Olivia Liang knows what the fans want.
“The state of Hicky,” Liang laughs.
The Kung Fu star, who plays Nicky Shen, is prepping for press week as the third season premieres this Wednesday. She is ready to answer all the pressing questions that fans want to know, especially regarding Nicky’s love life.
“I’ll spill all the secrets!” Liang jokes over the phone to The Nerds of Color. She tells the PR team on the line that she’s kidding, but adds “wink” at the end. Liang is very open and candid about her character’s growth throughout the three seasons and understands audiences obsession with Nicky’s relationship with Henry (Eddie Liu) – aka “Hicky.” Yet, she wants people to also be open to the idea of a new potential person in Nicky’s life, Bo (Ben Levin).
“Henry leaving really messed her up,” says Liang. “It’s been four months and she’s been slowly trying to get over it and move on.”
After the events of last season — the earthquake, the warrior and guardian line losing their powers, and Henry’s departure — Nicky and the Shooby gang are somewhat at a loss, professionally at least. The family still has each other and are trying to rebuild everything else. Nicky is too. She now has her own place – yeah, it was Henry’s old apartment, but you know, San Francisco rent crisis – and is working at the community center in Henry’s old job.
“It’s weird,” Liang says of the situation.
But, Nicky’s love life isn’t the only thing that is experiencing some changes this season. Nicky is figuring out her place without powers and the return of Pei-Ling/Xiao. She may have a difficult time dealing with Pei-Ling’s reappearance and face the possibility that Nicky may need to get rid of her.
“Girl, that’s the question we’re grappling with right now,” she reveals as they begin shooting episode 7 on set. “We’ll see.”
Below, Liang answers our pressing questions about the upcoming season on Nicky’s journey, dealing with the return of Pei-Ling and Zhilan, and her shipping choice for Nicky.
The Nerds of Color: Nicky lost her powers and what it means to be a warrior. She also lost Henry. What is Nicky’s mindset this season?
Olivia Liang: So we see Nicky coping as best as she can at the top of the season. We see her living in Henry’s apartment, which is a little weird, and she’s teaching his classes over at the community center. She finally has a job. We’ve been waiting two seasons for this and she finally has a job. Her family is good for the most part, so we think she might be in a good place, but we soon realized that halfway through the episode Althea starts to crack at her and Nicky is not all well. Henry leaving really messed her up. It’s been four months and she’s been slowly trying to get over it and move on. But I think in terms of losing her powers and things like that and her identity, it feels like she’s in a better place than when we saw her in season 1. But it is a restart for her to [try to figure] out who she is again.
Season 1 Nicky was self-doubting and keeping everything from her family. Season 2 Nicky was more open and confident because she was aware of everything. Who is Season 3 Nicky?
Season 3 Nicky is a version of season 1 Nicky without the secrets. So it’s much easier for her now because she has a support system. She’s going through something [very] similar in terms of identity – ‘what do I do now?’ ‘What’s my purpose?’ She has this skill set. She’s been protecting Chinatown, but what is her purpose in life? Is that her goal? Is that the thing that she’s choosing to do? While she [is figuring] that out, she has a support system in her family because there are no more secrets. I think it’s a really beautiful parallel with some differences.
Girl, I am hearing it from all sides about Hicky. What can you tell me about the state of Hicky?
The state of Hicky – the State of the Union is that the union is no longer. Henry is being a rogue-like Indiana Jones type in the first episode. We don’t know where he is. [Nicky is] living in his apartment, which is creepy. I would never do something like that. Once again, Nicky is more evolved than me in some ways. I think there’s love there because the breakup wasn’t like ‘I don’t want to be with you.’ It was that Henry had to leave in the same way that Nicky had to leave before we ever met her. She needed to find herself and figure out what she wanted with her life. That’s why she ran away to China. I think Nicky of all people understands why Henry had to go, but it doesn’t make it less hard. There’s absolutely still love there. The episode 3 synopsis just released to the public, so we do know that they’re gonna see each other again. And when they do, it’s very charged. It’ll be a season long – will they get back together? Or are they just really good friends now who understand each other on a really deep level?
Is this going to be a Friends situation: “We were on a break?”
[laughs] Kind of! A little bit! We’ll see in episode 3. There will be divides of – “come on, Nicky!” or “come on, Henry.” “You guys can get back together. You guys weren’t really broken up. It was just a break.” There’s gonna be a lot of discussions like that.
Bo is a really handsome and mysterious martial artist. He seems too good to be true, plus, worked with actor Ben Levin before, there is some chemistry. What can you tell us about Nicky and Bo’s relationship?
Bo immediately fits in with the Shoobys. He fills that Henry-shaped void, along with a couple other skills. We saw Althea get in trouble at the end of season 2, so she’s in a different place at the start of the season. Having Bo as part of the team is really useful for all the Shoobys. But yeah, the meeting is immediately charged. There’s like chemistry – ‘Who is that?’ We’ve seen in the trailers that Althea is like ‘he’s really hot.’ Althea is totally Nicky’s wingwoman – pushing her towards moving on [and] getting over Henry. But yeah, Bo immediately fits in and he’s welcomed in the team and it helps that he’s very good looking.
