Does size matter?
You’ve probably heard the stereotype about Asian dudes and their, ahem, ‘tools’, but it seems to be a common refrain especially for those living in Western countries.
Even Bling Empire star Kevin Kreider had something to say about it when he made a TikTok video calling out the real reasons why people won’t date Asian guys.
But if you were to ask Mortal Kombat star Ludi Lin about it, these stereotypes are like water off a duck’s back. He has moved on from it and hopes that people do, too. To him, it’s all about looking towards the future although he acknowledged that “a lot of Asians have been harmed by stereotypes”.
Speaking to AsiaOne virtually for his new film Mortal Kombat earlier this month, 33-year-old Ludi said: “I talk to Asian Americans here — mostly guys — and they come up and they go, ‘Man, I can never get dates. Girls don’t like us because they think Asians are this, Asians are that, we have a small this and you know, that, right?’
“And I go, ‘Hey buddy, I outgrew this 20 years ago. Why are you still trying to grow it? It’s done, right? It’s behind you. You are the man you are now. So own up to it. Live up to it and look forward to the future.'”
In the film adaptation of the popular video game franchise, Ludi plays Liu Kang, a Shaolin monk tasked to defend Earthrealm from invaders.
While the discussion about Asian stereotypes (and their allegedly below average ‘equipment’) isn’t new, it’s certainly a timely one in the wake of Hollywood checking itself.
It’s an open secret that there has been a lack of diversity in the industry and it’s a systemic issue that has surfaced in recent years due to the repeated calls for more representation and opportunities for actors of colour.
The needle has somewhat shifted for black actors and actresses, but Asians still aren’t afforded the same opportunities although the immense success of Crazy Rich Asians has opened the door ever so slightly.
And being a Chinese-Canadian actor that’s right smack in the middle of Hollywood, Ludi has seen his fair share of challenges — from prejudice to typecasting, and of course, the lack of opportunities.
“There are these forces at work and we can name these things all day long,” he observed but explained that his way of dealing with it is to challenge himself to find more complex roles and tell meaningful stories that will affect the world.
That’s also his way of trying to be a better actor.
He mused: “How do I have not just a more impactful effect, but a greater, more positive, effect? How can I change hearts and how can I change minds?”
As for moving the needle, Ludi thinks it’s all about finding the right balance.
“You put it in the image of a needle, like there’s somewhere to get to, right? There’s really nowhere to get to. It’s always a never-ending challenge to find the right balance because it will always swing back and forth… Like Taoism says you got to walk the middle way, right? We got to find the yin and the yang and find that right balance in the middle.”
He added: “It has changed a lot since Crazy Rich Asians but where’s Crazy Rich Asians 2? Joy Luck Club was an Asian-American movie that featured a lot of Asians [and it was] produced in Hollywood. And it took 25 years to do Crazy Rich Asians, which is like the [spiritual] successor of it.”
Ludi also pointed out that the same thing happened for Mortal Kombat where there was a 25-year gap between the original film (which starred Robin Shou as Liu Kang) and the 2021 reboot.
Illustrating the parallels, he remarked that Hollywood shouldn’t make people wait another 25 years for an Asian-led cast to front a movie.
“We want to act. We’ve got the talent. We got to the Hollywood party late as Asians, we got a lot of partying to catch up on, so we got to party loud,” he said.
And party he did.
Since his big break as Zack Taylor in the 2017 Power Rangers film, Ludi has snagged roles in some of the big Hollywood projects like Aquaman, Black Mirror, and the ongoing television series Kung Fu, which also stars Singaporean actress Tan Kheng Hua.
Though his works, including Mortal Kombat, seem to have a common thread as they’re all of the action/superhero genre, he’s not worried about typecasting because he has other under-the-radar projects.
Kind of like his own double identity, he said.
Ludi shared: “When I lack inspiration, I can always move, and the things I do in China are very different. Like, I did a TV series that just came out around Lunar New Year (2021) called Humans.
“I did an indie film called Summer Knight. I had to do that in a Szechuan dialect, and that’s coming out in June. I play an overweight, chain-smoking retired soldier who has to take care of his son. So I can always do that for my own exploration. And some people will see it, you know, and it’s actually really cathartic.”
Summer Knight won the Asian Future Best Film Award at the 2019 Tokyo International Film Festival.
Comparing his career to a sphere, Ludi said that it’s important to expand it holistically and shared more about his projects outside Hollywood. One of them is a 2013 film titled Sorry, I Love You and that was Ludi’s first film in China.
Coincidentally, that was when he first met Chinese-German actor Max Huang. The duo play Shaolin brothers in Mortal Kombat.
He added: “I did Monster Hunt, I had a very little role in Lost in Hong Kong… I did a movie called In a New York Minute, which was also in Mandarin, and all these small projects are not blockbusters because we don’t get to do interviews about them like this.
“There’s no huge press about them, but they really leave something in me and I can use it. I can find that sensitivity, that core, that’s not about kicking ass and ripping heads off.”
As for what’s next on the cards for him, Ludi said he hopes to be surprised because he never knows what’s coming. He prefers to ride the waves as they come and stay on top of them.
“People always ask me what the big break is. I don’t think there’s a big break. I think it’s just a series of waves and I surf them all, you know. I’m just trying to stay on top.”
Well, after wrapping Kung Fu, Ludi is headed to Hawaii for his next project. And, he quipped, there’ll be some actual surfing there.
Mortal Kombat is now showing in cinemas.