Ng Chin Han, usually credited as just Chin Han, is a Singaporean actor of stage, film, and television whose career has spanned more than 20 years. He gained widespread acclaim while starring in Masters of the Sea, Singapore television's first foray into English-language drama. Chin Han broke into the Hollywood movie industry in recent years with 3 Needles. He also appeared in The Dark Knight as Lau, and in Roland Emmerich's 2009 film 2012 as Tenzin. Chin Han appeared in the film Restless as Dr. Lee in 2011, followed by a turn in Steven Soderbergh's movie Contagion as epidemiologist Sun Feng. In 2012 he guest starred in the Fringe episode "Making Angels" as Neil, and later played Chinese envoy Zheng Min in the final four episodes of ABC's Last Resort.
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I am Chin Han - I am an actor, director and bathroom singer. You might know me from such indie favorites as The Dark Knight and most recently Netflix's Marco Polo. Also feel-good movies about the end of the world like Contagion and 2012. I sometimes pop into TV shows like Arrow and The Blacklist. Rest of the time I just enjoy sushi and finger painting.
Watch the trailer for Marco Polo Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hB-ltNasHVw
Keep in touch with me around the web:
Victoria's assisting me via phone today. AMA!
Update Thank you so much, I have had such a great time chatting with you guys. Thank you for being so gentle. It is the most fun a guy can have with his robe on. And I'll definitely be back again!
Do you find yourself referring to white people as "latins" outside of filming?
No, but I do call them "round-eyes" on occasion.
I love the series Marco Polo and I think you did an awesome job of playing the bad guy that people want to like.
Will we see you in future episodes? Perhaps in flash back scenes?
Thank you for helping to create the amazing world of Marco Polo!
Thank you for loving the character! I can't say at this moment if he will reappear, but I always kid with the producers that Jia Sidao might have another brother (who is less talented and loves to do musical theater).
Who wins in a fight between you and Mei Lin? Weapons allowed.
Also, great job on this character. I hated Sidao so much throughout this season. All I wanted was for Hundred Eyes, or Mei Lin to kill him, then after the little King hugged him, I didn't want him to die. Even when the time was near, i was hoping they would keep you for a prisoner. You were TOO GOOD at playing this character, and I will always be amazed at this incredible performance.
Oh, weapons allowed, haha?
I don't fight with women, but we could have a cook-off. And I would win!
Wow. Thank you for enjoying the performance. It was one of the most fulfilling characters to play.
the scene where you killed your top fighter was crazy good -- what was it like working around all the extras? How long did it take to film that sequence?
It took us two days to film that sequence. And the weather was very hot, above 100 degrees. So it took two days, in scorching weather, above 100 degrees, the extras were good sports - BUT we had a few of them collapse from the heat in the course of filming while I was delivering my monologue. It was filmed in Malaysia.
I would hear the occasional "thud" from time to time from extras falling.
When I see your face, I get angry. Is that a compliment? Don't you ever want to be a good guy?
But I am the good guy! We are all heroes in our own movies!
Hi Chin Han! I loved your performance as Jia Sidao in Marco Polo!
I have two questions for you:
What was your favorite scene to film for the series?
What does it feel like knowing you could best Hundred Eyes?
I have quite a few favorite scenes, but I really enjoyed going toe-to-toe with Benedict Wong as Kublai Khan.
Well, it felt good to know that! But it sure came at a price. Arnica (the cream) and cold soaks in a bathtub at the end of the day became my favorite things. Tom and I were so banged up at the end of each fight that we would sit there, between takes, going "I'm too old for this!"
I have watched Marco Polo when it first came out, and I have been trying to get my dad to watch it. What would you say in order to make my dad give it a shot?
Tell your dad that it's full of wrestling women and no commercials.
Did you really get to work with those insects?
Yes. People always ask me that question, and wonder whether it's CGI, but truth of the matter is, we worked with the real insects, and had quite a few different ones with different personalities to use for different scenes. We had insect trainers and mantis wranglers - it's true! Mantis live for the span of a year.
Hi Chin Han - Your character was really intense.... how was it filming the scene where you were breaking the girls feet? Did the young actress know what was happening or did you tell her after?
So we rehearsed the scene extensively, and the young actress had her mother on-set, who was explaining the scene to her, and we were very careful to work with a combination of prosthetics, and her real feet, so that we could do it safely. We talked through it before we shot it.
Hey Chin! Big fan of MP! What is your favorite memory on set from the first season? And how long did it take you to perfect your mantis style kung fu for the show?
It took me 5 months of training, no less than 300 hours with the stunt team, working 5 days a week, to perfect the form of fighting. My favorite memory would be seeing Lorenzo streaking around the backlot after his final scene in the entire series! He was just so relieved with finishing the shoot!
Favorite part about filming Marco Polo?
It was like being at a martial arts summer camp. And the relationships that were forged with the other actors and the stunt team - it was something that I really enjoyed.
I am glad you are not here plugging something like most who come to do AMAs. I love The Dark Knight and Marco Polo such good shows, I have not met anybody yet who has seen either and not been a fan.
