Producer Bruce Timm returns to the Dark Knight's world for an Elseworlds adventure set in the 1960s: Batman: Soul of the Dragon. Set for release on Digital on January 12 and Blu-ray on January 26, it's a fun, pulpy adventure which finds Bruce Wayne training under a master sensei. It is here that Bruce, along with other elite students, is forged in the fire of the martial arts discipline. However, the lifelong bonds they form will be put to the test when a deadly menace arises from their past.
It will take the combined efforts of Batman, world-renowned martial artists Richard Dragon, Ben Turner, Lady Shiva and their mentor O-Sensei to battle the monsters of this world and beyond!
Arrow, Phineas and Ferb, and L.A.'s Finest's star Kelly Hu takes on the role of Lady Shiva, and delivers an unexpected, exciting take on the character which will definitely surprise fans. We were recently lucky enough to speak to Hu about her role in this unique, action-packed animated feature, and she was kind enough to talk in detail about taking centre stage in this martial arts adventure.
Needless to say, we want to extend a huge thank you to Kelly for taking the time to talk to us, and you can find her comments on playing Lady Deathstrike in X2: X-Men United by clicking here.
It must be fun for you to be able to talk about a movie like Batman: Soul of the Dragon with all the craziness in the world right now?
You know, it is so great to have something to do. I'm not doing anything on camera at the moment. I'm too chicken to be out there on a set. I've got asthma, so I've got to be a little more careful than most, but this is such a great way to stay busy, and feel like I'm still working and in the loop and still getting things done. I know a lot of actors who don't do voiceover work are really hurting right now. I'm so fortunate to be able to do this.
You're obviously no stranger to the DC Universe, but what was it about Lady Shiva that made you want to return to that world for this film?
Animation is just always fun. Lady Shiva is just such a fun character. This one especially was written to be such a badass. These characters are always fun to play because I do martial arts in real-life, and so it just feels like I'm that much tougher [Laughs] but I don't have to injure myself doing it! [Laughs] Lady Shiva is a great character. I've voiced her in other projects before, but this one has been the most fun and one of the most fun characters I've ever gotten to play.
We see a few different sides to Shiva here, whether it's her time as a student or later as a crime boss; how exciting was it for you as an actor to explore those difference facets of the character?
It's fun when you get to do these flashback-type things because your character gets to do a nice arc. There's a nice big arc from where she starts to where she ends. You think she's a badass as a student, and then you see she's such a boss lady years later. It was fun to be able to play this arc. The thing about Shiva is that she's one of those quiet, dangerous types, and she doesn't say a whole lot. So, when she does say things, it really is more fun, and she's a little sarcastic and snarky sometimes. I guess you can afford to be that way when you're that much of a badass [Laughs]. She's certainly not like me; I'm a total goof.
Shiva seems to also be a very calm, cool, and collected person even in the most trying of circumstances – was that something you really strived to get across in your performance?
Yeah, totally. Even when she is in action, she never gets hyped up about it even in the middle of a fight. I try to keep her in my lower register, that calm feel where everything is under control...until she gets angry. Then, she lets loose a little bit. She is one of those characters that just nothing phases her, and it's kind of a challenge because I'm not that way in real-life at all. I'm super nervous and hyped up and giggly and goofy, so this is definitely a far cry from who I really am.
The character gets to see a lot of action here, but when you're in the voice booth performing those moments, how difficult do you find it to get across that sort of physicality?
You know, it's actually really hard on the voice. These fight sounds...luckily, I've done martial arts and I have a black belt in karate. I know what these sounds sound like. I often imagine, actually, my karate instructor whenever I have to do fight sounds. So, you have to differentiate between a throw and getting punched or landing. These all have different sounds; different consonant and vowel sounds. When you're doing fight noises, good fight choreography always follows a story. There's always a story within that as you're doing it. To voice it, you actually have to convey it in a fight scene as well. It's very thought out in the sense that each sound has to really go along with the choreography and movement.
One of the coolest things about the film is that despite his name being in the title, Batman isn't the lead – it's very much an ensemble. How did you feel seeing Shiva take on such a pivotal role?
I think you're right, it does feel like more of an ensemble piece, doesn't it? You don't even see Batman very much in costume. The storyline behind the costumed Batman makes it so much more interesting. The style that they chose for the flashbacks to the 70s feel and even that Bond-like character that hops into the boat, it's a fun throwback to these 'Blaxploitation' films. It was fun to be able to do not just the action, but also a period piece.
As an Asian American actress, when you're offered a role like this one, is it important for you to talk to the creative team to ensure there aren't any stereotypes that may have been associated with a martial arts-type film like this one in the past?
You know, by the time we get the script as actors, it's pretty much already done. Often, if you think something is really awkward to say or just isn't right, writers and producers don't want to put out anything that's going to be awkward or insulting to anyone. They're almost always open to suggestions. I think, right now, in this day and age, people are so much more sensitive to that kind of thing that it's not so much of an issue. I don't find myself having to fight with people over that. By the time the script comes to us as actors, it's been pretty thought out and anything that might be offensive will have been removed by then.
Bruce Timm has been working in this DC world for a long time, but can you talk a bit about what it was like being produced by him, and directed by Sam Liu?
It was a great experience. Nowadays especially, everyone is recording in their home studios. I don't get to interact with the other actors. At one point, if it wasn't the pandemic, I would have maybe in a room with one or all three of those guys or other actors in general, but this one was done solo and I believe everyone was recording from their homes. When you are recording by yourself, and you don't get to hear the other actors and respond to them in the way they are delivering their lines, you really have to rely on the director and how he describes the situation or delivers the line for the other character. That way, you know how to respond correctly. Sometimes, if the other actors have recorded before you, they'll be able to play you the other actor's lines of dialogue, so you can respond better, but you otherwise have to put a lot of trust in the director to guide you so that you have the right tone.
Without getting into spoilers, it feels like we could maybe get a sequel to this film; if that happens, where would you like to see Shiva go next?
I don't know! She's such a cool character. Maybe she gets more unhinged. Or maybe a love interest of some sort? That could be interesting for her as you wouldn't think of that for this version. Who knows what they might have in store for her?
Finally, you've played a lot of badass characters over the years, but who do you see coming out on top of a battle between Lady Shiva and your Arrow character, China White?
Ohh, that's a tough one. Wow, I don't know! That's a really tough one. I think Lady Shiva is probably more practised and maybe more vicious than China White if you can imagine. I don't know. That's a really tough one [Laughs]. I might say Lady Shiva, only because this version is a cartoon character and can pretty much fly through the air and do a lot more than anyone in real-life! [Laughs]