Actress Xiao Sun has an inspiring immigrant story that has seen her rise to work with the likes of Darren Aronofsky, Charlize Theron and Stan Lee.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with Xiao to talk about her journey and her upcoming film projects.
Q: Jonathan Levine’s ‘Long Shot’ comes out in UK cinemas on 3 May. Can you reveal anything about the film and your experience working the project?
A: I probably can’t reveal much yet, but I had the absolute pleasure to act opposite Charlize Theron. My character actually plays an important part in the meeting of the two lead characters (played by Charlize and Seth Rogan).
Q: ‘Long Shot’ adds to a number of big sets you’ve been on that includes ‘Mother!’, ‘The Wolverine’ and ‘X-Men: Days Of Future Past’. What have you taken away from those experiences? Any fun or interesting stories?
A: It has been a blessing to work on those productions, and to be around amazingly talented and nice human beings.
During the audition process for Mother!, I was a bit nervous and excited to meet Darren Aronofsky and producer Scott Franklin, but then they started by asking me about my favourite Chinese food – my nerves immediately vanished.
Javier Bardem was one of the most down-to-earth actors I have worked with. We were shooting night scenes (for Mother!) on location in the summer where there were lots of mosquitoes. He was reminding us (the co-actors) to use some more mosquito spray in between takes. Also, having the chance to improvise with him in the movie was a dream come true.
Hugh Jackman gave all of us a lottery ticket on my first day on X-Men, haha! The cast and crew’s talent and work ethic on that project was very inspiring to me.
Q: You grew up in China and come from an extensive ballet background. How did your upbringing shape you as an actress?
A: Understanding both Eastern and Western culture makes me look at things from a unique perspective. It also makes me humble and appreciative of any opportunities that come my way. I have incredibly hard-working and supportive parents, they always tell me to put 100% into whatever I want to do and to be patient. That way everything will be fine.
Plus being a professionally trained dancer since 6 years old, and being a dancer for Cirque du Soleil, means I truly understand how much work is needed to make it in this industry.
Q: How did you find the transition to life in Canada?
A: It’s hard to move to a completely new place where there is very different culture and languages, but I was very lucky because Montreal, Canada is an extremely welcoming place for immigrants. Well, except for the fact I needed to learn two new languages (French and English) very quickly, haha!
I joined the Miss Universe Canada contest not too long after our move, with the mindset of making some friends. I was fortunate enough to be placed among the Top Ten national finalists and won the Best Model Award.
From there I got signed by a modeling agency, and got approached by a casting director for the audition that led to my first acting credit in a feature film, called Fatal (Universal France).
The transition was quite smooth, but it took hard-work through the whole process. It’s also quite challenging for me because neither English or French is my mother tongue, so I have worked very hard to get the appropriate accents for different roles.
Q: Another project you are involved in this year is ‘Pandas vs. Aliens’. What interested you about this film?
A: Stan Lee (who worked as executive producer on Pandas vs. Aliens) is an icon. He is a superhero in my heart. I always dreamed about being a superhero in one of his comic books, and voice acting in his animation is one step closer to that.
My character in the film is a very witty, driven and cute little panda. It is a US, China and Canada co-production, hope you guys get to see it soon.
Q: Has Stan’s passing given a new context to the film?
A: It’s one of the last projects that Stan executive produced. We are all very grateful to have had the chance to work with him and be inspired by his incredible contributions to the entertainment business.
With the characters and films he created, it I am certain it will feel like he’s always with us.
Q: Being multilingual allows you to work on a greater variety of projects, such as Guangda Zhao’s short film ‘Fireworks’. What gets you excited about a role?
A: I’m very grateful for the variety of the opportunities I have had by being a multilingual talent.
I would like to play characters who are totally different from me, who are kind of bad and crazy like Harley Quinn, or someone who kicks ass like Nikita. Of course, I’d like to be the first Asian female lead superhero.
Q: What have your experiences been like working in the entertainment industry as a person of colour?
A: Being an ethnic female talent in the entertainment can be hard and frustrating, but it also works to my advantage sometimes. If you look at my resume, I get to play lots of the characters because I am a person of colour.
I’m extremely happy to be part of the change in Hollywood right now, where more and more ethnic talents get to be in the spotlight and tell our own stories.
Q: Do you have any other upcoming projects or ambitions to tell us about?
A: I’m shooting a French Canadian TV series right now called District 31. It’s my first time playing a police officer, I’m super excited! Also, I am in talks with a feature film about an ancient China’s detective story.
Besides acting, I am a big cosmetics junkie. I hope to have my own makeup line featuring the perfect contour powder to compliment my skin tone.