PHOTOGRAPHY BY MAARTEN DE BOER
STYLING BY KELLY BROWN
STORY BY KATINA GOULAKOS
& MICHAEL WILLIAMS
THANKS TO WILD CARD BOXING CLUB, LA.
Imagista: We are going to do a bit of an unconventional interview today, is that okay with you?
Lewis Tan: Sounds good to me!
Imagista: Sitting next to me is a huge fan of yours. His name is Kingston and he is a martial artist and he is twelve years old.
Lewis Tan: What is up Kingston, I love your name!
Kingston (Imagista): I really like your roles and what you’ve been up to. I really love “Into the Badlands” and your new character, it’s a really good show.
Lewis Tan: Thank you man
Imagista: Kingston is really into flipping. He is a competitive Brazilian jujitsu fighter and he did his first ever middle school wrestling match a week ago and he won.
Lewis Tan: Oh my God! Kid sounds like a champ that is awesome. That is what I grew up doing also so I love that.
Imagista: So Kingston will be asking all of those questions today!
Kingston (Imagista): Did you have a trainer when you were filming Into the Badlands and if so, who was it?
Lewis Tan: We have a trainer, his name is Matt Lucas and he comes from a kind of green beret army background but he also does jujutsu and different forms of yoga. He also does Persian martial arts, MMA and all different styles that they use in combat for army training. He is a one-stop shop for many different styles and he leads training sessions for me and all the other actors. Daniel Wu hired him personally. We had a lot of amazing fighters on set at all times so if you wanted to train a certain style you could easily schedule a session with one of them. We had guys trained in Muay Thai, weapons, gymnastics- really we had access to it all.
Imagista (Kingston): What is your background in martial arts?
Lewis Tan: I started training in Muay Thai and competed for a few years. I had a pretty good record, I never lost a fight- I had one draw. But it was amateur style called smoker round so you do 3-5 3 minute rounds.
Imagista: Is that in the US?
Lewis Tan: Yeah but I have trained everywhere. I trained in Thailand and my father who was a national taekwondo champion. Since then, I started to train in MAA and other styles to learn from people like Caitlin Dechelle who is the stunt double for Wonder Woman. She is my sword trainer. I have many different coaches for different styles depending on what I want to do and what kind of film I am training for.
Imagista: How many hours a week do you train when you are not shooting?
Lewis Tan: I would say I am training every day for 1-2 hours. It is not always as intense as an all day thing. I have a lot going on between press and shooting and meetings and everything that I am doing. I am also developing a television series. There is a lot going on but I try to get in my hour a day. Sometimes I go to the beach and do beach workouts. I try to keep my body in shock and keep everything enjoyable. If you do the same thing over and over sometimes you get bored of it or it feel monotonous. It is definitely good to keep you body in shock, like Bruce Lee was saying, your body needs to flow like water and bend and crash, it could be hard and soft. You want to keep your body in a state of fluidity and vulnerability. That is how you grow and progress as a martial artist.
Imagista: Or even as an actor?
Lewis Tan: Acting is the exact same concept. It has helped me a lot in my acting career. Being able to understand the concept of learning and training and being able to be fluid. It is the same thing with acting, I train, I learn the material, I do the research and when I get on set, I am fluid. Now I can flow with both my co-stars and the environment. That is the stage I want to get to.
Imagista: There is a scene of yours in Iron Fist, where you play the drunken guy. The scene is so amazing and I was curious as to how you prepared for that?
Lewis Tan: That one was tricky because drunken style is a style that you learn after learning all the Kung Fu styles. You are supposed to learn it last but it is a real style.
Kingston (Imagista): Have you ever seen Drunken Master?
Lewis Tan: Of course, it is funny that you mention that because that is the movie I watched before doing my research for that role. I watched that film extensively, I had obviously already seen it but that is probably one of the best-drunken boxing performances of all time.
Imagista: Obviously you can play the smoldering, serious, badass that you play in Into the Badlands but you also have a great sense of comedy. Are you interested in further exploring this comedic round at all or are you more focused on serious roles?
Lewis: When I was growing up, my father was working on the Pink Panther films, that classic comedy. It is truly something I would love to explore more. I think because I do a lot of drama and serious action stuff in my professional career that to do comedy feels so much lighter and is something I definitely want to explore more in my career.
Kingston (Imagista): What were some of your favorite television shows or movies that you have been in?
