EXCLUSIVE | 'Mulan' star Rosalind Chao says film is about 'breaking boundaries', needs to be seen on big screen
'Mulan' star Rosalind Chao, who plays Li Hua in the film, speaks to MEA WorldWide about the delay in the film's release, her character and whether the film is a feminist symbol
'Mulan' has been one of the most-awaited live-action remakes ever since it was announced. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has been delayed indefinitely. 'Mulan' star Rosalind Chao, who plays Li Hua in the film, spoke to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) about the delay, her character and whether the film is a feminist symbol.
You are playing Mulan's mother in the film. What can you tell us about her character?
Mulan’s Mother, Li Hua, is a strong woman who wants the best for her daughter’s future. She knows that their world does not readily accept someone like Mulan who is cut out of a different cloth. Li Hua’s dream for her daughter Is that she can marry well and have a better life than her parents.
Is the live-action film a departure from the original?
Yes, the live-action film is not a musical but uses music beautifully. The live-action film is also closer to the original legendary Chinese folk tale of Fa Mu Lan. Fa Mu Lan is a legendary Chinese folk tale hero. Her story has been told in Peking Operas and dance. When I was a young girl, part of my dance repertoire was playing Mulan.
Mulan has always been considered a feminist symbol. What are your thoughts on this?
I love that Mulan has been considered a feminist symbol because Mulan is about breaking boundaries-being true to oneself in spite of what societal expectations are. She is inspiring in so many ways. Firstly, it’s wonderful for young girls/ women to see stereotypes being thrown to the wind and replaced by a strong woman who defies expectations. It's especially exciting to see a woman of color defying expectations! I wish that when I was a kid, I could have seen someone who looks like Mulan kicking ass on the big screen.
Mulan has been delayed again due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some are wondering whether the film should release on Disney+ straight, while others demand a theatrical release. What do you think?
Ideally, once it is safe to go to the cinema, I would love to see Mulan released on the big screen. It’s majestic and breathtaking to see it on the big screen with an audience oohing and aahing, laughing and crying alongside you (with a mask on of course). But of course, I understand that we have to adapt to the circumstances in the safest possible way.
Can you tell us some of your favorite moments that you enjoyed shooting for?
I loved shooting the scene with the matchmaker. Cheng Pei Pei, who plays the matchmaker, was the female Bruce Lee back in the day. She was my Chinese dance teacher and mentor when I was a teen. When I had just started college, she called to ask me to leave to do a movie directed by King Wu, the legendary Chinese director who made her a martial arts star (he had sat in on some of my classes.). I had always worried that I had disappointed Pei Pei when I said no. So it was lovely to be reunited after all those years in a film like Mulan.
What were the biggest challenges in playing this role?
I would say that the biggest challenge was the aging makeup and wigs. The greying wig was extremely rough on my scalp. I still have bald spots. Other than that, the film was a delight. We had the chance to work with Asians from all over the globe and to see how different actors work.
What other projects do you have lined up?
I have a film with Melissa McCarthy, Taye Diggs and Kevin Kline coming out directed by Theodore Melfi. I am excited for that to come out. It's the kind of film we really need to see right now. I'm scheduled to shoot another film that is a wonderful script in August but it sadly has been postponed again. It’s an independent film with a smaller cast so I had thought it had a chance to come out of the gate sooner. In the meantime, you can find me on TV this season. I did a little recurring on one of my favorite shows, 'Better Things', which is currently streaming on FX/Hulu.