This year seems to be the Year of the Tan, aka Lewis Tan.
After the internet went nuts over Tan’s portrayal as the drunk villain, Zhou Cheng, in last year’s Marvel’s Iron Fist, the 31-year-old actor gained a large following and many job offers including last week’s Deadpool 2 and a recurring role in AMC’s hit martial arts drama, Into the Badlands.
In Deadpool 2, Tan plays X-Force team member Shatterstar, an alien from the planet Mojo World who was genetically designed to be perfect. We got to chat with Tan (again) about the movie, representation, and how he really feels about Thirst Tweets.
NOC: First off, congrats on the film! I got to see it, and it’s hilarious. I need to know, how does it feel to be part of this blockbuster franchise?
LEWIS: Thank you. It feels good. I mean, it’s amazing just to work with great people: the director and Ryan [Reynolds] have a really good energy — a welcoming energy. I had a great time on the set. Obviously, there is a lot of pressure and hype for the film for X-Force and the character that I am playing, Shatterstar. So, there’s that. But, really, I’m just a fan myself. I had a good time and just embraced it and took it all in. But, it also means a lot as an Asian American actor because the last time I was at Comic-Con for Iron Fist, I had people coming up to me saying that they were really happy to see an Asian American in a superhero show when I was playing a villain with a burnt face and it was a smaller role, but everyone really loved it and the acclaim that came from that was incredible. So, it’s nice to be back in New York for the premiere of this film on a bigger scale. It feels surreal and it feels great.
It’s great that you get to play such a beloved hero character — the Mojo World gladiator. We know you were a fan beforehand. So, what did you prepare for this “perfect” character?
He has a very complex backstory. I am sure you know and many fans of Shatterstar know. It would take a few movies to kind of play out his whole story. It’s pretty long and complex. I did a lot of research. I bought every X-Force comic and every Shatterstar comic I could find. I talked to a lot of the fans and did a lot of research online. So, I think yeah, he’s genetically engineered to be the perfect warrior and it’s cool that they added some Asian ethnicity into it. If I were making the perfect warrior genetically, I don’t know how I would ever do that, but if hypothetically I was, I would put some Asian genes as well, because martial arts came from there and it’s a big part of the character. He’s kind of like a samurai from the future. So, it was fun to play. I do a lot of martial arts myself, so it was easy to embody.
Well, this was the perfect role for you. The film is getting a lot of praise, for not only regarding the different ethnicity, but also different sizes of people and sexual orientation. The movie did change the character of Shatterstar to fit for you as a person of Asian descent. They also did that with Domino’s Zazie Beetz and Firefist’s Julian Dennison. How do you feel about the changing progress from a white character to a person of color?
Of course, I love it. I think that we need more of that. There are good opportunities for Caucasian actors and different characters they have played for a long time and we haven’t had many opportunities for actors of color to play leading roles, superheroes, or love interests. We haven’t had as many opportunities. So any opportunity we get is fantastic and a step forward. I think there is a huge audience that is not being fully represented right now across the scale. So, anything I can do to be part of that representation and help lead that movement, I am fully committed to it. It inspires me every day and it’s something that I care about deeply. It’s changing and I’m glad to be part of that campaign.
Shatterstar is known as one of the sexiest characters in Marvel and is known to be a thirst trap. This is very similar to how the internet is reacting towards you. How do you feel about the internet’s newfound thirst for you — especially with Shatterstar also being considered one as well in Marvel history?
I believe he’s number 29. I was hoping for him in the top 10. Maybe next time. I think it’s great. Looking at, not just me, Asian American men in general and looking at them as a sex symbol or sexy icon. I think it’s wonderful and we don’t see that often. So, there is a self-manifesting cycle that happens when you see yourself on screen and you don’t see yourself a certain way and then the younger generation will start believing that. Then they start acting that way and then people start treating them a certain way. It’s a cycle that needs to end. So for people to look at that character, and to look at me, and other people of color in that way, I think it’s wonderful and I embrace it, but I think it’s necessary for change.
Shatterstar has a pretty interesting history. What would you like to see if they did a feature on him? What aspect of the character would you like to see explored?
I think his backstory is really interesting. I think how he grew up as a slave and where he came from, not knowing who his parents are or if he even have parents. You know, later you find out that he does have parents, but his memories haven’t been explored and he didn’t know about it. His memories about Benjamin Russell [are gone] and he doesn’t know where he came from. He’s stuck in this gladiator-type life — like Groundhog Day meets Gladiator. Something crazy like that. It’d be a crazy film. I’d like to see that explored. I think they could do a cool job at it. Plus, it’s the Mojo World, something we’ve never seen before, which will be another cinematic adventure.
