Kelly Hu on Batman: Soul of the Dragon, Bringing Her Martial Arts Background to Animation, And the End of Arrow

Batman: Soul of the Dragon is the latest DC Universe animated movie, with a home entertainment release on Blu-ray and DVD this coming Tuesday and the film already available to watch digitally. While the Dark Knight is the title lead, the Year One-style story actually centers around a quartet of DC characters, one being Batman, and the other three being people he trained with during his time in Nanda Parbat. In the movie, Batman (David Giuntoli), Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos), Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White), and Lady Shiva (Kelly Hu) take on a cult being led by one of their former peers under the martial arts master O Sensei (James Hong).

Soul of the Dragon is one of the coolest and most innovative of DC's long line of direct-to-DVD animated movies, in part because the whole thing is played like a '70s kung fu/action movie, with nods to Bruce Lee, James Bond, blaxploitation, and other ideas and genres that aren't naturally at home in a superhero movie. Between this and the recent Batman: A Death in the Family disc, which gave fans an opportunity to choose their own path through the story, it seems as though Warner's DC animation is getting really creative in its post-Justice League Dark: Apokolips War era.

Kelly Hu joined ComicBook to talk about her role as Lady Shiva, and reflect on her body of DC work, including her time as China White on Arrow.

I think you've done like five different DC roles at this point...

Really? I forget about everything too. Especially when it comes to animation, because when we record, we only record maybe one or two days or whatever, and then sometimes we do animation where the thing takes over a year to finish.

So I'll end up at a Comic-Con and some kid will pass me a DVD and ask me to sign it and I'll look, and I'm like, "I don't think I'm in this." And they're like, "No, you are. You play Lady Shiva."

That actually happened -- I did a Batman game and some kid in London or something passed me the DVD decide. And I was like, "I don't think I'm in this." And he goes, "You are." He had to look it up on my IMDb and show it to me. I was like, "Oh, okay."

Do you just really enjoy pursuing these action roles in animation? Because, obviously you are a very physically capable person in real life. And so every now and again, I think, "Man, it's almost a waste to have her do this in animation where you can't actually beat somebody up."

My body is really happy that this is only animation. But, I think it helps to have experience with martial arts, when you're playing a character that does so much action like this. Because, of course, they cast Michael Jai White and Mark Dacascos as well.

But it's helpful especially for girls, I think. Because when you have to do all these sounds for fights... If you have the experience, it sounds more real, and you can just come up with more real sounding. I think for a lot of women, especially, that's probably the hardest part about doing an action character, is it sounding real when you're doing the fight sound?

So years ago, you were in Cradle 2 the Grave with Mark.

Oh, right! I think Mark and I have worked a few times together. We did a movie in Russia together as well. Yeah. I remember that. No, he's a great guy and he's also from Hawaii. So we're really kindred.

You talked about how you do a lot of these things and you forget that you've even done them -- but does the uniqueness and oddness of this one being this cool, seventies, kung-fu pastiche make it stick out in the mind a little bit? Like, "Oh, how am I going to forget the one where everything I did was a wink and a nod to James Bond and Bruce Lee."

I don't think it really hit me until I actually saw it in ADR. Because when we're first doing it, we don't actually have much of a visual to work off of. So, I read the script and it sounds cool. But it wasn't until I actually got to see it, that it really stuck how cool that that whole seventies vibe was. So, oftentimes when you're doing these things, you don't know if what you're doing is any good, until you see it on camera or see it on screen.

This one... I was pleasantly surprised. It was awesome.

There's a throwaway line in this movie that I had to ask you about, which is... Somebody asks Bruce, essentially, "But why haven't you taken care of her yet?" And he's just like, "I'm working up to it." Is there something fun about being the lady Batman's scared of?

Oh, always. It's always fun to be the girl who can kick guys' asses. And it seems to be a pattern in a lot of the characters that I play. I'm not sure what that says about me as a person, but... I once had a guy friend and tell me that, of all the people that he knew, that I would be most likely to be an assassin. I was like, "I'm going to take that as a compliment." But, I'm not quite sure what that means.

It's funny. I think, because of the character that I play on screen, that I do get cast in a lot of these action roles and comic book roles. I do so many of these type of comic book roles in voiceover, in animation and on games and stuff like that. It's funny how that translated from onscreen into my voiceover acting.

What was it like being such a key part of early Arrow? When I brought you up with Amell once, he had nothing but good things to say.

Aww, that's so amazing. He really did fit that role so well. I'm really looking forward to seeing where he's going to go next, because he really did fit that Arrow role so well. I hope he doesn't get typecast -- that Superman curse, where people just can't think of him in any other way. Because he was perfect.

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One of your earliest credits was on Night Court. Now that they're bringing that back, would you do an appearance if they asked you to?

That would be funny. Because I played an Inuit character. I remember having to work with a seal on that, that smelled so bad. Rotten fish. So as long as I don't have to work with a seal again, I would be so happy to make them come back on the Night Court. And Richard Moll was actually one of my judges for Miss U.S.A.. Did you know that? I ran in the Miss U.S.A. Pageant and he was one of my judges. He did not score me very well though.