Kristin Kreuk graced the scene at Fan Expo Canada this year. DC Comics News and Dark Knight News had the honor to interview her at a round table. In this article, we delve into the politics and messages of the visually beautiful game, Shuyan SAGA, including Kristin’s work and impacts in the video game and comics-world industry. We know her all too well as Ms. Lana Lang from the award winning television show Smallville.
Q: [To producer Jason Loftus] The investigation part of the game, how much research did you make, how deep did you have to go to come up with all this stuff?
The easiest way to do research is to bring in people who already know what they’re doing in certain areas. When is comes to comics and martial arts we’re really fortunate with who we’re able to bring on board. So, DaXiong [the art director] is just one of the best comic artists to ever come out of China. He had one of the first major original IP comic book studios that he ran in China, and he’s worked with the likes of DC, he’s done Justice League, he’s done Star Wars comics for Dark Horse. [Really amazing talent] He’s just so well-versed in the Chinese culture. And so people who are familiar with Chinese culture, when they look at the game they’ll see elements of that. All the different kingdoms are actually inspired by different traditions of different dynasties in China. China is actually quite diverse in its history, a lot of differences [throughout] a lot of time periods. And you kind of pull elements of that to kinda inspire the different aspects of the different kingdoms as well.
And then when it comes to the Kung Fu Aspect, we got this amazing Kung Fu Master, [phonetically: Mung Fei Yao], from New York. Who flew out and spent time in our studio, beat up our development team, it was a lot of fun. And it really meshed with this idea because we had students of martial arts in different aspects of the production team and we had this idea that we kinda wanted to bring a different aspect to this Kung Fu journey which wasn’t about the “beat-them-up” aspect but also this kind of character journey, and he [the Kung Fu Master] really helped to fill in a lot of that detail, because he has an amazing story and a lot of stuff to share. The philosophy of Kung Fu, we did our best to try and capture.
Q: [With regards to Martial Arts] How do you think the public is reacting to that?
I think it’s interesting. I mean we get responses even from China, from the Asian market. They really respect that there’s a Western company just trying to understand the culture and philosophy and pay this…it’s like an homage or a love letter to that culture.
Q: So right now it’s just available on Steam. Any plans to expand upon that? To mobile gaming?
Mobile is in the cards, there are other platforms in the cards, and we actually have other partnerships also on PC and major markets in Asia that we will be announcing soon. So there’s a stage of approach over there for different platforms.
Q: Casting Kristin for the main character, was that right away your first initial target? She would be perfect for the role, could you speak on her, on how well she is for the game?
Jason Loftus: Just to quickly answer on the casting aspect, we brought together a number of people to discuss it and it was pretty quickly a consensus that she [Kristin] was just a perfect fit.
Lina Skorbach: Working with her was amazing. […] we went “okay, do 2-3 takes of one line,” and all three takes were wonderful. Like which one would you choose? Because she just knows, she understood the character right away and she delivered all the emotions for that character. Amazing.
Kristin Kreuk: I did so much tai-chi when I was doing Streetfighter! That was like most of my practice.
Q: [To Kristin Kreuk] I was wondering, I notice you do a lot of heroic roles!
Apparently I do!
Q: It’s really cool! Is there something that pulls you [to those roles]?
Interesting. I think that my answer for that, cause I’m only thinking about it now that you’re asking me, I think I’m drawn to people overcoming personal issues for a greater good. And I think I am a sucker for that kind of story telling. Especially when it comes to things presented to younger people. I think we live in a very cynical time which is fine, and I think it’s important to, you know, take in as much data as possible, but I think we also need those kinds of stories where it’s like “Oh, yes, I can do something meaningful in my life” and in my community and there are things that are limiting me from doing that, I have the power to overcome that. And even beyond communities, even in your own life to find joy and happiness and peace. There are those little internal demons that one must wrestle, and you can! You have the power to do that. I think all these characters represent that kind of journey and struggle through something much bigger. Generally, someone is dying, [or] there’s a demon, and there’s something really pushing you. Where in life, it might be something just little, like “I wanna have a loving relationship with somebody and there is something limiting me from doing that. And I need to wrestle with these things internally.”
Q: Those problems are just as big, right?
Exactly, that’s why fantasy stuff is great! It’s a metaphor for those little struggles in our lives, which are everything.
Q: Over the year, obviously, there has been a huge lack of female characters and well developed female characters in both comics and video games, so your character obviously tackles both industries. Was this something you personally took into consideration when taking the role [Shuyan] and what kind of things do you take into consideration when you come onto a project?
I think I’m getting smarter about that as I get older. But yes, this game, in particular, that was a huge part of it for me. This is a woman, she is complex, she is flawed, she has issues, and she’s overcoming them even though it’s not easy for her, and it’s a struggle. It’s centered around her. It’s not about a love relationship, she’s not tied to some dude. She has a master and a teacher who happens to be male, but it’s not about that.
She has her own drive and motivation. It’s about family and community, and I really like that because I find that a lot of female driven stuff is linked to a male love interest who moves that character through their journey. And I struggle to find things that aren’t doing that, although, like you said, it is changing drastically.
There’s a lot of women involved in this project and that is wonderful.
