James Chen Talks AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ and More

Photo Credit: Ryan West

ATM: How would you envision your Iron Fist character to be the vigilante superhero ‘Blindspot’ if picked up on Disney’s new app?

JC: Absolutely, we hope the show —these characters and their stories — can continue on in another sphere. Blindspot is not only one of the few but also one of the most compelling, relatable and exciting Asian-American superheroes we have now. An illegal immigrant who uses his resourcefulness and ingenuity and hard work to focus his natural abilities towards doing good. An awesome combination of brain and fighting prowess. I admire many things about him, including his overcoming of adversity as an immigrant but (at least as the comics go) when misfortune befalls him via The Hand, how he rises from the ashes so to speak. And he also just looks bad ass.  So yes,in a nutshell I, and I know a score of excited fans across the internet, would be thrilled to have the Blindspot vigilante more fully fleshed out. I’d love to build upon what we started at Netflix. The time is SO right for this and I’ve been keeping ready with my training! 

ATM:What moments in CBS’s FBI are a part of your progression and journey in this series?

JC: I play Ian Lim, who works in tandem with the many departments at The Bureau including their field agents andother special agents in charge. Ian works with CART (the Computer Analysis and Response Team) which specializes in the use of computer and electronics for evidence analysis, or as we saw earlier this season in episode 106 “Family Man”for surveillance and diagnostics of a crime scene. Ian is a genius, completely confident in himself and his ability, and oh so deliciously dry. The most fun part about being on the show is the #FBIFam.  All the cast and crew who work on the show are just wonderful human beings, excellent at what they do,and we really enjoy being around each other. Growing up with L&O: SVU being one of my favorite shows growing up, it’s also just incredibly exciting to be part of another Dick Wolf franchise.  

ATM: What is the true experience to work on The Walking Dead set with characters who are embodying what life and death looks likes?

JC: Pretty surreal.  You know when the cameras aren’t rolling, they’re just like you or me, hanging out,talking… except they have full on zombie attire and prosthetics all over their bodies and face.  So, it feels like some strange Geico commercial where two zombies are just casually strolling along and chatting with each other about what’s for lunch… as in tacos or fish or what not… not people. Once a friend who was in full zombie makeup came up to me super friendly with a hug and said hi, and it was terrifying because it’s simply impossible to know who they are plus that disconnect between what they look like on the outside and the very human actors underneath.  

ATM: What does The Walking Dead symbolize about humanity and what life could mean?

JC: Great question!  Well, a lot. During the first season or so I was struck by how the absence of technology and the shutting down of the world, being left with these zombie walkers… was a statement on what technology was doing to us… turning us into inhuman creatures who merely walked the Earth, with only one purpose – to consume.  And that we have to fight against being infected by that and reconnect with each other, trusting and helping one another, in order to find our own humanity again. 

There have been so many powerful moments and journeys over the past 9 years, but another theme I feel strongly is that even in the absolute worst of situations imaginable, there’s always hope.  

ATM: How does the Hilltop clan bring in creativity, loyalty, and cleverness?

JC: The Hilltop is quite self-sufficient… by design I suppose as it was formerly a functional historical re-enactment living museum.  It was a natural home base for when the Apocalypse hit.  We grow our own food, mill our own wood, have our own livestock, shoe our own horses and blacksmith our own weapons.  It’s a very busy village, with the steadfastness of a diligent farm community. It was that ingenuity that led the Hilltop to fortify with telephone poles from a nearby utility company back in the early days of the Apocalypse, which gives it it’s distinct look and strategic value. Everyone at Hilltop works day in and day out, it creates that much more of a tight-knit community and loyalty comes from that shared work ethic identity

ATM: How do you approach auditions? Do you have a certain process or method?

JC: Every audition is different, and even though you may approach each one differently, there are still certain things that you want to go over. I try to find the basic fundamentals of what the story of the scene is and the relationship between the people in the scene. Usually running lines with a friend is invaluable as you learn so much about what’s really going on in a scene. I spend a good amount of time just trying to nail down the lines, because until I do that, I really don’t feel free to explore the material in more interesting creative ways.

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