Subjectify interviewed Kung Fu’s Eddie Liu this week to discuss Henry’s journey this season and some of the shocking reveals in the season’s penultimate episode.
As Eddie points out in the interview, Kung Fu season 2 has been a whirlwind, but throughout it all Henry and his relationships have had a strong focus. Reconnecting with his father Daniel has left Henry reevaluating what he knows about his past and his present, but just when Henry has accepted his father’s role in his life and found the emotional maturity to embrace who his father really is, episode 12 puts it all in jeopardy with Daniel’s life on the line after he took a bullet meant for Henry. We talked to Eddie about Henry’s relationship with his father and about working with Terry Chen to bring that chemistry to life.
Eddie also weighed in on Henry and Nicky’s relationship, as well as his own Kung Fu #CoupleGoals, the joys of the day-to-day work, director Richard Speight, Jr, and what we might expect from the finale — spoiler alert, while Eddie says a lot of things are wrapped up, he also warns us to be ready for anything!
One of the interesting things we’ve gotten to see this season is the real story behind Henry’s dad abandoning the family. What are your thoughts on how Henry dealt with and processed, not only his dad’s unexpected return to his life, but also the truth about why he had been gone?
This season is such a whirlwind, as you’ve seen. I don’t think Henry has had much time to really process all the nuances of his really rocky relationship with his dad, but I do think that Henry is open enough to, you know, he’s willing to dig a little deeper past his years of anger and resentment towards his father to understand. At the very core of it all, he knows his father is, in fact, an honorable and a good guy. He’s an honorable man. He’s a good guy. He’s serving a greater purpose, and the crazy irony, after years of resenting his father, is that Henry is so much more like Danny than anyone could have ever expected.
Right, that’s definitely true. What was it like working with Terry Chen to develop that relationship? You guys have a really fun chemistry, almost like Daniel is the kid eager to prove himself, and Henry is the adult, but he also seems to bring out a little bit of Henry’s playful side. I’m always curious when there are surprising little nuances between characters how much of that is a conscious decision and how much of that develops in the moment?
That’s certainly one of those things that naturally shows up along the process. I definitely went into working on the season, knowing, like, OK, I have daddy issues. I have this deep seething anger to this man that I don’t know all that well. And it’s really fun when those nuances pop up. Like you said, how all of a sudden Danny is the one trying to prove himself to be worthy of being in his son’s life and Henry had to mature so much faster than and he should have — as a boy and as a teenager and especially in the past year so, going on the adventures — or the the misadventures — of the Shooby Gang, you know?
Terry Chen is truly, a class act. I don’t mean to make him sound older by saying this, but I kind of grew up watching him. I was a young Asian American kid who, I don’t even know if I had thought about acting yet at the time that I was seeing him on the screen. But just seeing him play all these characters who, many of whom were ‘regular men’ in the sense of like, he wasn’t playing these over-the-top racial characters. He was playing a lot of everyman characters throughout different blockbusters and TV shows I’ve seen over the years, and then to be able to get to work with him – he’s so kind, he’s cool, he’s a seasoned pro, incredibly collaborative, so Terry and I definitely had a really great working relationship playing father and son.
That’s so great. At the end of episode 12, it looks like Daniel might have sacrificed himself to save Henry’s life. And at the beginning of the season, Henry was pretty much ready to give up that relationship forever, but now they’re in a much different place. Do you have thoughts about how Henry might cope with his dad being willing to sacrifice himself for Henry?
I feel like there’s a thing amongst Asian kids where we have, where some of us, not all of us, but some of us have emotionally closed-off parents. And even if they’re at home with us, that doesn’t mean that the two in the relationship are as present as they can be with each other, and that’s something that could, you know, it could take long time for Henry to sort through. We know that he’s very booksmart and we know that he’s street smart and that he usually keeps a cool head, but his dad is one of the entities in his life that really brings out these more raw, conflicted feelings and that inner anger that Henry actually does have after all.
It will be interesting to see how he copes with that. One of the fun scenes in episode 12 was when you two bring the device to the Shen house…
Ah, the toaster.
Yeah, the toaster, and it’s really great because there are so many people in the same room – you’ve got the Shens, you, your dad, Evan, Nadia, Zhilan, and so often the show is sending people off in twos and threes. What’s it like when you have a really big scene where everyone is together?
We were honestly so happy that day, because we had never had that group of people, that combination of people in the room at the same time. I almost never get to work with Yvonne [Chapman.] I never got to work with Marissa [Cuevas] who plays Nadia, and she’s a friend of mine from before Kung Fu ever started. And it was just like a really nice moment of young working actors getting to just enjoy the job together. Because we spend so much time diving head first into trying to make this the best that we can and so when we get to just take a step back and enjoy the day-to-day work aspect of it all, that’s one of those moments that you can’t ever take away, regardless of how anyone edits it, regardless of what anyone thinks of the show or like the movie or any job you ever do — that’s the shit that you keep with you forever.
It was such a such a cute scene in what was a pretty serious episode. It was such a nice moment of levity.
Yeah, I feel like I love moments like that in the show because I really feel like episode 12 is such a great representation of what Kung Fu is all about.
