It’s release week for Aquaman, and everyone’s favorite fish-talking badass better watch his back, because he’s got a Power Ranger coming after him!
Ludi Lin, portrays the leader of Atlantis’ frontline army, the Men-of-War, Captain Murk. Murk, serving as the right hand man of primary antagonist, Orm (Patrick Wilson), commands a formidable force of soldiers to go after Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) and Mera (Amber Heard) throughout the film.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Lin this week to discuss his role, what it was like to work with director James Wan, and his views on where Asian inclusion in the industry stands today.
When asked to describe his character in his own words, Lin had this to say:
“If I had to choose one word, Murk is loyal. If I had to choose two, he’s loyal and powerful. And that’s how I think James and I discussed the character. It was very important for him to portray Murk as someone who’s very powerful, who can stand up to the power of Aquaman. And actually in the movie, I give him a little punch and knock him out, so that’s kind of nice. And so from there, the look of the character really started changing, because you have to have this other worldly origin for his powers. So gradually he became more and more grotesque and freakish looking. But that was also cool, because it was very fun to portray”
Lin also gave us some insight into the makeup process that he went through to portray Murk.
“We started with one scar on my face. And then eventually we took away my eyebrows. Added 50 other scars on my face. Bleached my hair. Gave me these blue eyes, because — it’s funny to me, because it seems like a ‘reverse-whitewashing’ process. But really my perception was there’s something genetically at heart that makes him [look] that way. Either it’s a genetic mutation… that can give him this freakish power… It felt pretty badass.”
Lin then spoke a bit about the casting process.
“It was a pretty standard process. I went in and read for it. I didn’t know what role it was for. Maybe I knew the name of the character but I didn’t know too much about the project. And a couple of month’s later, this is when I was in Beijing now, I get a call from my agent saying, ‘Hey you got that role.’ And I asked, ‘Which one?’ And he goes, Aquaman. James Wan!’ And I’m like ‘Oh, awesome!’ Then James jumped on a call and described his vision to me. And from then on, it just captured my imagination.”
When we asked him about whether or not his character really does believe in the philosophies of Orm, or he’s just loyal to the throne, Lin said, “I think Murk is a pretty simple guy. And he follows orders. He’s loyal to the throne and for him the pleasure is getting the job done.”
Lin was then asked about what it was like to work with an Australian/American director like Wan, he mentioned it felt natural. “It felt like the way it’s supposed to be. Especially in the world Aquaman lives in — this Atlantean world. It’s a different world. So it just feels natural to have people from different cultural backgrounds portray these characters. And there are some very interesting characters… If you hear James Wan’s detailed vision about how the different tribes evolved underwater, it’s got its own set of history, and its own set of rules. And I hope that gets to be told some place in the future.”
Naturally, being Asian himself, we asked Lin where he sees the industry evolving to in regard to the diversity of Asian-driven movies this year, such as Crazy Rich Asians and Searching, as well as what his thoughts were about what can be done to better incorporate underrepresented demographics into leading roles in films.
“It has been a pretty amazing year. And I’m really stoked about it. But it’s really sad in a way, because we’re excited at the beginning. How do we keep this excitement going? And it’s just so little. We need to have more. And that’s it. I think a good place to start is getting some Asian American writers noticed, because that’s how they tell the stories. For writers who really understand identity, they can actually describe Asian Americans in a way they find attractive, and they find interesting — it’s very important… I bring my cultural background wherever I am, so I do believe 100% that Asians are interesting. And we’re amazing beings that are capable of incredible things.”
As the conversation continued, Lin was also asked to discuss the topic of Asian masculinity, and the need for positive portrayals of Asian men in cinema.
“I think Henry Golding and John Cho did a great job in portraying some complex characters. Henry is really charismatic in Crazy Rich Asians. And John Cho’s character was very complex indeed as well. I think we have to do a better job as actors to find those layers within characters as well no matter what character you’re given. You really have to fill it in with interesting things, and not buy into the box whoever wants to put you in as just a simple character… You have to believe that you’re a being. You have to describe those stories. You have to think in the detail that you think as a real person, because let’s face it, everyone finds themselves interesting. So you have to find these things in your characters for other people to love you. So we have a lot of work on our side. And also writers have a lot of work to do on their side. And directors as well. More directors like James Wan and people who stand behind Asian representation.”
When asked about the differences of working in Asia versus working in Hollywood, Lin had this to say:
“There’s a lot of differences. I think there’s more commonalities than differences because everyone’s out to tell a good story. The difference in China is that it doesn’t follow the Hollywood system. Hollywood has a long history of filmmaking, so it’s got a very solid system that gets things done. In China right now, it’s kind of chaotic. Which is very fun for me, because I think it’s in that chaos that some magic gets created. And there’s a lot of trial and error, but in that muck you kind of learn a lot as well.”
Lin was then asked if he, as a person of color, would like to write or direct a film himself.
“I am writing a lot. I’m learning how to write, and I think of random ideas and write them down. I got a couple of scripts going. And in term of directing, just watching what James does is so huge. The more I learn about directing the more complex it becomes, and I get more questions than answers. I take it quite seriously, but that’s more far away from me than anything else.”
Lin went on to describe his advice for future aspiring Asian actors trying to break through to the industry.
“For actors, you have to act different. So find something that’s unique to you, but that’s not so crazy that people don’t think you’re crazy. If you can pull off something crazy and have people get it, then that’s the choice you should make. Secondly I really can’t do anything by myself. So have good people around you. People you can trust, friends that can give you good feedback.”
Finally, we asked Lin what comic books he was following or was a fan of growing up, including Aquaman.
“Aquaman was definitely a character I was interested in because I was a big animal fan. My favorite TV shows as a kid were National Geographic, and deep water stuff; sharks, and whales, etc. And the ability to talk to them definitely seemed very cool. I also read a lot of manga growing up, like Gundum, Cowboy Bebop, Dragonball, and all those classics. I’m also a big sci-fi fan. I came into Star Wars quite late but I fell in love with it immediately.”
All in all, I think it’s safe to say we’re definitely on the same page as Lin about Star Wars, and also the need for the status quo to change within the industry. While improvements have been made, we still got a long way to go. We’d like to thank Lin for his honesty and fantastic responses.
Aquaman hits theaters December 21.