Robin Shou first gained fame for his lead role in the films Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and most recently he has worked on the popular Death Race movies. On Sunday, Shou is participating in the 33rd Annual Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker 5K/10K Run to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit. Hollywood Outbreak sat down with Mr. Shou at a Pasadena, Ca. coffee shop to talk about his participation in the event as well as discuss his career in Hollywood. The actor gave a rather frank discussion on show business and gave this writer a little bit of insight on Chinatown as well.
Outbreak: Tell our readers a little bit about this event.
Shou: The whole event started back in the 1970s so it has a very long history and it’s really to promote Chinatown, the awareness of the Chinese community that really exists in L.A. Because I feel Chinese people are so low profile, they keep to themselves. They don’t make a lot of noise or do a lot of stuff. So I think by having an event like this they are trying to promote the Chinese American…they do have a long history in L.A. And I think by using the Chinese New Year and the run for Chinatown where they run around Chinatown, that’s promoting the whole community, and the people, and the culture too.
Outbreak: So are you going to run?
Shou: No! The thing is I do my running every day, so I kind of made up for it. It’s five miles….well I’m lighting firecrackers. I think it’s more exciting to light the firecrackers I think than actually being in a race because you’re seeing like 4,000 people taking off right at the starting line. So then just seeing this mass of people running just gives you goosebumps. I think I will be more happy as a spectator than running.
Outbreak: So, you’re going to light the firecrackers before the run?
Shou: Right before the race, it’s just to welcome the New Year. You’ll see. There are four strands of I don’t know how many thousands of firecrackers. It’s enormous, it’s amazing. So then you light the firecrackers, sort of like give the blessing, wake up the gods, say the New Year is here and then the race starts.
Outbreak: Is this your first time being involved? And what does the event entail?
Shou: No, I’ve been involved probably the last five years. It’s basically the run, really. But then again I think it’s people getting together. Just coming together for an event, and then you’re in Chinatown. How cool is that? How often do people go to Chinatown anyway? I think it’s one of those places where people don’t go to a lot. Back when I was growing up in L.A. there were a lot of things going on in Chinatown but now the town has gotten so slow. I don’t know what happened.
Outbreak: Maybe a lot of the residents spread out to the San Gabriel Valley and other parts of the surrounding area?
Shou: Probably. Probaby there is no room to develop. Because everything is to the max. So Chinatown is old and hilly, and there is no room to build new condos. And you know Chinese people – they like new condos, new mansions and you can’t build mansions in Chinatown in the hills of Alpine or Stadium Way. So they are moving to the San Gabriel Valley, Monterey Park, Rosemead. My family has been here for thirty some years and then I lived in Chinatown for a while. It’s almost like Chinatown was a transition town for all new immigrants. But now I guess people are more wealthier, people who come to America now, they probably are a little more sufficient. They don’t need to rent a one bedroom for a family of five anymore. So they can come here and buy new houses. And I guess that’s why Asian families are moving away and moving to bigger houses, bigger land. It’s a shame, because there is a lot of history in Chinatown.
Outbreak: In the twenty years I’ve spent as a journalist, I’ve only interviewed a handful of Asian actors. How tough is it being an Asian-American actor in Hollywood?
Shou: It’s tough because it is still one of those businesses that hasn’t really crossed over to other ethnicities. The blacks definitely did, because if you don’t have a black person on the show, they will march down the studio with a banner saying “discrimination.” That’s the thing with Chinese people. We are low key. We are low profile. We don’t make waves. It’s okay, we don’t mind. We just kind of blend in without people knowing. That is what is happening in Hollywood. They don’t notice us so I think an event like the Firecracker Run and other Chinese functions really help to promote, bring awareness to us. As an actor it is frustrating because again we all know in every corner, in every business, there has to be an Asian person in it. There is just no way. All these cop shows? C’mon. There are no Asian people? No, it’s impossible.
Outbreak: However, you worked on your share of high profile films.
Shou: I am lucky because I do work. I do have a pretty good body of work and that is why I get hired. I feel bad for the up and coming Asian actors. It’s a double edged sword. If you haven’t done anything you’re not going to get any work but then how are you going to get work if you haven’t had the chance to do anything. But it’s a slow process. Remember twenty years ago how Asian people in the acting community they were complaining about stereotyping us as doing martial arts only. The Kung-Fu guy only? What’s wrong with doing Kung-Fu? We are good at it. That is part of our philosophy. It is not just a self defense art. Martial arts is a philosophy. Would you rather see a white person doing Kung-Fu than an Asian person? Realistically speaking. So now they are finally recognizing people like Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and also they are a little bit taken aback because they are really not American. When they came on the scene, some critics would say “who is this Jackie Chan, he is from China! He’s not even American! He’s not representing us!” If you think broadly, does it really matter? Because he is bringing a whole culture, philosophy behind him. I think it’s a very slow process. There are a lot of Asian actors on TV now. They’re also the same actors on TV, but at least they’re on TV! And you see billboards with Asian actors. So it’s coming along slowly.
Outbreak: What are you working on right now?
Shou: Death Race 2 just came out on Blu-ray and we’re planning on doing Death Race 3. Death Race 2 is surprisingly a pretty tight movie. It’s actually a little more tighter than the first one so then Universal liked it so much that they’re thinking of doing a third one so Paul Anderson and the writer they already locked their deal. They actually signed their deal to come up with the story for the third one. Meanwhile, I have some projects. I’m starting to write. I wrote a couple of scripts and am trying to pitch it around. And like any other actor/producer we run into a lot of obstacles. They say “Robin, he’s good, but where is the market? We know him, he can do martial arts, he’s a good actor, but where is the market? How are we going to market him?” That is always the big question.
Outbreak: So how hard was it to get financing for your documentary Red Trousers: The Life of The Hong Kong Stuntmen?
Shou: That was not so tough because I went to a Chinese company, Tai Seng Entertainment. They have the largest Chinese video distribution company in America. So when I went to them with the idea of doing a documentary, they go “How much? $300,000? Well, we will give it a shot.” Because they have their own distribution network so it was actually kind of easy. I sort of targeted my finances, I targeted those people because I knew they understand, they get it. But if I went somewhere else, nobody’s going to get it. A movie about stuntmen? Nah. They would say “Why don’t you do the movie and I’ll look at it and if I like it, I’ll buy it. How’s that?” So I guess right now, it’s a slow process, but thank goodness my name crosses overseas. So now my thinking is maybe I will get those people involved. Because they get it.
Click on the media bar and listen to Robin Shou talk about his how his attitude as an actor has changed over the years (he also mentions his experiences with the Mortal Kombat franchise):
The Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker Run begins Sunday at 7:30 am and will feature traditional Lion dancing, 100,000 Firecrackers, and Laker Girls leading the warm-up stretches. The course runs through historic Chinatown, Elysian Park, and the Dodger Stadium backlot. To celebrate the Chinese New Year, you can also visit Chinatown today for its Nite N’Day Festival, which runs from 10 am – 7:30 pm. The Nite N’ Day Festival is free to the public, and for more info, check out firecracker10k.org.
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posted by Greg Srisavasdi