KFMG Podcast S06 Episode 66: Tzi Ma

Posted in Podcasts by - April 05, 2021
KFMG Podcast S06 Episode 66: Tzi Ma

“Nowadays if you write something that’s even remotely questionable, then it’s just a comment on you, because you can’t get away with this stuff anymore.”

Born in Hong Kong and raised in New York, Tzi Ma is a genre-spanning actor who has dedicated his career to documenting the Asian American experience. With every acting decision – whether it be on stage, screen or television – he has sought to portray fully rounded characters, working in an industry where accurate representation has not always been high on the agenda. He has turned down roles he has considered to be stereotypical, and instead, Tzi prefers to champion the voices of minority filmmakers often working with no money on projects which may never see the light of day. Sometimes, they break through – like Lulu Wang’s critically acclaimed 2019 comedy drama, The Farewell. Even his mainstream roles challenge the preconceived notions of Asian characters in Hollywood movies: a compassionate father in Mulan; a geologist in Dante’s Peak; a military commander in Arrival; Michael Caine’s fixer in The Quiet American; ‘the General’ in the Coen brothers comedy The Ladykillers. When he has played roles in martial arts projects – like Rapid Fire, Rush Hour, or the Martial Law TV series – it was only ever to make the Asian leads look good, helping to promote the reputations of actors like Brandon Lee, Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung in the USA. In his latest TV series, Kung Fu – a reboot of the classic 1970s show starring David Carradine, which premieres on The CW Network on 7 April 2021 – he plays another doting father, further cementing his role as Hollywood’s ‘go-to Asian dad’, according to Variety. It’s a primetime American show focusing on an Asian American family, and another step towards improving representation on television, telling new stories from different voices and cultures. So what’s next for Tzi Ma? Tune into the first episode in our sixth season to find out.

Following a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in the USA, we stand in support of Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and call for an end to hate, discrimination and racism. Tzi is a vocal supporter of the #StopAsianHate campaign and has taken part in an initiative – organised by AT&T, the parent company of WarnerMedia – to raise awareness and encourage donations to help AAPI small businesses. Read more at att.com/StopAsianHate and watch the campaign video on YouTube. For more information about Tzi Ma, visit his IMDb page and follow Tzi Ma on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Portrait image photo by Diana Ragland.

Tzi Ma, Shuzhen Zhao, Han Chen, Aoi Mizuhara, Hong Lu and Awkwafina in The Farewell (2019). Image via IMDb.com

Tzi Ma with his Wu Assassins co-star, Iko Uwais. Image via netflixlife.com.

Liu Yifei and Tzi Ma in Mulan (2020). Image via IMDb.com

Tzi Ma and Olivia Liang in Kung Fu (2021).

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

1 Comment

  • Raghu

    If you ever get a chance I highly recommend the documentary “A Slanted Screen” by Jeff Adachi which is about how Asian American actors are perceived in Hollywood. It showcases how Asian men have to fight for roles in Hollywood by avoiding stereotypical portrayals and the frustrations with non-Asian actors playing Asian roles. You have the likes of Tzi Ma, Mako, James Shigita, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jason Scott Lee talking about they have to challenge the Hollywood system. Bruce Lee is also featured in the documentary and played an important part because his rise was a wake call where Asian men can lead films. The first time I saw this documentary was during undergraduate college years back in 2006.

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