Kung Fu: Shannon Dang on the Deeper Side of Althea
On The CW's Kung Fu, Shannon Dang plays Althea Shen, the eldest Shen daughter who, with her larger-than-life and bubbly personality not only easily welcomes her sister, Nicky (Olivia Liang), back home after her multi-year time away at a Shaolin monastery in China but she also uses her tech skills to help Nicky in her efforts to stop crime in their San Francisco neighborhood. But there's a lot more to Althea than just being her little sister's tech support. She's a complex character all her own, one who is learning to find her voice, something that Dang spoke with ComicBook.com about in a recent interview.
"I originally auditioned for Nicky," Dang said. "At the time they were looking for their leads, they had already cast Kheng Hua [Tran] and Tzi Ma so I auditioned for Nicky. It was fu nny because I was like 'Okay, this is cool.' And when I went in, the casting director was like 'Love that, but actually, here's her sister. Here are the sides. Why don't you come back next week and try this.' And I was like, 'Great, love it.' I read her part and I was like, ah, this is me. I totally found myself in this character and I wanted to be part of the Shen family. And you know, there weren't many Asian American families on television at that point so seeing that and reading the breakdowns of them casting an entire Asian American family I was like, 'Yes. I want to be part of this.'"
As viewers have seen in the series thus far, Althea is very different than Nicky, but Dang says that while Althea has her moments, there's much more to her below the surface than her lighthearted exterior would indicate.
"Althea is Nicky's lighthearted, bubbly, tech savvy older sister. When we first meet her in the pilot, she just left her job in the tech industry to plan her big wedding to her dream fiance," Dang said. "But as the series goes on, you'll find that underneath all that lightheartedness and comic relief, she's holding a very heavy secret that weighs on her throughout the season. And yes, she might have her bridezilla moments as every bride does, but the writers do a wonderful job in showing that, but also a different side to her, a deeper, more raw and vulnerable side to her and I think a lot of audiences are going to be able to relate to that pain that often goes unspoken."
In last week's episode, "Patience", fans got an idea of what that unspoken pain Althea is dealing with might be. It's implied in the episode that Althea may be a survivor of sexual assault when a reporter approaches her and tries to encourage her to speak out. Althea refuses, but Dang says that having Nicky as a sister will be a source of inspiration and strength for Althea.
"I think it weighs heavily on her," Dang said of Althea's secret. "I think throughout the season, you will follow her as she hides this and comes at a crossroads. Does she speak up? Does she tell her family? Does she tell her fiance? And it will definitely affect her relationship with not only her fiance but also his family and the rest of the Shen family. I think helping Nicky with her quest for justice will also help inspire Althea. Here she has her sister, who in her mind is so brave and is so willing to stand up for what's right and fight for justice. And meanwhile, Althea is struggling to find her own voice. I think, the two sisters, them being so different, I really think that she's gonna learn a lot from Nicky and the audience will find Althea trying to find her voice throughout the season."
Kung Fu airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.