Jon Prasida understands everyone’s frustration when it comes to his character in The CW’s Kung Fu. Prasida’s character Ryan, the handsome medical student and only son of the Shen family, had finally gotten the acceptance he’s been longing for from his parents over his sexuality. Even more exciting, his parents like his new boyfriend, Joe (Bradley Gibson). But, with the last episode, which ended on the last day of Pride month, Joe delivered some devastating news — he’s accepted a job in Chicago, which means he’s leaving San Francisco. Feeling frustrated, Ryan walks away before discussing it further with Joe.
“I don’t know [what’s going to happen!]” Prasida teases to The Nerds of Color over the phone from his hometown in Sydney. “I do have ideas. I do know what I want.”
Prasida is spending some time with his family and friends in Australia before he goes back to Canada to film the second season of the martial arts drama. He’s looking forward to returning to the role and has a few ideas for Ryan next season. Prasida shares, “After doing this season, I have a lot more confidence in who Ryan is and seeing what path he wants to go down.”
As for Ryan’s love life, Prasida isn’t pleading the fifth, he really has no idea — or pretending that he has no idea — what’s going to happen to Ryan, especially his relationship with Joe. One could assume that the series ends with a cliffhanger for Ryan and Joe, but Prasida isn’t saying anything. He does reveal what he hopes to see for Ryan for next season — with or without Joe.
We chat a bit about Ryan and Joe’s relationship, Ryan’s family life, LGBTQ representation, and what he could he tell me about the rest of this season and what he’d like to see for next season.
For many Asians coming out to their parents, especially to their first-generation immigrant parents, there is a little pushback when it comes to accepting it and their eventual partners. But, for Ryan’s story — it took a long time to accept his sexuality, which they do in a loving way. But, they seem to have open arms when it comes to Ryan’s partner, Joe. Especially with anti-Blackness from the Asian community. Do you feel like they’re more accepting than normal?
PRASIDA: Yeah, [more than] normal for sure. That’s the importance of the [last episode], [It is] to showcase that there’s the fear surrounding such arbitrary concerns of being gay or having a Black partner is absurd and ridiculous. So, this past episode to exist is extremely important. I love seeing that the parents are so accepting of that. I have friends who haven’t had accepting parents, or who have yet to come out to their parents [for fear] of rejection. [(sighs) It’s like, parents, you’re wasting so much valuable time with your kid that you can spend because you’ve got such traditional and backwards views.
Nicky was in a loving and long relationship with Evan, who happens to be white, but their relationship was thwarted by Mei-Li’s control for Nicky to marry a nice Chinese boy. Do you feel like there is a sort of bias shown between Nicky and Ryan when it comes to their relationship status?
I hadn’t really thought about it in that way. I feel like there is a bias in my household. The parents who just for some reason favor the male in the family. So there might be some correlation there but I haven’t really given so I haven’t really given that part too much thought about their characters.
I do agree with that — the male in the first-gen Asian household is favored. We all know whose Mei-Li’s favorite child us (*coughs* Ryan).
What can you hint to us about Joe and Ryan’s relationship? We get a hint of what is going to happen with Joe’s job. Is Joe gone for good and is a stepping stone for Ryan to really be ready to find something serious or is Joe Ryan’s endgame?
These are really good questions. I’m not even sure Ryan knows fully [knows]. Joe, for him, is his first sort-of relationship. He’s just going through the waves of going through that. It’s like with most first relationships: There are complications. There are endings. There are things that don’t go well. Hopefully, we’ll see. We’ll just see what happens, but I’d love to see them patch things up. Or even, for Ryan, to find his own way in the future with someone else. It’s up in the air at the moment, but, as a personal preference for me, Joe’s the man. I love Joe.
I do appreciate that the show focuses on the importance of career versus love, but would Ryan be willing to lose his family and move his career for that relationship?
Yeah, not at all. He loves his family. He loves his family and his community. It has to be a very strong bond, like extremely, His life is centered around making his community better and enjoying time with his family and he just loves his family so much.
Lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of straight actors play queer roles, which is seen as a landmark moment or praised for their courage and strength, but there are some people who question the authenticity of straight playing queer. How have you, as an actor who identifies as straight, ensure the story is being told authentically as not only as a gay character, but a gay Asian American character?
