Olivia Liang Talks the Importance of Asian Female Representation in Kung Fu

Kung Fu debuts Wednesday night on The CW and while the series is inspired by the classic 1970s series starring David Carradine, this new Kung Fu isn't a sequel, revival, or even a real reboot. Instead, it's a full reimagining of the series, one that tells the story from a perspective that is unfortunately rarely seen on television: the female Asian perspective. For series star Olivia Liang, that representation is incredibly important -- and something that is deeply exciting as well.

Speaking with ComicBook.com, Liang said that the new Kung Fu does infuse elements of the original series, but also tells it from a perspective that she says is "better late than never".

"I think, thankfully, we did infuse so much of what was amazing about the original thematically into our show and so, I feel like we're doing it justice in that way," Liang said. "This person who has a skill set of kung fu and wants to use it for good, or doesn't want to use it for good but needs to use it for good and wants to fight for the underdog and wants to seek justice. And so, that's really infused in our story and I think fans of the original are going to love this reimagining of it. And it's also just really cool that it's now told from an Asian female perspective, which maybe it's how it should have been the whole time. But you know, better late than never. I'm so glad that I get to be part of telling the story in this way."

In Kung Fu, Liang plays Nicky Shen, a young Chinese-American woman who returns home to San Francisco after a life-changing journey to an isolated monastery in China only to discover that her city has been overrun with crime and corruption and that her own family is at its mercy, but she is far from the only powerful woman in the series. Nicky's world is full of strong women.

"I'm so excited. We have all kinds of powerful women being represented on screen," Liang said. "We've got Kheng's [Hua Tran] character of Mei-Li who was the matriarch of the family and who is strong, who uses her voice, who's unapologetic and takes up space. And she's raised these two daughters to be the same way. Althea (Shannon Dang), you'll see her character goes through her own journey to speaking up and finding her voice as well. And then, of course, there's Nicky and then there's Pei-Ling (Vanessa Kai), who is Nicky's other maternal figure, who really taught Nicky so, so much."


Liang continued, "I get asked the question of, 'Who did you look up to on TV that looks like you?' And my answer is no one, right? I didn't have a lot growing up who looked like me and I'm so excited that there are young boys and girls out there who are going to see a whole variety, an entire spectrum of people who look like them, who they can look up to. If they don't relate to Nicky, they'll relate to Althea, or Mei-Li, or Ryan, or someone else. So that's really, really exciting for me."

Kung Fu airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.