Shannon Dang on Althea’s New Career and ‘Kung Fu’ Family Drama

Kung Fu’s Althea Shen (Shannon Dang) has always been the soft spot of the series. Contrasting the seriousness of her Shaolin master sister Nicky (Olivia Liang) in the first season, Althea brings humor and levity to the series as the bubbly tech guru — with a great fashion sense.

*Warning: Article contains spoilers from tonight’s episode ‘Clementine’*

Always finding the silver lining in situations — like the return of Nicky after a three-year absence from their lives and dealing with an overbearing mother-in-law, Althea really became a symbol of optimism for fans. Though Althea did go through some heavy trauma last season, she overcame them and built a stronger relationship with her family and married her ‘perfect’ husband, Dennis (Tony Chung).

Season 2 marks Althea’s new beginning — not only as a married woman, but also in her career as a ‘badass boss lady’ at her own tech company. She seems to have it all figured out — great family life, amazing marriage, and a new business venture. Nothing can now get in her way, right?

Unfortunately, in episode 4 Althea was challenged as her beloved car is stolen by an auto-theft ring. Dennis, who borrows Althea’s car “Clementine,” left the keys in the car as he went on a quick errand, only to return to have it stolen. Instead of telling Althea right away, he asks Nicky for help in tracking down the thieves. Hilarity ensues — with Nicky, Althea, and Dennis doing whatever it takes to get Althea’s prized possession back.

The Nerds of Color got to chat with Shannon Dang about the episode and what “Clementine” represents for the character. And, what we should expect from the rest of the season — especially for her picture perfect marriage with Dennis.

The Nerds of Color: Last season, Althea went through a lot — the sexual assault, the NDA to save the clinic, getting married. Now she’s trying to figure out her career. Tell me this journey that Althea goes through this season.

Shannon Dang: At the end of [episode 3 this season], Althea realizes that she gets more fulfillment in being in charge of her own company. So you really see her grow into her own. In episode 4, that’s the first day of being her own CEO [in] her own company. So it’s one of the biggest days in her career and she’s really excited. She’s also very nervous. She’s quite [the] perfectionist and wants to be a great leader. And, she hides her vulnerabilities from her company. So she leans on Dennis for support and just wants to be perfect and be a good example. So throughout the season, you will see her find her comfortability and sweet spot where she can be a great leader, but also a personable boss. She’s not going to hide everything from her workers because she wants to grow together at the company.

Althea is now “Boss Lady” for her new company. I’m excited for her new ventures. But, what exactly is she creating? What is the app? What’s the product? 

Throughout the season, the audience will get to follow her journey as she tries to figure out what she wants to do with her company because she wants to find something that is meaningful and close to her heart and not just to make money. She wants to help her family, her community, and do something bigger than herself. It’s really nice to see that Althea really does want to make an effort to help everyone out and give back to the community using her company.

This episode gets to see another side of Althea and her love for her car “Clementine” and what it means to her. What does the car represent and what does it mean for her when it gets destroyed?

For Clementine, [Althea’s] vintage BMW, is really the star of the show — [the] star of this episode. It’s really cute. Clementine is her first car. [Althea] purchased her own with her own money. She saved up a lot. This car is a symbol of her — her love, her passion, [and] her independence. This car means a lot to her. So when Dennis loses it, she freaks out. It’s such a big deal [which[ is why Dennis doesn’t even want to bring it up [because he] doesn’t want to derail her from her big [first] day as CEO. So Dennis goes to Nicky and asks her for help and Nicky already knows that Dennis is in deep trouble. Clementine is [Althea’s] baby. Clementine is everything. So the episode is really fun because it revolves around them on a mission to get Clementine back. You’ll see everything [in the] auto-theft ring. It’s really fun that we called [this] the “Kung Fu Fast N Furious” episode because there [are] car chases and parties. It’s flashy. It’s really exciting. I think audiences are going to love this episode because this episode is nothing like we’ve seen in Kung Fu so far from Althea and Dennis. This is our first episode where you get to see them [have] some conflicts and fight. It’s actually quite funny to see this picture perfect couple on the outside just going at it throughout this mission and the car chase [scene] was my favorite part of filming. I will never forget this episode. Audiences are going to love seeing Althea and Dennis in on the action. But, Clementine at the end of the episode gets destroyed. And, as much as Althea is so heartbroken, Clementine gets destroyed at a pivotal point where Dennis and Althea are making up and growing into this new chapter of what marriage is. It’s messy. It’s complicated. It’s vulnerable. But, we have to, as partners, be able to come together; share with each other; lean on each other for support; and, not hide anything from each other [in order to] grow together. So when they realize that and have this big ole’ rom-com finale kiss to make up [at the end of] this episode, Clementine gets blown up. I think it’s also a symbol of new beginnings. Whoa, that just happened, but you know what, everything’s going to be okay. It’s a new chapter for Althea and Dennis.

