By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
To think that your first supporting acting role would be an Asian American milestone for representation and visibility is an absolute dream come true for Chinese actress Meng’er Zhang. Coming from a professional background of acting on stage, Marvel’s Shang-Chi was the first time Zhang got a taste of what it’s like to act in front of a camera. A daughter of a theater actress and a stage designer, Zhang played Xu Xialing, Shang-Chi’s youngest sister. Zhang grew up devoted to the theater in order to follow in the footsteps of her mother, as she puts it.
Her theater career spans seven years in both China, South Korea, and other parts of Asia. She is fluent in both English and Mandarin, and it was this language edge as well as her audition performance that scored her the role in Marvels Shang-Chi to work alongside Simu Liu ( Shang-Chi) and Tony Leung (Xu Wenwu) among other stars.
In a recent interview with AsAmNews, Zhang talked about some of the difficulties and obstacles she encountered acting in front of a camera as opposed to on stage. She mentioned that there were times where her entire scene performance was missed by the camera as she wasn’t in the camera frame.
“Destin was so patient with me and helped me understand what acting in front of the camera meant,” she told AsAmNews. “I remember there was a scene I performed, and I was totally off the frame, and Destin actually stopped filming and told me it’s time for my great performance to be seen on camera.
She credited veteran actor Sir Ben Kingsley, a veteran of both stage and film, for helping her through the issue. He told her film actors are portrait artists while stage actors are landscape artists.
When Zhang first saw the audition call to play Xu Xialing, she didn’t even know it was an audition for a Marvel film, and she only took interest in the call as it required a female who could speak both English and Chinese fluently.
“When I got my call back, they flew me to a screen test with Simu and that is when I found out I was actually doing an audition for a Marvel film. Till this day, I still pinch myself,” she said.
Finally, Zhang discussed some of the takeaways she obtained from her acting career in China and whether this helped her now working in US films. She emphasized that both the Chinese and American entertainment industries are polar opposites in terms of how they operate.
“From what I have experienced and learned is that the pressure levels for actors working in China and in the US are totally different, and expectations are also different in terms of deliverables.
“On a personal note, the biggest thing I took with me, was learning acting skills from my mother, who is my hero. My mother was a stage actress and so I was born in theater and all the things I learned from her such as resilience, good work ethic, and raising my skills have built who I am today and will stay with me forever.”
If you haven’t watched Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings or if you plan to re-watch it, you can find it on Disney Plus and on other streaming platforms.
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