Known by many as the next Michelle Yeoh and/or the female Bruce Lee, JuJu Chan has carved out a nice slice of the action movie star pie for herself. Her latest film, “Savage Dog,” releases in a few months. I had the opportunity to talk to her about the film, her reality show past, skills in various martial arts, her aspirations, and so much more!
Justin Oberholtzer: What was it like working with Scott Adkins?
JuJu Chan: I play Isabelle in this film, the love interest of Scott Adkin’s character, Martin. She is the stronger willed of Martin and her. Most of my scenes were with Scott. Working with him was fun and wonderful! He is great in both action and dramatic scenes! It was very easy to get into character and emotion with him when we were doing our dramatic scenes.
JO: What was it like working with Keith David?
JC: Keith is playing Valentine in the film, who is Isabelle’s guardian. He treats and loves my character like his daughter. It’s a great pleasure working with Keith. He is a super warm person, professional and friendly.
JO: What was it like working with Jesse V. Johnson?
JC: Jesse is a very caring, friendly, and hands on director. He communicates well with actors. I very much enjoyed working with him. Jesse’s script is fantastic, with great character building and high intensity! The story is gripping, and with intensive actions.
I have watched Jesse’s previous films, The Butcher and Charlie Valentine, and love his work.
JO: Has the production of “Savage Dog” challenged you in any way?
JC: For the emotional aspect, it can also be challenging for me, especially for my role as Isabelle. She is a complex character with a lot of extreme moments. Because of this, I loved playing Isabelle! Preparing for her and actually being her gives me great satisfaction, and I hope the audience will love her too!
Overall, it’s a fun shoot for me, though there were scenes that I was in that were tough to shoot. For example, the scene where Scott and I were buried under the mud in the rain. We were shooting that scene at 4 in the morning. It was under 50 degrees in the woods, so we were all shivering from the cold. Scott and I were wearing very little and needed to be buried under the mud in the rain. We had sand and mud in our eyes, and we could feel each other shaking under the mud. So, we tried to do it in one take so we wouldn’t have to suffer longer. When the director called action, we both calmed down and didn’t even move or breath. Scott needed to slowly crawl out from the mud and dig me out, as well. He carried me in the heavy rain to find shelter. We did it all in one take and the director loved the performance.
JO: You’ve been coined the next Michelle Yeoh and the female Bruce Lee. Do you feel these comparisons limit or challenge you?
JC: To me, it’s an honor to be given such a comparison, and it’s an extra force that motivates me to continue improving my skills and performances. But, of course to me, I am totally focusing on being JuJu Chan in the action film world.
JO: Any nerves on being the lead actress in “Savage Dog?”
JC: With any work I do, there is always a certain amount of nervousness involved. But, I tend to use it positively. It helps me to focus, working that much more harder, to make sure that I’m well prepared.
JO: What can action fans expect from “Savage Dog?”
JC: A hardcore, highly intense action film with emotional drives. This is an exciting project!
JO: You gained notoriety in the reality show “Rich Mate Poor Mate.” Have your experiences on that show transferred at all to film?
JC: I think any experience in one’s life will somehow help form the way a person becomes. Certainly, in “Rich Mate Poor Mate,” it opened my eyes to people living in poverty and made me realize even more how lucky I am. I really can’t say if it transfers in film, but on a personal level it’s made me want to help those in need much more. My first book came about because of my experience from the show.
JO: You’ve graduated from NYU Tisch School of Film/TV with a Master’s Degree; earned a BSc Honors Degree in Computer Science and Mathematics and a Dance Minor from the University of San Francisco; won a gold and bronze medal in the 18th World Taekwon-Do ITF Championships and China Open Taekwon-Do Championships (in Female black belt pattern & Female black belt sparring); a 2014 Muay Thai 46KG Champion; won 2009 Miss United Nation International Ambassador, Miss Congeniality, Miss China, and Miss Photogenic, as well as Miss TVB People’s Choice in the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant 2009; released an album of original songs entitled “I Wanna Hold Your Heart;” and published two books, “To Live a Beautiful Life” and “Food and Ordering at a Restaurant,” to name just a few accomplishments. With such a diverse repertoire, is there any one characteristic in specific you enjoy the most or simply love the variety?
JC: I definitely love the variety. We only live once! I would love to try and do different things. When I was a kid, I had a lot of dreams and wanted to be in so many professions. And as I grew up, I knew the only way I could have a chance to be in different professions, and live different lives, would be as an actor. I had always wanted to act but, in the beginning, I didn’t think of combining my martial arts skills with my acting skill. Not until I graduated from NYU and returned to Hong Kong to pursue my career in entertainment did I think of this. I started showcasing my action skills in shows and even got a lot of acting roles. And at that moment I knew I had found my career path and passion. But, I will still try different things besides acting, when the opportunities come. But at the current moment, my top priority is acting.
JO: You are trained in various martial arts. Do you have a preferred style?
JC: Right now for me, I like Taekwon-Do and Mauy Thai. Specializing in kicks and jump kicks is a lot of fun to me.
JO: You’re a disciple of Wing Chun Grand Master, Joseph Cheng. What’s that experience like? Has it aided in your experiences?
JC: Grand Master Joseph Cheng is a very inspirational martial artist, and it’s an honor to be able to learn not only kung fu from him, but also the way of life. He taught me to be a better person and an all round martial artist.
JO: You’re infamous for your skills with nunchakus. How long and how much practice did it take to master this skill? Has it opened doors for you? What drew you to nunchakus?
JC: It took me 5 months to be good at doing double nunchucks. Then I started doing more advanced tricks and invented my own moves. To master nunchucks, it really depends on the practitioner. It’s all about how much time you put into perfecting each move. Some people can learn and be comfortable with a trick in a couple of hours, some people might need weeks. To master means you can use the nunchucks fluently with any combo and tricks, single hand, double hand. The nunchucks should be like a natural instinct; it will flow according to your movement with power and rhythm.
I’ve been performing nunchucks in shows and on TV in Hong Kong, and did gain a lot of attention, earning me the title of the female Bruce Lee, by the media. I’ve been watching a lot of action films since I was a kid, and I love Bruce Lee’s movies. Bruce Lee drew me to nunchucks.
JO: What’s in store for you next?
JC: My other upcoming films includes: Sci-Fi film “V-FORCE: NEW DAWN OF V.I.C.T.O.R.Y.,” co-starring Billy Zane & Bruce Dern; “MADE IN KOWLOON,” co-starring Max Zhang & UFC star Anderson Silva; and Hong Kong thriller “XǏ NÙ ĀIYUÈ,” directed by Teddy Robin.
JO: Any aspirations you hope to accomplish in the near future?
JC: I hope to continue improving my martial arts skills, and would love to play a cool superhero character in film that can showcase my real skills.
JO: Any advice for artists?
JC: As an artist, you never give up when you face difficulties or challenges. Stay positive and surround yourself with inspirational people. You only live once, so if being an artist is your passion, let no one stop you!
You can follow JuJu Chan on her various social media platforms listed below. Keep your eyes peeled for her next film, “Savage Dog,” hitting theaters and VOD later this year.