[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the series premiere of Kung Fu. Please read at your own risk!]
There is a new action hero in town and her name is Nicky Shen. We were introduced to the kickass martial artist, played by Olivia Liang, in the series premiere of Kung Fu, which aired Wednesday night on The CW. In the series' first episode, we met Nicky as a young student on a tour of China when she discovered that her mother set her up on a matchmaking date to find a husband. Freaked out by the prospect of her entire life being planned out by someone else, Nicky ran away to a Shaolin monastery and took up martial arts training... for three years. She only left when she's forced to by a mysterious assassin who murdered her mentor and stole a powerful sword that was hidden at the monastery.
When Nicky returned to San Francisco to face her family for the first time since running away, she realized that a lot had changed since she left and just showing up on the doorstep wasn't going to make them forgive her. There's a long road ahead to getting her family, especially her mother, to forgive her, not to mention her former fiancee, Evan (Gavin Stenhouse), who she left behind.
Before she could even begin mending bridges, she learned that a violent triad was trying to take over her neighborhood, so she decided to take up the mantle of hero to try and save the town. It didn't take long to put herself in the triad's crosshairs, leaving Nicky to find a way to protect herself, her family, and the neighborhood, and figure out where she belongs in this new life while also trying to track down the woman who killed her mentor. Whew, that's a lot.
TV Guide spoke to Kung Fu star Olivia Liang about where Nicky stands at the end of the episode and where she goes from here. Oh, and of course we asked where she stands on the emerging love triangle between Nicky, Evan, and the new guy who is helping her track down answers about what happened at the monastery, Henry (Eddie Liu).
So much happens in this first episode. What do you think Nicky's biggest obstacle is after the pilot?
Oh my gosh. Nicky has gone through a lot. She's going through it. Face value, just looking at it, you're like, "Okay, Nicky's biggest obstacle is probably going to be finding the woman who murdered her mentor, and is probably now after her." But I think Nicky might disagree and say that the biggest obstacle is going to be repairing the relationships that she broke with her family, particularly the one with her mom... They've always had a strained relationship, and then [Nicky] running away really put a nail in the coffin. I mean, Kheng [Hua Tan]'s character says, "My daughter died three years ago," so literally, "You are dead to me." So [Nicky] needs to mend that and I really think she might think that's the biggest obstacle right now in her life.
One thing that was really interesting for me as a viewer was seeing how this family is made up of characters that fit stereotypes of Asian characters we've seen on TV before, but then we get to know each of them on a deeper level. What has it been like to explore those dynamics while making the show?
You put it perfectly... We're playing "stereotypes." We've got a tiger mom. We've got a med-school student brother. We've got a tech whiz sister, and then we've got the golden child. The difference is the dimensions and dynamics to these characters. Now we are not only identifiable by the stereotype that we are but we get to live full lives. You get to see each of these characters fight with their family, find meaning and purpose in life, fall in love, be annoyed at their siblings. We get to see them go through the whole spectrum of human emotion, which puts a human behind the stereotype. I personally don't have a problem with these "stereotypes" because I did have a tiger mom and she's lightened up a lot. I was the golden child of my family. It's just a matter of not only being the stereotype and really adding the layers and dimensions to the character.
With everything Nicky has going on right now, does she really have time to try and add a boyfriend into the mix?
Liang: Girl! I don't know how Nicky finds the time. She is going through a lot, but you know she's been in a monastery for three years. She wants some romance in her life. She has a long history with [Evan]. He is also her best friend, so it's not just romance that's there. Then with Henry, there's a new side of her who gets fulfilled, the side of her who loves the history of her culture, who loves martial arts, and she gets to bond with him in that way. These guys are friends first and then the romance kind of just follows, but she needs them as part of her team in her mission.
It makes logical sense that they'd be friends first, but this is still a CW show so I suspect there are already Team Evan and Team Henry camps. Have you picked a side?
Liang: We've already got hashtags: Hickey or Nevan. As Olivia, I don't want to say who I'm rooting for, but I think that it's very clear as the season goes on who I think Nicky is more drawn to and is probably right for at this time in her life. I don't want to spoil anything else.
What are you most excited for fans to see as they follow along the Kung Fu journey in Season 1?
Liang: I want fans to have a really good time. Our show has a little bit of everything. It will satiate all of your palates. We've got action, adventure, mystery, mythical weapons. We've got love triangles, romance, and comedy. And at the core of that [there is] this family that is just going through life. It's lots of fun. So I hope that fans just have a really good ride and have a good time with us. I know personally every time I finish reading a script I need the next one immediately. So I hope they feel that same energy and passion.
Kung Fu airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.