Q & A with Power Rangers' Ludi Lin

Chinese Canadian Ludi Lin powers up as Zack the Black Ranger. Interview by Jes Vu.

Power Rangers fans -- the wait is almost over! The new Power Rangers movie finally arrives in theaters this weekend. This film prides itself on its diversity of characters from race to sexuality; there's even a character on the autistic spectrum.

Among them, Chinese-born Canadian actor Ludi Lin is the "sex symbol" of the Power Rangers cast, no doubt about it. Taking on the mantle of bad boy Zack, the Black Power Ranger, Ludi is not just one, but one of two Asian actors in the main cast (the other being British Indian actor Naomi Scott who plays Kimberly the Pink Power Ranger). Fortunately, we had a chance to talk to Ludi about his unique upbringing and what it was like working on this iconic franchise.

You had such an international upbringing, having been transplanted from China to countries like Australia and Canada. What was it like navigating that world growing up?

As a kid, it's the worst thing in the world. The good is that you can grow up and take things in hindsight. Time travel goes in one direction, so that's all behind you. Because it really sucks going from place to place having to make new friends and learn a new language -- multiple new languages. But really, it's made me the person that I am. I think a lot of people out there have [experienced it], more than you would realize. The beauty about being a person is that you have the power to make that decision. You can be a new person any day. So if you look at things positively and just take your experience as learning, [then] use that to pay it forward.

How has that experience helped you shape Zack in Power Rangers?

Funny enough, I fought a lot as a kid. I got pulled into the principal's office all the time -- I [wanted] to be left alone or be happy. But I didn't understand the culture of these new places I moved to. It was an easy mark for bullies to pick on me -- so I got picked on a lot. The only difference was I wasn't the kind of kid that stood there and let people pick on me. Though I wasn't athletically inclined -- I was quite overweight [and] I liked video games. But I had this anger inside of me also stemming from my family background... I had to experience it all by myself. So I was an outsider a lot of the times, and Zack is that way as well. He's the only kid that doesn't really go to school because of [his] family situations too. I didn't want Zack to relate to the cool kids. That wasn't my intention. I wanted the other kids -- the kids that are being bullied [to see] that the cool kids have that insecurity inside of them too -- why they are acting out, why they're bullying people. They're really not as scary as you think they are. It seems like they're perfect and cool when they're off on their own, but really they're facing some problems that are very real.

Zack also has a bicultural background, and the film includes scenes in Chinese with your character's mother (Fiona Fu). What was it like bringing those moments on screen?

That came straight from my background. A lot of times you see Asian roles being painted as a caricatures in Western film where they don't even care enough whether the other language is authentic or genuine. But from my experience, this is how it was growing up. For a lot of transplanted or foreign-born Chinese kids, they experience dual cultures. They're a different way when they act with their friends [than] when they come home. But that's what they have to revert to. And not for those kids, people [in general] do that too. Your work life, your private life, and your family life -- it's completely different, but it's natural how that is. In the script, there was never any mention of [Zack] having to speak Mandarin because Zack -- he didn't have to be Asian. A lot of [actors of] different races and ethnicities tested for Zack as well. After I was cast, we actually had a conversation with the director, and we intimately discussed how Zack would act around his mom -- his family setting. Definitely for me, it felt important that he speak authentic fluent Mandarin with his mother. It was the only way to go about it.

So essentially you helped create this character.

Our director [Dean Israelite] and creative team gave us such leeway in creating these characters and their origins. Not just their cultural and personal backgrounds, but also in the action styles -- how they would fight. Because I really didn't want just a cookie cutter action role or action figure. I think for Zack... how we fight, how we act, how we behave, how we move -- comes out of how we feel, the person we feel we are. Zack has all this angst inside of him -- he's not going to stand out some pretty poses and wushu kicks, right? It comes from this inner rage that he has. Zack is not just me. Often, I say that I'm just my face double for my stunt double. Because we actually discuss these moves, these action scenes and practice them, so I can do them and he can perform them with our stunt director [and] our coordinator very intimately and in a lot of detail. It has to fit to be congruent.

In contrast to the other characters, Zack grew up in a low income family, which is even more of a rarity to see with Asians in the media.

Even we [as Asians] get sucked into this belief sometimes that as long as work hard, we can push through, but a lot of Asians are disadvantaged. [In some cases] they're transplanted from one culture to another -- you don't know how to behave at first. Through life and circumstance, you sometimes fall into the wrong part of your life and you don't know how to deal with it. That's the multi-dimensional part in it. It's the multi-layered characters I really want to create in Zack and [also] for [other] projects going forward.

With diversity being such a hot topic in the media, do you feel a weight representing Asians on screen?

Another interviewer just paid me such a great compliment -- he said "You know, Zack is for sure the sex symbol in this movie." And that's another thing -- I feel that Asian men in film have been really emasculated. Also, going back to your question, I don't feel that weight because it can't just be me alone. I feel like it has to be a whole horde of people. It's a whole movement here. I'm hoping my work in this film can augment that wave and push it forward, and give it more momentum.

Well, we're all in this together.

That's right. Together we are more. [Laughs]

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You can follow Ludi at @ludi_lin on Twitter and @ludilin on Instagram. Be sure to catch him in Power Rangers in theaters nationwide this weekend on March 24.

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