So, I’ve always had this weird feeling of the friendship between Evan and Henry — how they became bros. What’s the trio energy between Henry, Nicky, and Bo?
They don’t meet or hang out very often. It’ll be heartbreaking for fans to see that Henry is a little bit on the outside when we finally reunite with him. You’ll feel that Henry might be a little jealous. Bo might be a little jealous. Nicky might be a little awkward. It’ll be a throwback to the Evan-Henry-Nicky scene in season 1 when Henry and Evan finally meet [at the community center] – just a little bit of these guys trying to out-bro each other. It’ll be interesting. I don’t know how much I can say.
With Evan and Henry, there was no toxic masculinity between the two. Their egos were really light. Are we going to see a little bit of a more toxic masculinity come out from Henry and Bo?
Not in a toxic way. When Henry is the one on the defense in the situation, he gets a little more “I need to puff up my chest a little bit more” and then Bo reacts the same way.
With the possible return of Pei-Ling, what is Nicky feeling? Is she mentally prepared to do what she needs to do if Pei-Ling isn’t who she says she is?
Nicky doesn’t find out Pei-Ling’s physical being has returned until about three-quarters of the episode, but it rocks her world. There’s immediate suspicion. It’s like, ‘is this really her’ or, as we saw towards the end of season 2, ‘is it Xiao?’ So there’s definitely a layer of major danger. I don’t think Nicky even wants to go there to think about what she has to do. She’s always been on that straight and narrow [and doing] the right thing. The big thing we’re gonna see Nicky struggle with this season is ‘will you do a bad thing for the greater good?’
We do know Zhilan is back and has her own character arc. With the events of Season 2, how receptive would Nicky be to being reunited with Zhilan again? Give me my Zhicky.
Nicky would totally be receptive because Zhilan did a really big thing at the end of season 2. She decided to fulfill her life’s purpose which was to stop Russell Tan but, in the process, she had to sacrifice herself. Nicky did say, ‘I forgive you’ [to Zhilan] in the heat of the moment, but I do think that was a choice that Nicky totally respects. Now there’s respect for Zhilan instead of just pure hatred. I’m excited for the fans to see those layers start to get peeled. back and see a different Zhilan and a different Zhicky relationship.
How crazy would it be if Zhilan had to kill Pei-Ling/Xiao again in front of Nicky tho?
That’s a gorgeous idea. That would be really poetic.
Last season, you guys had some fun with some side quests. Will we see any silly hijinks this season?
Our favorite episode as a cast to film last season was the Clementine episode where we got to do a car chase. We have a very similar silly episode again – directed by Richard Speight. He’s the perfect guy for it. But overall, this season it’s a lot heavier. The themes are a lot darker. But our writers have done an incredible job of weaving humor into every episode still, from all characters, so I think this season more than others is really well — balanced with humor, heart, and [raising the] stakes.
Bob told me there’s going to be TONS of Meibastian scenes this season and that cursed relationship will be present – “thanks Olivia”. What do you think of that?
You know, I love it. You know I’m Team Meibastian. Chemistry is off the charts! You can feel it coming off whatever screen you’re watching it on, or even just like a little clip on Instagram. [Kheng Hua Tan and JB Tadena are] so fun to watch together. I think they play off each other so well. And you know, Sebastian checks the boxes for Mei-Li that Jin doesn’t check. She loves cooking. She loves the kitchen and he’s really good in there. So that’s all I’m saying.
The shirtless scenes from Sebastian help too.
[laughs] Oh, lots of shirtless men this season. There’s a lot of making out this season. Everybody’s getting in on the action. It’s great – like action in other ways.
Nicky lost her powers, but she’s still fighting in Chinatown, Oakland, and all over San Francisco. Does she still feel invincible or does she finally feel like there’s a risk and fear of chance of harm and death?
In terms of the way Nicky views herself, she’s still confident in what she’s able to do. She does have the Shoobys confidently behind her. In season 2, when Ryan was hurt, [she realized] her family is not invincible. I think the only fear that Nicky has is when she involves the people that she loves. But she also can’t stop them. They’re so willing to help her. I would think that that’s the only reservation she has about continuing her “vigilante business,” which Bo is such a welcomed addition to the team because she doesn’t necessarily care about him like that yet.
Who do you ship for Nicky?
Let me just start by saying, I’m Team Nicky – period. I want her to be happy and discover herself. I don’t want to say [she’s never getting] back together with Henry, but I do want Nicky to explore a different relationship. Because she came back from China, then the first boy that said hi to her, which was Henry, she started dating. So I’m like, you need to see what else is out there. There. So I’m for Nicky discovering a new boy.
Are we still hoping for a “Ho” phase for Nicky?
I am! [laughs] We’ll see. Maybe that’s a season 4 situation! Let her live. Let her go on some dating apps!
Kung Fu returns for its third season on Wednesday at 9 pm on The CW.