He Was Bullied as a Kid For Being Chinese, Now He’s the Black Power Ranger
Although I am straight, any idiot can see that Ludi Lin is an absolute heartthrob. Lets list everything out that makes Lin awesome. He’s:
Ridiculously good looking
A Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu fighter
Fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin
Lastly, he’s the motha f***ing BLACK RANGER!
Lin’s acting career dates back into 2011, where he starred in a few short films. In 2014, he landed a role in the Netflix hit series “Marco Polo”. However, the role that put him on the map was his casting as the Black Ranger in the recent reboot of “Power Rangers”.
Being a hardcore Power Rangers fan growing up, I knew I had to reach out to Lin for an interview. Two weeks later, Lin happily obliged and we did an interview via Skype.
For reasons beyond me, Lin was completely shirtless during our whole interview. Here I was, face-to-face virtually, with the shirtless Black Ranger. I felt a huge sense of gratitude over me. I reassured him that I wouldn’t be uploading our video interview, but he basically didn’t care.
“It’s all good, man. I have pants on just in case I stand up. No worries,” he said.
Aside from breaking stereotypes for his role in Power Rangers, Lin’s character is also praised for it’s authentic portrayal of Asian-Americans living in poverty. While Asians tend to have the image of the “model minority,” there are an abundance of poor Asian-Americans currently living in poverty. In fact, they make up for the highest poverty rate in New York City.
“Actors are storytellers,” Lin told NextShark. “For me, it’s not just about internalizing the character, it’s also about conveying a story and having an affect on the audience. I want to tell good stories and build good characters that people can actually connect with.”
Born in Fuzhou, China, Lin’s first action figure was a Power Ranger, which helped introduce him to Western culture. He spent most of his youth in boarding schools in Australia before he emigrated to Canada.
“My Power Ranger was yellow from the Japanese Super Sentei series. I didn’t know it was a Power Ranger until I moved to Canada and started watching the show on TV. It gave me an insight into what it was like to go to school in North America.”
Growing up, Lin got into many fights in school because of his ethnicity. Even after moving to Canada to finish his studies, he was still picked on by bullies.
“Being a new kid, you’re an outsider, right?” Lin said. “Even moving from Australia to Canada, because I spoke with an Australian accent — all these guys were like ‘What are you supposed to be? What are you? You look Asian, you look Chinese, but you speak with this weird English.'”
Fortunately, Lin always stood up for himself and would fight back whenever he was bullied. Eventually, Lin earned the bullies respect and actually befriended some of them.
“There’s a Chinese saying that means if you don’t fight, you don’t know each other, and you can’t become friends,” Lin said.
Growing up, Lin’s first inspiration to get into acting came from his mother, who was originally an opera singer in China.
“She’s very pivotal in how I chose my career,” Lin recalled. “As this little kid, one of my first memories is in the audience and watching my mom come on stage amongst firecrackers, music — commanding and mesmerizing the audience.”
However, when his mother found out he was studying acting as one of his degrees in college, she flipped out.
“‘No, you can’t act. You can’t choose acting. You’ve got to choose a real career — lawyer or doctor!'” Lin recalled. “Being my rebellious teenager at the time, I still chose acting, but I also studied medicine too. However, in the end I just couldn’t let go of acting.”
Like most actors, Lin struggled to find acting jobs in the beginning. However, he never missed chances to improve himself. He moved to Thailand to study Muay Thai and made a living cleaning the gym and competing in fights. He also took other jobs as a singer at a bar and as a tour guide.
“‘AMP’ is a personal philosophy I came up with. It means ‘Always Making Progress’. I never took jobs where I didn’t learn from or became stale.”
“Every time I don’t want to do something or it scares me, there’s this little voice inside my head that’s going ‘I dare you to do it,'” he added.
Lin was on the set of “Marco Polo” some time in 2016 when his manager called him about the “Power Rangers” casting and urged him to apply.
“They’re like, ‘It’s for Power Rangers, it’s the Black Ranger!’ I’m like, ‘Whoa, okay, I’ll do it right away!’ So we taped it on my iPhone and sent it in.”
Two weeks later, Lin found himself in a Skype audition with Director Dean Israel and was given the role shortly after. Lin praised Israel for being extremely open-minded and taking his advice on building Zach’s unique character.
“So much kudos to Dean Israel, he made Zach possible because he was so open to ideas. They were talking about action stuff and I didn’t feel like Zach would whip out some fancy wushu kick. I feel like this character, has got a lot of issues, anger, and angst in him that needs to release.”
Because of Lin’s feedback, Israel incorporated some wrestling moves and suplexes into the film for Zach.
Despite Lin’s candor and openness, like everyone, there are some things he preferred to keep private. During our interview, he credited his mom as a reason for his success, but when asked about his father, he simply said he didn’t have a father figure in his life.
Another thing Lin prefers to keep private is his age. He reasons that it’s based on his personal belief that it’s not important and that it influences whether he gets work or not.
“I live day to day, and when people ask me how old I am I tell them a day range. I tell them today I’m 12,345 days old,” Lin said.
As a Chinese-American, one of the things I really appreciated about Lin’s character in Power Rangers were the scenes where Zach only spoke Mandarin to his mother. Whenever I see mainstream Hollywood films growing up and a Chinese dialect was spoken, I always saw something “off” about it. It also seems that Hollywood rarely uses native speakers when showcasing Chinese dialects onscreen (check out the mother speaking from 00:07 to 00:13 in the “Rush Hour 2 scene” below).
“Hollywood films are so serious and meticulous about every single little detail, but why is it when it comes to just a different language … come on, you can’t tell you can’t find an Asian guy to just actually look over the scene and be like ‘is that proper?’
“Sometimes it seems like they don’t give a crap. So I’m glad to bring something that’s real and authentic and you listen to it and you’re like, okay, that’s Chinese. It’s not like ‘is that an amalgamation of Alvin and gibberish and something Asian?'”
The mandarin scenes between Zach and his mother were also very important to Lin because it gave an authentic glimpse of what it’s like living as an Asian American coming from a traditional family.
“You definitely behave differently with your parents than with your friends — especially if you’re Asian American. If you’re second generation, then your parents could be very traditional. That’s how it was with me.
“So you’re like out in this Western culture going through life where everyone’s very supportive, all the teachers are very supportive, then you come home and mom’s like ‘let’s study some math, be clean, be socially acceptable, otherwise people are going to look down on you’. All these traditional thoughts, so you’re stuck between two dimensions almost.”
Since the release of “Power Rangers”, Lin is now recognized on the streets by fans, something that he stressed he enjoys and doesn’t take for granted.
“I never actually experienced something like this — little kids would come up to me and be all like, ‘It’s Zach, it’s the Black Ranger!’ I couldn’t imagine what that would feel like, and it feels amazing, like it feels great.”
Hollywood whitewashing has been subject to huge debate and discussion in recent years. As an actor, Lin acknowledges that whitewashing exists in the industry, but he prefers to combat it with a different approach.
“We need to stop talking and start doing. It’s kind of odd for me to just banter endlessly about whitewashing and how it’s unfair. It’s feels a lot like nagging to me. I’d rather do something about it and actually show people.
“I want to build characters where people naturally gravitate towards. I want to make the studios not able to refuse me because they can’t help but be attracted by what I present or fascinated by the characters I bring. I want to be the actor with the story.”
Most recently he landed the role of Murk in the upcoming DC film “Aquaman”, which is set to be released in 2018. I don’t know about you, but something tells me that Lin will have a long lasting career.
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