New Zealand actor Yoson An has just been cast as the love interest in the Disney live-action Mulan movie, but before you see him on the big-screen, you can catch him in the gritty new SBS police drama Dead Lucky.
An's career is starting to kick off. In addition to Mulan, he will also be seen in the upcoming film Mortal Engines, based on the YA novel. He also had a blink-and-you'll-miss-it role in the Netflix Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon movie 'Sword of Destiny'.
"I was on it for a week," An told SBS with a gentle laugh. "It was supposed to be a scene before Donnie Yen comes into a tavern, but they ended up cutting my scene out of the movie, so you don’t really see me in the film at all."
While the appearance was cut back, An was thrilled that he was able to meet legendary actor Donnie Yen: "He was awesome. I’ve watched a lot of his movies. Ip Man 1 and IP Man 2, at the time, were two of my favourite movies of his. He is just an all-round awesome guy. I got to meet him because I was invited to the pre-production cast and crew party. There were a few big names there - Michelle Yeoh, Harry Shum Jr. They didn’t know who I was, but I had the chance to meet them and they were all very nice."
It's difficult to chat with An and not be taken in by his enthusiasm and charm. He seems to be just as excited to talk about Michelle Yeoh appearing in the new Star Trek: Discovery series as he was to discuss his own recent success. "I’m a sci-fi person. Anything to do with sci-fi and fantasy and I am on it," An admitted.
For Dead Lucky, one of the drawcards to taking on the role of rookie cop Charlie Fung was the opportunity to play a character who had more going for him than just his ethnicity. Fung is a young cop dealing with an opportunity for career progression while working alongside the hardened Grace Gibbs (Rachel Griffiths), a detective he blames for the death of his best friend. It's not the sort of role that he expected: "As an Asian actor, it really excites me when I get to play one of the lead roles in a series that penetrates deeper than stereotypes. There’s actual layers to Charlie and his life. It’s been really fun.
"The cast on this show is so multi-culturally accurate. I’ve been in Australia for two months now and it really represents Australia.
"I knew he was going to be part of the core cast, a series regular, but then I read the script and thought: 'Oh my god - I’m in it quite a bit [laughs]’."
In preparation for the role, An joined co-star Rachel Griffiths in a visit to a police station where they spent several hours with real-life police detectives. His main interest was in learning what the police officers thought were the real elements they see in TV police dramas, enabling him to lean into that and build his character with a greater legitimacy.
Through the production, An also had to learn how to draw a gun.
"It’s weird to have a gun on me, in general - I’d never held a real gun. I’d never fired a real gun. I had to have ear muffs - If I didn’t have them on, my ears would rung for days. Because I had them on, I still don’t know how loud it is - I just felt the vibration through my hands and bright flashes with my eyes," he said.
Being so early in his career, An wasn't yet jaded about having to do interviews with the press, but as a thoughtful actor, he has put a lot of consideration into how to handle them as he gets started on his career: "I’ve done about three so far. It’s still a little bit new to me. It’s like: Do I watch myself? Do I not watch myself? "I’m trying to be as open and honest as possible. Be myself and hopefully people will like that."
The gripping four-part Dead Lucky premieres Wednesday 25 July, 9.30pm on SBS and will also available on SBS On Demand.