I would have to say, through my personal experience, the inspiration for Ryan comes from a close friend of mine who has gone through something similar and listening to his story. It’s also surrounding myself with many LGBTQ mentors — from my agent to my acting teachers to my housemates and hearing their stories and being able to take that on and incorporate that into Ryan is super important when it comes to authenticity. I do have insecurity as a [straight] man. I just feel a bit strange. I know it is accepted, but there’s a part of me that feels a bit strange. As far as Asian American goes, American culture is ingrained into Australian culture. We get so many TV shows from America that we just grew up with it. So yeah, it definitely parallels in that sense.
Of course, playing a gay character, there’s a connection to the gay community, especially in San Francisco, that should be further explore. Because there’s so many different types of LGBTQ with multiple personalities and spectrums. Will we see Ryan kind of explore his connection with the gay community like he has with the Chinese American community in San Francisco? There is a huge San Francisco gay community as well. Will that be kind of like something that is about or explored next season or even this season?
I would love for that to happen. We don’t actually know anything about what’s going to happen next season. We do have ideas that we want to put forth. That’s definitely something that I would love for Ryan to explore, because the LGBTQ community in San Francisco is quite prominent and I’d love to tell some of their stories at the same time.
You’re Chinese Indonesian Aussie, born and raised in Sydney, and have done many roles that have you just being a regular dude who happens to be Asian. Since Kung Fu is focused on the Westernized Chinese/Asian, particularly American, experience, do you feel a bit closer to your heritage while working on the series?
That’s a very specific question. For some reason, I do. I’m now back home in Sydney for the time being and I’m spending a lot of time with Mum. I really cherish the time I spend with mum now because I’ve been living overseas. So I’ve asked her questions about heritage and what’s going on there. I found out the other day, but I’ve always known us to be Chinese Indonesian but like as far as we know, our ancestors are [Indochina]. So, being able to discover that, because of the show, and also being able to speak about our heritage with Olivia [Liang], Eddie [Liu], and Tony [Chung] and with Shannon [Dang] and everyone is a homely thing. It just feels right.
There are so many relatable moments on the show, especially the family dynamics between Nicky and her family. Were there any moments when watching the show that you felt most connected to?
The whole thing! They’re just living their lives and it’s great to see us on the screen. I don’t think I can pick out anything in particular. There are certain references like boba and whatever else, but the whole thing. People can see Asian Americans as is, without the stereotype.
Being last week was the last week of Pride, I was kind of upset when watching the episode to see Joe and Ryan basically almost break up. We don’t really know. With last week being Pride, I was hoping that you could answer if you know if we see a happy ending or something positive for him this season?
I have talked to Bradley [Gibson, who plays Joe] as well. We know what we want, but it’s just a matter of what path we decide to go down. I wish I could give you more information.
Going back to the family, we see the Shen family with Nicky being the “chosen one” and the Shen siblings helping her out like the Scooby Doo gang. Althea is the tech and Ryan is the medical help. Will we see Ryan wanting to explore martial arts or explore fighting and being part of that world?
I would personally love to see it, because story-wise, Ryan is inspired by Nicky. Growing up, she was his idol. So I would love to see that happen. That would make sense in that way. Also, we have access to the stunt team and they’re amazing. They’re absolutely amazing at what they do. So, on my days off, I just sort of showed up and I just joined in. I’m atrocious, but I would kind of light up if Ryan had any sort of inkling to go down that path.
Because the first season’s already been written and completed, you guys are home now. Do you have any ideas that you pitch to the writers for next season?
I trust the writers in what they want to do. But towards the end, I think about the next couple episodes, there was a bit where I really wanted to mention MSG because [there] was a time to do it. So, I quickly mentioned that to [writer] Bob [Berens] and he was like ‘cool’ and he just wrote a couple lines. I hope it makes it in [the episode] as well. So, I had the confidence to be like ‘yeah, dude, let’s talk about this MSG because I don’t think it’s ever been talked about on television.’ It’s definitely been referenced by Uncle Roger, who we love. Also, having Ryan [show his] extensive sneaky collection. Just because that’s who he is.
I need to know your Team Nicky — Team Henry aka Hicky, Team Evan aka Nivan, or Team Zhilan aka Zhicky.
I’m all about brotherly love. I just want what’s best for Nicky. So, if that means, any one of those people that makes her happy, then that’s where I stand.
That’s not an answer. Come on.
[laughs] Alright, my bad. Let’s go with Zhicky.