table, or in the bathtub. I want kids to get that sense when they watch this movie—like it’s real, relatable and it’s action-packed.
Q: Speaking of action figures, have you seen the action figure of yourself as a Power Ranger? If so, have you played with it?
Lin: Yeah. There are tons Funko Pop! toys, action figures and different varieties that talk. My friend got a mask. They sent me some too. I haven’t gone to Vancouver for a while. That’s kind of my steady address again where they send stuff. My friend showed me the mask that has my voice in it. It’s pretty wild man, and then we’re in this virtual-reality experience videogame called “Legacy Wars” that already is released in Canada, and will be release (in the U.S.) on the March 23. There’s a virtual-reality experience that we did two days ago, and it was wild. It’s a totally immersive experience. I think the Power Rangers IP is so strong. It’s based off the TV show. Now that there’s multimedia with videogames, virtual-reality and the movie, and whatever other possibilities there could be, it will be stronger than ever. I don’t think there could be a better IP to spread this message. The theme of the Power Rangers is so positive and so much fun.
Q: In this day and age of looking for positivity and diversity in the world, what do you feel kids and adults will take away from this film?
Lin: I just hope that people take away that diversity is great. No matter if you’re seen by society as disabled or handicapped because you know the underdog stories are the most touching and most captivating. It’s the imperfections and challenges that one has to be overcome that makes one unique. Not one single person on this earth is perfect. Not one single person on this earth doesn’t have challenges, and those are the things that make you special. You don’t need to hide those especially to the friends that are close to you. You really need to share those with them because you can bond with them and empathize with them. That’s what makes it special.
Q: Do you feel you’re an underdog?
Lin: I always treat myself as the underdog because that’s the only place to learn. At times, I let my own hubris, my own ego, get the best of me. Thankfully, I have people to remind me that I’m really nothing. I really have a place just to learn from and, obviously, being Asian in a different society, primarily a Western-dominated society and industry, I’m in an underdog position. That’s great because I have so much further to travel and further to improve.
Q: What do you have next in the pipeline?
Lin: This year, I have two Mandarin movies that are coming out in China. We’re looking at few stories here but I can’t disclose them right now. I want to work internationally and, wherever there is a good story, I want to be an actor in that.