I need to talk about Dennis. It bothers me so much at how perfect he is. I know the episode touches on that he’s not perfect, but the fact he plays DnD on Saturdays rather than parties is SO much better. I need him to have flaws. Dennis trying to be perfect for you is not a flaw. Please tell me we are going to see some issues with him.

I believe that is [the case] very much [this season]. Season 1 was [a] picture perfect couple getting together and showing the audience how great Kung Fu love relationships are and then, in season 2, we just rip everything apart. I feel it shows all of the ugly sides of every relationship like in real life. Everyone else is not perfect. We really get to see the conflict of that and what else comes up. You will see more stuff happen along the lines with the Soong [family] and work-related conflicts between Althea and Dennis. You [will] definitely see a lot more of this couple’s ups and downs this season.

Good, because I am tired of him being so perfect.

But, he [does] pee on the toilet seat!

Nicky seems to be doing the bulk of trying to find Mia — the long lost cousin, but people forget that Mia is also Althea and Ryan’s cousin too. How does Althea feel about this whole thing about Guardians and Warriors and the whole Mia situation?

Yeah, Nicky is doing the most. She is a warrior [and] is spearheading everything. I think she takes a lot of responsibility to find [Mia] herself because it is Nicky’s world. Althea and Ryan are family, but we don’t have the same amount of knowledge or skill. We’re not in that world to be able to even protect or find Mia. But, this season, you will see a lot more of Althea and Ryan get in on the action and help in their own ways on finding their cousin Mia, whether that be on the tech side. Ryan [got] to be [in] on [the] action in [episode] 2 when they went into the Tan mansion. It’s really fun and, throughout the season, you will see the family get more involved to help their family [member] Mia. So it’s really nice to see the whole Scooby gang come together because you have to [for] family.

Well, I’ve been calling you guys the “Shooby” gang (Shen+Scooby). While I do love seeing the Shooby gang work together on these adventures, I feel like Ryan and Althea may feel like they’re missing out on the whole “Warrior” thing. Being a Warrior and Guardian is passed down to many families, but seemed to have skipped Althea and Ryan, and just made Nicky the “it” child. Many families tend to wonder, “what about me? Where is my place in all of this?” Are we going to get a sense of that from Althea?

Yes. Actually, I love that you brought that up. Althea does want to help out. Everyone wants to help out and get in on the action in their own way or however possible they can. With Althea, she knows her strength. She knows that she is really tech savvy and can help in the areas that no one else can. Is she happy to fill that role? Of course she wants to do more. Throughout the season, you will see her passion for her work — [her] career in tech — and for helping out Nicky and her family and her community [out]. That’s what is so great about Althea’s journey — you will see those two loves and those two worlds combined. And, how she can give back. It’s really nice.

Althea went through some heavy stuff last season surrounding her sexual assult. Of course, the trauma and feelings never really go away. The showrunners hinted that it’s not over for her. Are we going to go through this again?

Yes. Of course, we have always taken the best of [season] 1 and sprinkled them into season 2. Althea’s trauma and her past [will be seen]. Although she has blossomed on the other side, [the past is] not too far behind her. Throughout this season, you will see moments of her past creeped into her present and how that conflicts with everything she’s got going on right now with her new job, her happy marriage, and her happy, reunited, healed family. What does her past [that she thought she left behind] mean for her present right now?

We see a lot of villains this season. We see Russell Tan, Juliette Tan, Kerwin Tan, and Zhilan. But, I noticed that Juliette seems to be on the business side of the villainy. She interacted with Evan on the legal front. So, I’m guessing she may be the ones interacting with the Shens. Are we going to see Althea have some kind of interaction with the baddies of the series?

For season two, yes. I love that there’s a contrast between the Tan family and the Shen family. It’s really like a thin white [line] of good versus evil mirror effect. It’ll be fun for audiences to see intermingling [as] they go head to head. There is a really fun moment towards the end of the season, where you don’t expect Althea to [have a] run in with one of these villains. It’ll be juicy and fun, [so much so] that the audience will be like ‘Whoa, wait… what’s really happening?’

Kung Fu airs on Wednesdays at 9pm on The CW.