Yoson An of “Mulan” on Accurately Representing Communities in Film

Meet Yoson An from Disney’s upcoming live-action adaptation of “Mulan.” In his chat with DA MAN the Macau-born actor walked us through his experience on set and his passion for filmmaking.

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The release of “Mulan” might have been pushed back, but that doesn’t mean that the buzz surrounding Disney’s latest live-action blockbuster has faded. And the same can be said for the people behind the project. Recently, DA MAN chatted with Yoson An, the man who plays Mulan’s love interest in the movie. While a lot of people might still be unfamiliar with his name, the Macau-born actor won’t stay unrecognized for long once “Mulan” hits theaters worldwide.

DA MAN: Hi Yoson, thank you for spending some time with us. How are you?
Yoson An:
I’m great! Thanks for hanging out with me too.

DA: “Mulan” is one of the most anticipated Disney live-action remakes. How do you feel about being in the project?
The animated movie was one of my favorite childhood Disney cartoons. Being a part of this project has been somewhat of a dream come true!

DA: What was the story behind you joining the cast of “Mulan”?
I auditioned like everyone else, with my first tape back in 2016. But I didn’t hear back for a callback until a year later. Then I was flown to L.A. within a week after Skyping with [director] Niki Caro. It wasn’t until April 2018 that I found out I was cast for the role. The whole casting process took close to two years. It was quite a journey!

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DA: And was it challenging to play the part? Did you undergo any kind of special preparations or training?
It took quite a lot training for us to prepare for the roles in the film. We would train five to seven hours a day of stunts and physical conditioning during the preproduction process, five days a week for three to four months. We also had to carry on the strength and conditioning training throughout the filming process in order to keep our physicality. It all paid off!

DA: Were there any particularly memorable moments during the filming of “Mulan” that you can share with us?
I really enjoyed all the action sequences we trained up for, in particular the one on one fight between Honghui and Mulan.

DA: Speaking of which, your character, Chen Honghui, is the main love interest in this adaptation, while in the original animated feature, Mulan’s love interest is Li Shang. What are some of the differences between the two?
Though they may share similar qualities—I won’t give too much away—Shang is the captain of his squad whilst Honghui is a young conscript, like Mulan.

“We’re coming into a balanced space where filmmakers are finally taking a stand to represent characters of their communities accurately”

DA: What is your favorite scene in the movie?
I have so many! But probably the scene in the conscription camp where you see all the young soldiers enlisting into the army. It’s also the first scene where Honghui meets Mulan—and how they start off on the wrong foot. You also get to meet the squad members for the first time.

DA: As this is your big Hollywood breakout, we can only imagine how excited you are. Any pre-release jitters?
We recently had the World Premiere in Los Angeles and I don’t think we could’ve asked for anything better. Everyone who saw the film loved it as much as we did. I’m so excited for the rest of the world to see it.

DA: And are you prepared for the whole world to know your name now?
I really don’t know what to expect! I guess I’ll have to wait and see. [Laughs]

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DA: What is it like for Asian actors to break into America’s film industry? Especially these days, when representation has become such a hot topic…
I can only imagine how challenging it was for diverse actors 20 years ago in Hollywood. Nowadays, things are changing. We’re coming into a balanced space where filmmakers are finally taking a stand to represent characters of their communities accurately. I believe it’s much easier now to break into the industry than it was 10-20 years ago.

DA: Have you always wanted to become an actor?
Not at all! I fell into acting. I did some musicals in high school and really enjoyed it. I decided to take it up as a hobby during my university years and things just unfolded from there.

DA: Besides acting, you’re also a filmmaker. Can you tell us a bit about your short film “Between The Parallel”…
“Between The Parallel” was a passion project I made with a few friends. It’s about a young girl, seeking to find freedom from her reality by depicting herself as a goddess-like being through her art. You can watch it on YouTube.

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DA: What was the inspiration behind it?
Being someone of two cultural backgrounds—born in China and raised in New Zealand—I wanted to merge the two cultures through this film. I grew up watching a lot of Chinese martial arts movies and I’ve also grown to love fantasy/sci-fi films that symbolically explore the spectrum of human emotions. But I’ve never seen the two overlap. “Between the Parallel” symbolically reflects a young girl’s inner struggles—or demons—through her art, where she depicts herself as a goddess-like being in Ancient China, fighting for her freedom. This is how this idea began, hopefully I’ll be able to make a feature film version of it in the near future.

DA: If you had to choose only one, would you rather be an actor or filmmaker?
Hard choice. For now, I’d have to say actor. But who knows? That could change in the future! I feel like they complement each other: Having an acting background allows me to better communicate with actors as a director.

DA: With life in general, what is it that drives you?
Love, passion and food.

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DA: We learned that some time ago you moved all the way to Australia to pursue more opportunities. Any plans to move again? Maybe to the United States?
I love L.A.! I have many good friends in this city. I’d love to be able to move back and forth between U.S. and my home country New Zealand in the near future.

DA: Tell us, what’s a normal day for you like?
I get up, do my morning meditation and just flow with whatever the day brings me. I don’t really keep a strict routine. Sometimes, I’ll spend the day writing, go on a hike with friends, reading and auditions, gaming, or just watch YouTube videos all day.

DA: Do you exercise daily?
I’d love to say I work out daily, but that only really happens when I’m preparing for a role. When I work out, though, I do a lot of kettlebell exercises and I like to run as well.

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DA: What’s the next step for your acting career?
I have a couple of projects on the horizon. Can’t talk too much about them right now, but stay tuned!

DA: Do you have any favorite quote or saying that keeps you going through the day?
I have a few, but one of my favorites is: “Life is the dancer and you are the dance” by Eckhart Tolle.

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“Having an acting background allows me to better communicate with actors as a director.”


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