I mean we have the crazy mystical stuff that is only going to get weirder and then you have these small human moments and these small fun human moments between these characters, especially the ones we haven’t had a chance to see interact with each other. It’s a moments like that in an episode like that, that remind you, hey, this is an adventure show, and as much danger as there is, you’re going to have fun watching it.
Well, speaking of some of the drama of episode 12, Ludi Lin has been amazing all season. If you read our reviews, you know we’re in love with him…
Oh, yeah. Yes, yes.
And one of the really great dynamics is when he’s juxtaposed against a very judgmental Henry. What was the cast’s’ reaction when you found out the big plan for Kerwin and Russell to exchange themselves?
As we get the episodes, we’ll text each other and we’ll talk about it. We’ll get to work on it right away and be like, “Oh my God, this is happening,” or “Holy crap” that we get to do that. We started comparing it to like, well, this is before we found out the plan, but as it starts to get more magical, we were like, “Oh, we’ve entered the Harry Potter phase of Kung Fu,” as in, it’s getting really magical. But at the same time, given the way Russell withheld his plan and the way he’s kind of saved that, and with the way our writers saved that juicy reveal towards the end, our reaction was almost kind of like, “Yeah, well, why wouldn’t you want a bodyswap?” Like, that does make sense like. Look, honestly, if I could have Ludi’s body I would bodyswap too. That makes sense.
Is there any chance we might be able to recover our Kerwin or should we just give up hope?
Hey, never say never. I will just tell you, be ready for anything.
But also, you’re not going to be ready.
No, we’re never ready. You guys got a fairly early renewal, which was great, and you’re now confirmed to come back in the fall, which is extremely exciting. So will the season 2 finale leave us in a more cleaned-up place or did the freedom coming from knowing there was going to be a renewal mean that maybe season 2 can end a little bit more untidily? Where should we set our expectations, resolution-wise?
It’s not looking good for you, I’m not gonna lie. I don’t think you’re gonna… [laughs] I will say that we wrap up a lot of things really nicely and some things are just you’re just going to have to carry a feeling of unresolve and emptiness with you for a little while.
Unresolve and emptiness. I think that’s got to be the title of this interview.
But with some very neat, tightly wrapped bows on top as well.
So one of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about Henry’s character is how well he works with Nicky and how well he accepts her leadership. So imagine my distress in episode 10, when we see that Henry has been feeling a little bit disregarded or disrespected in that area. I was wondering what was that line for Henry, between accepting that Nicky’s role does make her a leader, versus feeling like he’s not getting the input or the respect that his opinions deserve. Did this conflict surprise you when you read about it? Or have you been working that into your performance for a while?
I think honestly it took me by surprise a little bit, as the performer. I was a little nervous about what the reception was going to be – that Henry found the most inopportune moment to bring this up – right after Ryan is fighting for his life in the hospital. I think that when your character is written to do something, you have to do everything you can to just get behind it and not judge it. So I threw all my focus and attention into building this justification that is: in order for the team to succeed, we all have to work together, to listen to each other. It doesn’t matter how powerful one person is or if the other members of the group are not superhuman. You have to be able to work together and I think that these feelings are definitely amplified by the fact that Henry and Nicky are very much a couple. I think that it’s a moment to remind everyone – we just want to be heard, we want to know that we are being listened to and that our input is valued right?
Just maybe not the greatest moment to bring it up.
Yeah, I mean…
And that’s something Eddie might have done a little differently.
There are so many great relationships in Kung Fu and each one is very unique in how one half of the couple relates to the other. It really gives every viewer an opportunity to find their own #CoupleGoals. Do you see a relationship that you relate to or aspire to on the show?
I mean, I might be a little bit biased, but I do love Team Hicky. But also Althennis. Looking at these two people, like this like hot, successful, intelligent, financially sound couple be supportive of each other in the way that they are and love each other for their flaws. I think it’s easy to see Henry and Nicky love each other for all the great things that they are – that’s what we get to see in the show. And then Althennis is a great couple that actively demonstrates loving each other with their flaws and with their quirks and all their adorableness that make them Althennis.
Right, they are adorable. Episode 12 is the third episode that Richard Speight, Jr. has directed this season. I’m a big fan of him from his work on Supernatural, both his acting and his directing. What can you tell us about his style of directing and what it’s like working with him?
We absolutely love working with Richard. I am really grateful that I had him on set with me during some key moments, especially for Henry’s story and arc. It just so happened that Dick was there for some episodes where Henry is showing colors that we hadn’t seen before. He’s showing these emotions and all these conflicted feelings. Richard is truly an actor’s director and I’m sure that helps because he himself is an actor, but he’s hands on, he’s throwing and yelling direction right from the sidelines.
He’s like a head coach that’s on the field with us and I know that different actors have different styles and preferences over how they like being directed – I know that I love the way Richard does it with us. And especially because he was there for some key moments in season 1 and the fact that he gets to come back and build on that, with his connection to the show. And also having him as Leif, Oh my God, in episode 4, that’s just a cherry on top. We’re all very thrilled and tickled, just thrilled and grateful to have all of that.
Thank you so much Eddie. This was so great.
Thank you so much and no seriously we all love the Subjectify recaps, so thank you.
You are most welcome.