Well, with the cast and crew, it looked like a really awesome set to work on. How was it working with Ryan [Reynolds], Terry [Crews], and the others?
It was great. Ryan, like I said before to someone at the premiere, is kind of like a genius in his element when you see someone playing that perfect role for them. There is just an energy about it that you can’t duplicate and no one else can do. For instance, Hugh Jackman as The Wolverine. I think it’s a similar type of energy. Ryan just embraces it so well. He is Deadpool and Deadpool is him. It is part of him now, probably forever. He does it so well that you can have that energy on set where it’s peaceful and calm. It’s a fun environment. No one is stressed out. It’s slow, fluid, and very nice. It’s a collaborative environment. Terry, Zazie, Bill (Skarsgård), and Rob (Delaney) — all of us connected really well on and off the set. It was a great collaboration.
What was your favorite part in filming this movie? Was it the costume? Was it the hair — because the hair is magical?
The hair is crazy. After you get it all done, it can be. I didn’t know. I never had that much hair before. So, I had to learn how to maneuver it, especially when you’re fighting. There were some scenes that we shot that didn’t make the cut. We shot a lot of different stuff for promotional reasons and some didn’t make the film. Some were in the trailer. There was this fight scene with the hair. It’s really hard to maneuver. I had a good time. I was standing on top of the truck, fighting guys, and the hair was blowing all over the place. I just looked around and thought, man, this is incredible. That was a cool moment. Also, sitting on the helicopter with all the guys and cracking up as soon as they said cut. Everyone was laughing and making jokes. It was a lot of fun. I had a great time. It’s hard to keep a straight face acting with them.
Here is a fun question. If you had Cable’s ability to go into the past or into the future, where would you go and what would you do?
I wouldn’t go back to the past or anything, because that just freaks me out. I’m happy for the things that have happened, even with the bad things that have happened in my life. So, I think you learn and grow from those experiences. I believe in yin and yang and if you understand the middle part of yin and yang — that little swirly line — that’s supposed to be the past you walk on — like the balance. I think that it’s good to have both of those. Maybe I would check out the future to see what’s going on and we could try to avoid some mistakes, but yeah, I wouldn’t mess around the past.
We know in this film — anything could happen. We could bring anyone back and they have. With the reveal of the X-Force film coming to light, any chance to see Shatterstar again? Is there anything you hope to see for the character in X-Force?
I think the fans have an overwhelming response to X-Force so far, from what we’ve seen. Terry Crews is one of my close friends and my family. We had such a good chemistry with Bill and everybody. I think that it would be silly not to explore that world. There are so many different storylines and avenues to go down when it comes to the X-Force. I just know that I would love to be a part of it. I think the fans had a really great response/reaction to the X-Force. I think that has to be happening. Surely.
This year is what I’d like to call the Year of the Tan. We are seeing you everywhere and demanding you for so long. We see you in Into the Badlands and now, Deadpool 2. There has been so much online support for you. How do you feel about the online demand to see you in everything?
First off, thank you for that and for everyone who is on Twitter and Instagram who have been supporting me from way before. You deal with a lot of rejection in this business and you have to have very thick skin. Before all this attention and all these jobs started coming in, there were a lot of jobs that I missed out on. There were a lot of jobs that I got very close to and signed contracts with and then it went to someone else at the end of the day. Or, they went a different direction with the role. This has been happening for years. So, in order to stay focus and stay in the game, it’s very difficult on your emotions. Everybody has their own ways with dealing with it, but having said that, to have such a positive support on social media, sounds silly, but it inspired me a lot and it really helped me. I look through my Twitter and social media and see hilarious memes and people saying nice things or silly things, it really inspired me and helped me get through some hard times. So, I owe fans a lot. I put a lot into my work when I get parts. I don’t show up on set and give 50%. It’s always 200%. I do that because I want them to enjoy what I’m doing and I want them to see the quality of the work.
Just a quick question, that everyone is wondering, would you like the thirst tweets to continue?
If the thirst tweets were to stop, I’d be sad. I don’t mind them whatsoever. They make me laugh and I love them. I love everybody doing that. I think it’s hilarious. I welcome the thirst tweets. It’s all good.
One more, because this is a thing going on with us, along with our friends at Geeks of Color, what’s your thoughts on pineapple on pizza?
Pineapple on pizza? I don’t think they go together. I’m more of a classic Italian style pizza. That’s how I feel about it. Why, is this a thing?
Well, it’s an ongoing Twitter war.
Who is winning the war?
Pineapple NOT on pizza, of course.
Look, I try everything. I’ll try it all. I travel a lot. So I eat all sorts of weird stuff, but I’m more of the classic Italian style when it comes to pizza. Classic. Nice and simple.
Thank you so much, Lewis. We look forward to seeing you more!