‘Kung Fu’ Star Olivia Liang Previews Her Brand New Take on a Martial Arts Legend

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Tonight, the legend of Kung Fu continues on The CW, with a brand new cast, a brand new take on the classic franchise, and a brand new lead: Olivia Liang.

Liang plays Nicky Shen, a college dropout who trains at a semi-mystical dojo before returning to San Francisco to balance fighting evil with her extended, very needy family. And while the character is new, Liang is probably familiar to CW viewers as Alyssa Chang, the extremely tetchy witch on Vampire Diaries spinoff Legacies, or perhaps from her one episode turn on Into the Dark. But playing Shen, and taking the lead in Kung Fu, is a whole new ball game for the actress; even if she’s thankful for her time in the trenches on Legacies.

“I learned so much from that Legacies cast,” Liang told Decider. “They’re so gracious and respectful. They really gave me a crash course on how a show operates and how to be a good leader on one. Coming into Kung Fu, I attribute any sort of good vibes and professionalism to what I learned from that Legacies cast.”

Versus the supernatural shenanigans of Legacies, Kung Fu is relatively more grounded (though don’t worry, this still is The CW so there’s some mystical weirdness in the air), as Nicky tries to reconnect with the family she ditched to train in martial arts. Though Liang doesn’t have a martial arts background — she trained in dance, which the actress notes helped considerably in getting up to speed — there were other aspects of the show she related to… Specifically that thanks to a majority Asian cast and EP (that would be Christina M. Kim), the character of Nicky is closer to the real-life Liang than Alyssa Chang.

“Reading the part of Nicky,” Liang said, “there was so much attention to detail of what it is to be an Asian-American woman, and I latched on to so many of her experiences, that it clicked for me. It really fit like a glove.”

Don’t worry, though, there’s plenty of fighting between the family drama. And though Liang has grown more comfortable with the hand-to-hand combat as filming the series has continued, there’s one aspect she’s still not allowed to do.

“I’m not allowed to do the wire stunts!” Liang said, laughing. “I love the down to earth [fighting], because then I get to really be in it. I’m gonna convince our stunt coordinator to eventually let me get up in a wire. But the really cool wire work is my amazing stunt double, Megan Hui, who has taught me so much.”

Kung Fu will run on The CW for the next 13 weeks in the same slot as the network’s hit series Riverdale. One might expect them to be polar opposites — one is a wildly over-the-top show about teen murders, the other a relatively grounded action drama — Liang notes that there’s still a lot to like for fans of the Town of Pep who might still tune in to the Wednesday at 8pm time slot.

“You know, there’s this mysterious bad guy, and we want to know more about her,” Liang noted. “The love triangle of it all. We love to see it. The action is immediate, we get right down to business. So I hope that they’re kind of taken aback by it, and intrigued.”

Kung Fu premieres tonight at 8/7c on The CW. Check back right after the episode for our full Q&A with Liang.

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