Q: Is voice acting something you’ve always been interested in? Has it been a difficult change from what you’ve done in the past? Or is it a matter of waiting for that right story to come along?
It isn’t something I was always interested in. I know that it’s a really hard job, I was with somebody for a long time who did a lot of voice work. And it’s not easy. Super specific work, and so I auditioned for a few things here and there in the past. But this was the first thing I’ve ever really done in this realm and I loved it! It was really fun but it’s definitely a hard specific job to do well and do right. And I respect anybody who does this as their career. It’s an amazing profession.
Q: How long do you think it will take for this change to happen: to inspire girls and inspire women?
I don’t know how long it will take but I do feel like the more we all push for it and the more we inspire young teenagers to move into developing and story telling, and into directing and producing, whatever it is, the faster it’s going to change. And you have to keep putting pressure on people, I think that’s important and it is making a difference. Like we’re seeing it. Wonder Woman kicked ass! Killed at the box office! In a season where movies didn’t do well. But that’s something that I think we have to hold onto and that happened because people pushed for it. And so I think If we keep doing that, it could change more quickly than we think.
I mean, even for tv stuff! Pilot seasons last year, which I didn’t do, but from what I understood, they wanted female leads and they wanted diversity. If you are a white guy, there’s just not going to be much available to you which is good for us, I think.
Q: On the topic of bringing out change, I mean there have been lots of headlines recently about anti-Asian in Hollywood. I understand a lot of higher profile actors have been very recently speaking out against it. And I wanted to get your take as your experience as an Asian actress coming up in the business, your experience with it if you had any?
Well, I’ll talk about the personal first:
I started a long time ago, and my first job I played a half-Asian girl, which is my heritage. Which didn’t happen again until I guess Street Fighter? I played my heritage and then every role after that shut out playing my heritage. So I often played white characters because I have wide-eyes, and my hair is actually not the blonde [gestures to her current hair], but my natural hair color is light because I didn’t challenge them in the way that I looked. It didn’t come up as an issue for me. So personally, I didn’t think I felt the limitation for my career.
But I believe there is a strong issue, that I have friends who are full-Chinese who really struggle to get their careers off the ground because there just isn’t the roles available. Like if I’m looking for, in Canada, an actress to play my mom: Chinese actress, I guess if she’s young, in her 50s, if she’s the right age, probably in her 60s. They are hard to find. I just don’t think there has been the opportunities available for people. And I think that is changing and obviously, people, like Constance Wu and those guys are really shifting the narrative on that. Even if we’re talking Indian, Aziz Ansari. I think what they are doing is really important. And in Canada, it’s still a big issue. I don’t know, apart from, Kim’s Convenience [a Canadian comedy], I don’t think we have a lot available. And I think stuff like this helps, making sure the characters [are authentic] for me now, I won’t play outside of being mixed race. Because I have the opportunity to do it and that will help slowly.
Q: What is a character that inspires you?
A character that inspires me? Aw, man, the person that came to my head because I’m really bad at these questions, it’s really pathetic. Outside the comics world, because I’m not a comics person necessarily, growing up it was always Anne of Green Gable. And I know that’s really old, but she was like a fierce, passionate young girl, in a world where you were supposed to be a specific way and she wasn’t that way. And she just embraced it […] her weird self in the midst of all that. And I really do appreciate that in people.
Q: What was one of your favorite moments working on the game?
You know, it’s funny because it’s all in a booth. I just like being in there with all these people who have been doing this forever and just making a fool of yourself because that’s what you do. I feel like everyday when you’re voice acting, it’s just “do stuff that you feel completely ridiculous.” Like yell absurdly loud […] So I feel like being humiliated in that sense. Haha, weird answer.
Q: What did you find as your biggest challenge?
Kristin Kreuk: Other than the humiliation and overcoming your ego? Hah, biggest challenge? My biggest challenge really was finding the right tone for each emotion, it’s really hard to find the right intention expressed in your voice. At least for me. Voice actors don’t have that problem, and that’s why they’re good at what they do. It was really challenging to just convey the emotions I wanted to convey with my voice. I mean, it seems broad, but I found that very challenging.
Jason Loftus: She may have thought she was struggling, but I think everyone thought she was great!
Q: I did see you had something coming next year, can you tell us a bit about it?
Yes, it’s a CBC show called Burden of Truth. It’s a ten-part, legal serialized drama that’s class-action lawsuit. It’s not fantasy. It’s very not. But it’s really examining thematically legacies of abuse, patriarchy, all that kind of stuff through a group of sick teenage girls in a town.
Q: A second part to this, most of what you’ve done has been very much aimed at a young adult audience, is this [Burden of Truth] more aimed at adults?
It’s more aimed at adults, but a big chunk of the show is about 18-year-olds, like high schoolers, and I don’t know if it’s fast-paced enough for young people but it definitely explores what it means to grow up, have a disability, have a town be against you, being told that you’re hysterical, I think it will appeal to younger people but it’s really meant for adults.
Thank you, Fan Expo Canada, Lofty Sky Entertainment, Jason Loftus, Lina Scorbach, and the talented Kristin Kreuk for arranging this and giving us such an enriching view. They brought in culture, feminism, and heroes of all kinds. Shuyan Saga is available on Steam!