Lewis Tan on DEADPOOL 2's Shatterstar and INTO THE BADLANDS

It's a good week for Lewis Tan. On Sunday May 13 2018, he made his debut on AMC's martial-arts-driven original series INTO THE BADLANDS as the brutally lethal swordsman Gaius Chau. On Friday May 18, he appears in the next Marvel blockbuster DEADPOOL 2. Gaius Chau is unleashed by his sister, the notorious villainess Baron Chau, in Season 3, