2018 was a huge year for Melbourne-born actor Chris Pang, who you will recognise as soon-to-be-hitched cutie Colin Khoo from the smash-hit film Crazy Rich Asians. In fact, old mate Chris is getting recognised a lot, and he tells me in an interview with PEDESTRIAN that it’s not always a nice, normal social interaction.
“People come up and they’re like ‘Are you… are you Chris Pang?’ and I’m like ‘yeah’ and then they don’t say anything else?” he laughs. “And I don’t know what to do then. It’s the most awkward social interaction. I’m like: ‘Do you want to chat, or…?’”
Crazy Rich Asians was a huge hit, which was really exciting considering it had an Asian cast and brought representation of Asian culture to big screens around the world, something that almost didn’t happen, Chris tells me, because it almost went to straight to Netflix.
“There’s was an opportunity for everyone involved to make a buttload more money [at Netflix]. But [director Jon M. Chu and the novel’s author Kevin Kwan] decided to stick with Warner Bros. and have the traditional theatrical release, because that’s how we would make the most impact,” he explains. “They wanted it to be a milestone, tentpole film and they wanted it to have the impact that it eventually did.”
Chris, 34, explains that this kind of representation was hugely important for him, having grown up as the child of Chinese immigrants in Melbourne.
Being a third culture kid, being an ethnic minority growing up in a predominantly white society – you can explain it but unless you’ve lived it, it’s difficult to understand. So for the film to have the impact it did, it said to us that there were people around the world like us who were longing for that cinematic representation and were finally seeing it.
He says that he’d always been really disappointed with how Asian males in particular were represented in Hollywood.
Growing up I definitely went through identity issues and self-confidence issues because most of the Asian male characters I saw on TV and in cinema were almost treated as being asexual or in a negative stereotype of ‘the guy with the accent’ or ‘the immigrant’, or ‘nerdy’. You never saw a hero, or an Asian guy being sexy on-screen.
Marvel Studios announced late last year they would be making a stand-alone flick for Asian superhero Shang-Chi, which Chris says makes a lot of sense both culturally and financially.
It would stupid for Marvel NOT to explore Asian culture with Shang-Chi. This is what studios and execs are learning now – diverse casting, it’s good for ratings, it’s good for box office. When you’re making films from a financial perspective it makes sense, not just in an altruistic way of ‘doing a good thing’ but now with the financial gains there’s really no excuse. There’s a few Marvel projects now casting for Asian characters.
Upon hearing this, I order him to go and audition for Shang-Chi, because honestly the world deserves a Marvel shirtless scene from Chris Pang. “I promise I will go and I will try. I will make you proud. If I get cast as Shang-Chi, it will be for you. Not for me, I don’t even want to do it, I don’t even like Marvel!” he jokes. I threaten to hang up the phone on him.
Before his potential starring role as Shang-Chi, Chris will be in the upcoming Charlie’s Angels reboot, directed by Elizabeth Banks and starring Kristen Stewart among others. Chris says he was super excited to get involved in the film, especially because he loved the Noughties version.
I watched the previous movies with these three badass women kicking ass on screen representing the powerful females of the time. It aways struck me that Lucy Liu was one of them. She was iconic in that role. To have an Asian woman kicking ass was important. So then to become part of the franchise was so exciting. We’ve updated it, it’s absolutely a women’s empowerment film and it’s a feel-good film for everyone. I got to do fighting, I get some great scenes. I get some jokes. It was everything I wanted to do in one film.
In another huge plus for the eyes of thirsty women everywhere, Noah Centineo is also in the Charlie’s Angels reboot. “Yes, the Internet’s boyfriend. He’s in it,” Chris laughs. “You guys are going to love him in it. He’s very good. We actually went to watch a movie together while we were filming in Berlin. Noah decided to go incognito. He rocked up in a black and white fur jacket, the most ridiculous thing I’d ever seen. He’s all ‘I don’t want to draw attention to myself’ and show’s up like he’s in a Halloween costume, it was so funny.” Classic Noah.
The whole reason I’m chatting to Chris is because he currently has a partnership with Sheridan Sheets, the iconic Aussie bedlinen brand, for their campaign Tonight Makes Tomorrow which includes an ad that features him pumping iron and kicking butt.
So that give me a lot of scope to ask him about his bed habits, no? First question for Chris is whether he hogs the blankets, and he tells me:
I came back to Sydney to shoot the ad and they were like ‘Hey we want to make this very natural – why don’t you just lay in bed the way you usually would.’ I was like ‘I don’t think this is gonna work for this shoot guys’, and they were like ‘Chris, just do it.’ So I lay there in bed but the thing is, I sleep like a vampire. Flat on my back with my arms folded across my chest. It’s really creepy. I rarely move when I sleep so I don’t hog the blankets. I don’t move.
Luckily, he managed to appear semi-normal in the ad. Despite sleeping like an absolute weirdo, Chris says a good night’s rest is do-or-die for him. “Being on-set is very demanding, you have to be switched on all the time. It’s extremely tiring, especially when there’s action involved.”
As a part-time insomniac myself, I ask what his secret to a restful sleep is – and Chris says it’s all about being comfortable. “You need to be amongst the things that help you sleep deeply and effectively, I grew up sleeping in Sheridan sheets, Mum would spend money on good sheets, and you take it for granted a bit. So as an adult I bought cheap sheets and was like ‘Nope, I get it now’.
You can peep the ad below – and make sure you keep an eye out for Chris in Charlie’s Angels and of course, his big Marvel debut in Shang-Chi. *crosses fingers*