How did you feel upon hearing of heath ledgers death?
It was very sudden. It was very sudden, and very sad. I remember shooting our final scene in the movie, where I was on a big pile of money, and he had left his email with me to contact if I ever was in New York. So I was looking forward to getting to know him better. Such a loss of a great talent, and one can only wonder what amazing work he would have done.
Do you ever feel like the audience mistakes you personally for your character, and if so, how does that make you feel? You have such a presence on screen!
As long as my mom doesn't mistake me for someone else, I'm fine with it!
It does make dating women with a fear of foot massages harder, though.
That kid was cute beyond belief. Why did he follow you around?
He was always trying to share his Cocoa Puffs with me? He had a little box of snacks he would carry.
In fact, as a goodbye gift, he drew me a picture of a T-Rex.
what is food like on set? which productions have best grub? what's the weirdest thing you've seen fellow actor eat? what's most useful directing tip you've picked up from other directors?
Wow, that's a lot of questions.
Well, let's see - it's different with every production. For example, on 2012, I remember it having lobster on the final day of shooting. And with ARROW, because everyone was watching their figures, and needed to be physically fit, we had some kind of cereal, which I forgot? I can't believe it's Yogurt, or something? It had a rude name, I can't remember what it was. But we had healthy food, basically. A lot of cereal and health foods.
Some kind of green smoothie that I don't even want to think about, at the moment?
The most interesting directing tip? The best directors are the ones who are very clear about what they want, so if they get it on the first take, that's all the takes you're going to do.
I loved your character in Marco Polo. Did you have previous martial arts training, and did you have to do special training for the fight scenes? Also, who is your favorite character from the show other than Jia Sidao?
Thanks for doing this AMA!
I learned Tai Chi as a child from my dad, and received dance training as an actor later, and all that helped in the martial arts choreography for the show.
We had to train with a special kung fu master from China for 5 months straight, because the Praying Mantis form of fighting is not used very much now.
Besides my own character? I'd have to say... the boy Emperor, because he would follow me everywhere I went, the little actor.
Can you talk a little about your work on The Blacklist? How was filming? What about working with James Spader? I know you only did a episode and it was like the third episode of the show but you still my favorite Blacklister, I love Wujing! And I love Sidao too, he's also my favorite on Marco Polo. I guess you're a good villain lol Thanks for your attention and keep up the amazing work!
Well, thank you for liking Wujing! He is one of my favorite characters too. James Spader is a force of nature on-set. He is so prepared, and so curious a personality, that you never know when he is going to zig or zag, and it surely kept me on my toes! It was really fun. And I got to enjoy New York City while filming. It was an opportunity for me to check out what the fuss was all about with the Cronut.
You were infuriatingly evil in Marco Polo! Amazing job. Is it more difficult to be a dangerous character like that when you are working with child actors?
Yes, you want to create as safe an environment as possible for them to be able to fully express themselves as well. When it comes to child actors, it is important to establish a rapport with them and their parents off-set as well.
Big fan of Marco Polo! What role do you think you will be best remembered as playing? To me, you'll always be Lau from The Dark Knight :)
That movie certainly has fans. And hopefully it will be the last role I played? But I do have a fondness for Lau, because he's good with calculation, and it's about tax time now.
Who are your favorite characters from cinema?
I liked Gary Oldman's character in THE PROFESSIONAL, Michael Corleone from THE GODFATHER, and just because - Mr. T from Rocky III.
I know, I mean, everything else was so serious!
As an asian actor on a western show do you feel an extra burden upon you when you play a character? By that I mean you are often asked to portray an specific ethnicty that you resemble but may not be your own, to western audiences. Do you feel that you must act as somewhat of an ambassador to that culture, be it in your personal performance or how the character is portrayed?
I think it is important for me to bring my own experiences as an Asian person to my interpretation of the characters - if I find a role that is not consistent, with my own life experiences, then I will not take on such a role.
Hi Chin!- huge fan- in regards to learning about your character, did you do any extensive research to further your understanding and further perfect the prorated villain that is Jia Sidao?
Yes, John Fusco (who is the creator of the show) would be a treasure trove of information, and library for us actors. He would send us articles and historical books on the characters we were playing for research. Some of the books, like Jia Sidao's encyclopedia on crickets, are a little harder to find (he was a real person!) but are worth a read.
Loved your performance as Jia Sidao, definitely one of my favourite TV antagonists.
We hear a lot about working on Marvel movies from the main stars but not so much from supporting cast. What was it like working in The Winter Soldier along with Robert Redford?
Also, the look on your face when Tom Wu dropped into the Mantis Stance may have been the moment in TV of 2014.
Robert Redford - it is something else to be working with a legend. He has such a presence that when he walks on-set, he literally glows. But that might be his backlighting...
But it was such a pleasure to watch him do so much with an unexpected role.
It was long days on set, though, shooting the 3-D holograms in the scene, because we had to be shot from every conceivable angle.
What is your favourite type of pie?
As a fan of the old TWIN PEAKS series, I must say I do have a weakness for cherry pies.
