Kelly Hu chats about reprising the role on Lady Shiva in a 70s setting during the DC animated film, Batman: Soul of the Dragon.
In Batman: Soul of the Dragon, the DC Animated universe takes a trip to the 1970s. The martial arts-filled film, which will be available on digital January 12 and on Blu-ray January 26, tells the story of a young Batman who must reunite with former classmates to rescue his sensei and the entire world from the machinations of an evil cult.
Richard Dragon, Bronze Tiger, and the daring Lady Shiva make up the team of Kung Fu fighters in the film. The latter is brought to life by Kelly Hu, who is no stranger to the DC universe, having already played China White on Arrow and voiced Cheshire on Young Justice.
Hu spoke to Screen Rant about stepping into Shiva’s mysterious past and traumas, as well as what other DC characters she’d like to play in the future.
I know you’re very well-acquainted with DC characters in general, so how different was it playing this version of Lady Shiva from the one you voiced for Arkham Origins?
Kelly Hu: This one was almost like a period piece. It’s a 70s throwback kind of feel, so there was a slightly different feel to this character because of the way that the dialogue was written. Shiva is a woman of very few words. She doesn’t say much, but when she does, it’s either entertaining or really threatening. Yeah, she was fun.
Was there any mindset you had to get into to experience the 70s, without all the visuals and the music helping you? How did you get the feel of that rhythm for the dialogue?
Kelly Hu: It was really in the dialogue. Because of the pandemic, we’re all recording from home – or at least I was. We’re not in the room with the other actors, so it’s hard to know how they’re approaching their dialogue unless they’ve recorded before you and can play some of their dialogue for you. But they didn’t really do that.
So, you have to depend a lot on the director and how he describes it, and what you see just in sketches. Because when you read the script, even though you’re supposed to know how it’s done, you don’t really get the feel until you see it on screen or in ADR or something. You have to rely a lot on the direction that you get from the directors and the producers and things like that. But they did a great job.
Speaking of that direction, did you have conversations with Sam Liu or Jeremy about this take on Shiva and what’s brewing under the surface for her?
Kelly Hu: To tell you the truth, I don’t remember the conversations that we had. That’s the thing about animation, right? You do it, it’s one or two days to do the role, and then you don’t hear from them for a year or however long.
I’m always like, “Okay, can you play back some of my stuff so I can hear the tone?” I don’t remember exactly the conversations that we had, but I know that they did tell me about the Blaxploitation feel that they were going for.
For Shiva herself, why do you think she’s such a great fit for this group of heroes?
Kelly Hu: I think that she has this confidence and stillness. She’s so dangerous that even the boys are afraid of her. I love that she’s the one that everybody’s scared of. She’s just got this confidence that I think is actually justified, where she’s such a badass that she doesn’t have to prove anything.
Whenever she makes a threat, she can back it up. And it’s a good balance to all that testosterone, because otherwise it would just be a bunch of guys.
We get some of the backstory in flashbacks with O-Sensei and his training. Can you describe how his teachings affected Shiva and the whole group?
Kelly Hu: He doesn’t just train, he teaches lessons. And the lessons didn’t come out of just the fighting, it came out of polishing a rock or trying to break one off. It wasn’t just about physical ability; it was about philosophy.
I think that was something that Shiva really sort of grabbed on to and understood. Not just the fighting and the technical part, but the philosophy behind the art that he was teaching, which I think is the best part of martial arts in real life. It’s not just about the physicality or just about learning the proper moves and the degree that your arm bends, or the speed of your punch. What makes it so awesome to learn and practice martial arts is the philosophy behind it.
Assuming there could be a sequel or prequel where you could reprise Shiva, what aspect of her character or life would you like to delve into?
Kelly Hu: Wouldn’t it be interesting to see her as a child, and to see why she is such a badass to begin with? How did she get there? What happened in her life that made her so scary? Whatever traumas that happened in her life that made her the badass that she is. That, to me, would be the interesting story.
What aspect of Shiva do you either relate to most or find most different from you?
Kelly Hu: I’m such a goof in real life. I could never be as quiet and threatening as she is. Everything you see, I lay it all on the table. But she’s really in control. I would love to be that kind of in control and just quiet and mysterious. I’m not mysterious at all.
It’s hard for me to relate to her in real life, because she is so opposite of what I am.
Is there any other DC or Elseworlds story you’d like to be a part of, or any other character you’d like to add to your own canon?
Kelly Hu: I don’t know that there are many other Asian roles are there? I can’t think of that many. But wouldn’t it be cool to have an Asian Wonder Woman, though? Maybe not to me; I’m probably too old for that. But for somebody else. Let’s just will that for somebody else.
Batman: Soul of the Dragon arrives January 12 on digital HD and on January 26 on Blu-ray and 4K UHD.
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