By Erin Chew
The 1980s was an important decade for actor and now director Sung Kang (Fast & Furious, Obi-Wan Kanobi). It was the time when he had his fondest childhood memories, and it was also a period of self-discovery – going through puberty and falling in love. Most importantly it was the time of Blockbuster and VHS videos, which Kang remembers as his education and inspiration.
“Growing up as an ’80s child, I was very much into horror and comedy films. This is where VHS videos come into my life. I have the best memories of renting videos as a way to escape, and it was also my film school, especially being a Korean kid growing up in 1980s Georgia”, Kang stated in a recent interview with AsAmNews.
The comedy-horror film Shaky Shivers is Kang’s directorial debut. Set in the 1980s, the film revolves around Lucy (Brooke Markham) who is convinced that she will transform into a fearsome werewolf, after getting bitten by a mysterious animal. Joined by her best friend Karen (VyVy Nguyen), the two embark on a campy adventure filled with magic and mayhem.
A very surreal premise and one which will invoke laughter and the heeby jeebies out of anyone who watches the film. Shaky Shivers also pays homage to the pioneers of the horror genre, to the retro time period and to the movies Kang grew up with. This was the reason why he chose Shaky Shivers as his first film to direct.
“After reading the script for Shaky Shivers, it had a good balance of horror and comedy. It provides a happy ending that makes me and hopefully will make whoever watches it contemplate about being a better person. We know it’s been a heavy and divisive couple of years, and this, I believe is a movie that will help us all forget about the bad stuff and just live in the moment”, Kang expressed.
One major theme coming out of the film is about feeling comfortable in one’s skin. This really comes down to how a person identify with themselves, their culture and their appearance. Like other communities of color, AAPIs have experienced this struggle of feeling comfortable with who they are. Kang reflected on this and stated that not only has his journey in feeling comfortable with himself been a long one, but it has also presented questions about his career, the roles he has chosen and the projects he has chosen.
“Being comfortable in your own skin is always easier said than done. It is the major theme I wanted to bring out in Shaky Shivers, because I have and still struggle with this premise. It has taken me a long time to feel proud of being Korean American and feeling good in my skin and my hair. Being a Hollywood actor has made me question everything about myself because I have never felt I was good enough. Being an actor is an unstable profession, and every project you work on starts off as a place of insecurity”.
Whenever Kang’s name or image comes out in the public sphere, he is immediately recognized as the iconic Han Lue from the Fast and the Furious franchise. This was also his character’s name from Better Luck Tomorrow. The character of Han has amassed a cult following with fans creating social media pages calling and advocating for his return when he apparently died from a car accident that burst into flames in Fast and the Furious 4.
His character returns in the most recent installment of Fast and Furious 9, with the mystery behind his fake death revealed. Despite being such an iconic character from the franchise, Kang stated that he doesn’t feel he has achieved a lot or made any real landmarks as an actor aside from being known as Han.
“I don’t think I have had an illustrious career, and I don’t feel as though I have accomplished or made any inroads as an actor as yet. Being known for one character is of course a great thing, but it doesn’t mean I have made an impact. Hollywood is a hard place to make it and most opportunities there don’t exist for me or other Asian actors. To really make it, we need to create our own opportunities and a lot of that starts off by being behind the camera and making the creative decisions”.
Shaky Shivers will screen in theaters for one night only on September 21,2023.
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