You probably know him as Zhou Cheng in Netflix’s Iron Fist but we’re shining a spotlight on rising action star, Lewis Tan (@lewistanofficial). Born in Manchester, Lewis is the son of Philip Tan, a martial artist, actor, and stunt coordinator from Singapore. Lewis has studied martial arts for over 15 years and is known for doing his own stunts in films. BAZAAR chats with Lewis on his new role as Shatterstar in the Marvel film, Deadpool 2 and his struggles as a half-Asian actor in Hollywood.
Who was the one superhero you were obsessed with growing up?
Batman. For many reasons. My father worked on Batman with Tim Burton as fight coordinator and one of Jack Nicholson’s goons, it is part of the reason my family is in the film business, and without this I would not have been where I am. Batman has such a complex background and I think it is the most grounded superhero of all time. He didn’t come from a different planet, he is not invincible, he has flaws.
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Shatterstar was ranked #29 on the ComicsAlliance list of “50 Sexiest Male Characters in Comics” How do you feel about this?
Seems a little low to me, given he was genetically engineered to be a perfect warrior. His genes are probably top notch. He has incredible hair. I mean, the guy has it going on. He falls in love with all different people and sexes. Also now he is half Asian, I’m thinking top 10.
What kind of martial arts do you do? Which one is your favourite and why?
My father was a national champion in Tae Kwon Do. He began training me at a young age—I gravitated toward kickboxing and Muay Thai because I was tall and lanky. I like the power involved, to me it is still the most effective stand up martial arts. I competed in amateur circuits for many years. I love the connection martial arts has to the mind and body, it is a form of expression.
Did you go on a special fitness regime to prepare for this role? If yes, what did you do?
Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. I train daily so I am always prepared. Sometimes, I have to learn a specific style for a film or show in which case I will have to prepare differently, but having a foundation in martial arts helps to adapt quickly. For Deadpool 2, Shatterstar uses a futuristic version of a Japanese Katana. I have been training with a katana for a few years with Caitlin Dechelle, who is 7 time world champion and one of the stunt doubles for Wonder Woman, so I was in good hands.
You have previously worked as a stunt performer and your fight scenes from Iron Fist have also gotten exceptionally good responses from fans. Did you do your own stunts in this movie? What was the craziest stunt you’ve ever done?
I did all my own stunts in Deadpool 2, I have a good relationship with the director David Leitch who is a master at both drama and action. The craziest stunt I have ever done was probably snowboarding behind a moving train in Chicago for a commercial, look up “Trainboarding Lewis Tan on YouTube“, no CGI was used here.
What do you think would be the biggest challenge while taking on this role?
Keeping it a secret! I was at San Diego Comic Con San right before I was going to leave for Deadpool 2. I did a panel and they asked me what I had up next, I just told them I had a few things coming soon, little did they know it was Deadpool 2. I saw people dressed up like Shatterstar at the event. Hiding that was my best acting to this day.
What is it like as an Asian-American actor in Hollywood? What are the struggles you’ve faced?
It’s like pounding on an old brick wall that has been cemented for 100 years. This art form that has changed and effected the world deeply has been mostly ignoring or stereotyping people of colour since it began. Obviously there are some great artists have opposed this, but from my experience it has been a battle. Things take time to change, especially in an industry with so many variables. I went through stages of frustration and anger but I decided to use it as fuel to my fire. I’ve dealt with poorly written characters, straight refusals because of my race, offensive stereotypes and judgements. Everyone just wants to be represented fully and share stories that are colourful and beautiful. It will only expand this art form that we love and give future generations a voice.
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What is your take on the diversity and representation in Hollywood right now?
The landscape is changing. The wall is coming down. I am here to see it crumble. Films like Black Panther and Get Out opened a lot of doors. “Whitewashed” films failing was a sign that people wanted a different narrative. Opportunities are opening and studios are seeing that. Through all that oppression some of the greatest creative ideas are being formed. It has just begun, time to execute these ideas, creating a tidal wave of diverse stories.
Name one actor that you’ve always looked up to and why.
Marlon Brando. He is like the Beethoven of acting, a revolutionary. When Beethoven changed music from the classical period to the romantic period, Brando was similar as he changed acting from Formalistic to Realistic. He had the charm and the heart I admire.
What is the one fashion item that you are obsessed with currently?
I always travel with a pair of Converse All Stars and black fitted jeans. Been wearing them since I was a kid, they look nice, are comfortable and I can still kick someone in the head with them if need be.
In the entire Marvel universe, which character in your opinion has the best costume?
X-Force Deadpool, Gambit, Black Panther, and Psylocke
Lastly, what is the next for you after Deadpool 2?
I am just finishing filming in Ireland for AMC’s Into the Badlands with Daniel Wu. It is full of incredible action scenes and beautiful costumes. I think it is the best action series on TV right now, really breaking boundaries in many ways. I am also working with Tucker Tooley (The Fighter) writing and developing my own series based on my father’s childhood. This is just the beginning.