Lewis Tan: Deadpool 2. David Leitch directed the movie. David has known both my family and I for a while now. He told me he had a role for me but that he could not tell me anything about it but it is for Deadpool 2 and I told him I would be there for whatever he needed and that is kind of how it got started. The more I learned about it the more I got excited about it. It was hard to keep it a secret but it was an awesome experience.
Imagista: You mentioned you were working on a TV show, is that something you are producing? What are you working on that gets you most excited?
Lewis Tan: Well, I have been taking a lot of big meetings. There are a lot of prospect films in the pipeline that are potential films for me. I would love to work with DC, I met with them and posted it on social media and it blew up! At some point I would be honored to work with them just because of the connection my father has to them. He was in Batman with Tim Burton as one of Jack Nicholson’s goons. He was also the fight choreographer, which is cool. DC and Batman have been in my family for a long time and eventually I hope that comes full circle. I still have a lot of stuff to explore with Marvel.
On the side, I am producing a television series with Tucker Tooley who produced The Fighter. It is an action drama, with an Asian American lead (myself). It is very diverse and has a really interesting story. It is kind of based on my father’s childhood, growing up and learning martial arts but it has a mystical mystery element to it. We are working on that right now and should be hearing more news about that very soon.
Imagista: It seems, from an outside observer, that Hollywood and mainstream media is embracing more diversity in general. Do you find that Asian-American’s are getting better roles in mainstream media?
Lewis Tan: I think the time is coming and it is slowly becoming to take shape. Movies like Black Panther and Get Out opened a lot of doors not only for the African-American communities but also for all actors of color. I think studios are seeing that we can be bankable stars instead of just being sprinkled in the background. I think that does days are done and some films have been boycotted by viewers because they are fed up of the stereotypes have proved it. It adds so much color and beauty to cinema if you can let people tell their stories. Kids need to see themselves as heroes and leads and love interest. They need to see themselves in other characters besides stereotypes. What happens is young people start seeing themselves that was and then they start acting that way, it has this self-manifesting prophecy that is actually all based on a lie. There is so much more out there for us to explore as people. There are so many different levels and dimensions to us as people, not just people of color but everyone. We need to see the entire spectrum of it. The studios, which care about money more than anything, are looking at it as bankable and they are starting to get behind the movement. I myself, I am just happy to be here at the right time to help lead this movement for Asian Americans and to help support the other movements for all ethnic groups. That is why I am happy and proud to be here and working in this time. It was a struggle for me, for years, to not play the villain, or the gangster or ninja. Although there are parts of me that has a lot of fun playing those roles, it just meant so much more to me and to us and by us I mean people in general. We want to see all those spectrums come to life and it is only going to make cinema more beautiful and more colorful.
Denim vest: YSL @YSL
Imagista: I agree wholeheartedly. We at Imagista embrace a huge range of diversity and it makes for a more interesting publication.
Lewis Tan: I have looked at it and I am so proud because we need people like you guys. When I was at Comicon last year, I had kids coming up to me in tears saying, “man I am so glad that there is an Asian American on this Marvel show.” Although the character was only in one episode, it made such an impression on people and made such an impression on these kids. I was blown away- it affected me and I was really emotional for quite some time because I realized, they have no one to look up to. These kids do not have anyone that looks remotely like them that they could look up to. It made me more motivated and made me want to do more for the community and also made me want to accomplish more. It added more fuel to my fire and I think that my career trajectory has taken off and a lot of it has to do with that passion to represent and give people a voice.
Kingston (Imagista): Did you do any of the stunts?
Imagista: What is the deal with that? Where do they draw the line?
Lewis Tan: It is a huge production. We are there for 9 months, there are two different scenes shooting at all times, there is a ton of action stuff, more than any television show on the air. I think that it was very difficult to be there at all times and do everything but obviously I took the role to showcase my abilities in both acting and martial arts. I would say myself, at least 90% of them, I do a lot of the actions scenes. If I could do the stunt I will do it because I want to give my fans 100% of me. Even if I am tired or injured, if I could do it, I make sure it is me doing it. That is how I am with all my roles.
Imagista: Who are some of your inspirations?
Lewis Tan: Many people inspire me. My father who came here with nothing and created a career for himself which opened doors for me is very inspiring to me. My mom who did the same thing inspires me. I am inspired by a lot of different people who taught me how to navigate the film industry. I am inspired by the kids that I have inspired by my fans on social media. Of course, the greats that have paved the way for me, directors, actors, everyone who has opened doors for me to walk into. I am inspired by the people around me, even Kingston. Kids that are doing it help me keep going and give me inspiration to be the best I can be.