Marco Polo has got both criticism and praise for their use of a representative cast of the characters, and not including too many forced Caucasian characters to play the main parts. Did any of this influence your decision to play Jia Sidao, or how you portrayed him?
No, I based my character mainly off of the history books. It certainly is a different take on that historical period of time, told from a perspective that is not usually seen from, where the Asian characters are central to the action of the story, so that made it fresh and fun.
What is the best thing a director can do for you on set?
He could give me a back rub!
But they almost never do.
What is your next film project ?
I am currently looking at a period romance...but that's all I can say about it at the moment. As much as I like the man-bun, this will be a different look for me.
Hi Chin Han. Big fan of your work. You always seem to play either villains or guys who eventually become villains. Why do you gravitate to these roles so much? Or is this some sort of a reflection on Hollywood's current stereotype of Asian actors?
I don't see these characters, particularly Jia Sidao, as villains, actually.
He is just looking to save his dynasty. Much like the character in Steven Soderbergh's CONTAGION, who is just trying to get vaccines for his village by kidnapping Marion Cotillard.
I am drawn to conflicts and complexities in characters. Whether they are of a particular ethnicity is not that interesting to me.
Hi Chin Han!
Did anyone suffer any injuries while filming?
Big fan of the show by the way.
The questions should be: Did anyone NOT get injured while filming?
Everyone - EVERYONE - got injured. I had taken pictures of all my bruises in the hopes of posting them someday, but have thought twice about it since for fear of people losing their appetites, I think.
There were people who hurt themselves with bows and arrows and stuff, they got all banged up everywhere.
But I felt like an old car that was breaking down, at times. We would fix my knees, and then my hip would go, and then we would fix my hips, and then my shoulders would go wonky, so it was a constant battle of maintenance.
More of anti-hero characters, rather than villains, perhaps?
Well, there's some truth in that. I will have to look into that with my therapist.
What is your favorite tea?
I do enjoy peppermint tea. I have it here!
But I like my ginseng tea.
Hi Chin! Random question: what was the last thing you licked?
An envelope containing a Valentine's Day card.
How did you get into acting? Are there any other actors that you look up to? I really enjoyed your character in Marco Polo, I think you would make a great good guy too!
Wow, that's cool. Thank you!
I started in the theater as a teenager, doing classics from Shakespeare and Moliere, and working for very small amounts of pay, I think! I remember my first check was for $500 for 3 months of work. But I loved every minute of it. And then, you know, I decided to direct more, before Chris Nolan brought me out of semiretirement as an actor for THE DARK KNIGHT.
And the rest is history!
Since you're a bathroom singer, what's the song you enjoy singing the most while there? And what's your favorite song ever?
Favorite song ever, haha?
That's hard. What do I sing in the bathroom?
"My heart will go on."
And my favorite song ever is... let's see... Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World."
Hi Can I ask: What was it like working with Christopher Nolan? what was he like as a director? on set? off set?
He is a man with a vision, and the courage to realize whatever he sets out to do.
So he is very clear, and precise with his directions. And that is always great for an actor.
Off-set, he is actually quite warm. And I love seeing him with his family, and kids.
What's your favorite kind of sushi and what's your preferred finger paint?
I like albacore. And toro. I like to paint with oils.
And sometimes even with massage oils!
Hi Chin! What was your favorite moment playing the Chancellor?
So we filmed the series in sequence, and by the time we got to the last fight scene, it was effectively one of the last few days of shooting for the entire series. And it was my way of saying goodbye to a cast & crew who I spent the last 5 months with, so that last scene was emotional for me.
Your favorite 90s music video?
80's I would know...what is that song the Spice Girls sang? What do you wanna do?
"Wannabe" by the Spice Girls.
Was your character in The Dark Knight a subtle nod to an existing character from the comics, or was the performance all your own?
I created the character from scratch, but it was definitely informed by a host of characters from the Frank Miller graphic novels.
are you a chocolate or vanilla guy?
I am a dark chocolate guy.
How was the brazilian Comic Con? Did you like it? Did you have the opportunity of visiting some places in Brazil?
Yes, I loved going to Comic-Con in Sao Paolo. And one of the highlights of the trip was taking a helicopter from our hotel to the convention center - I felt like a rockstar! And having a stunning bird's eye view of the city.
Where are you going to play in next as an actor? Do you like acting in movies/series with asian history/culture?
I do, I actually acted in a movie with Michelle Yeoh not too long ago about a family of Chinese chefs and I got to learn a great deal about Asian cuisine and street cooking. The movie is called "Final Recipe" and I loved the experience.
Would you characterize yourself as a jobbing actor? What does that mean anyway? Do you strive for a higher level of fame/recognition?
The only thing I strive for is to be in the company of good directors, screenwriters, and co-stars, because they elevate my level of work. If that means "jobbing," then that is what it is.
What was it like to work with Christopher Nolan, is he as bad ass as the movies he makes?
BTW THANX FOR THIS AMA!
Yes, he is as badass as you would think he might be. He is the Hundred Eyes of Cinema.