Actress Shannon Dang plays technologist Althea Shen on the hit CW action-drama “Kung Fu” — a remake of the 1970s martial arts series. It’s the first network drama to feature a predominantly Asian American cast, and in its first month, it averaged 1.2 million viewers a week.
Actress Shannon Dang: "It's excitement and pride and opportunity, but also comes with it, maybe expectations or pressure and responsibility. Because growing up, I didn't have a lot of Asian American families on television to look up to."
The series tells the story of a young Chinese American martial artist who fights crime in San Francisco. But beyond the action-focused plotlines, “Kung Fu” also navigates through the universal realities of family dynamics, sexism in the workplace and racism in the U.S.
Dang: “That’s also what I love about ‘Kung Fu’ is it does a great job of fully fleshing out every character. … Whereas in the past, sometimes you get your one diverse character, and they just played the stereotype and you never really know what’s going on behind the scenes.”
The original Kung Fu featured a white leading actor, David Carradine. Today, Dang says she’s excited to see AAPI communities represented more on screen — especially when they can add dimension to Hollywood tropes and stereotypes.
“Kung Fu” ends its first season this month, and it’s already been greenlit for season two.
Dang: “It’s still surreal for me, so I’m enjoying it.”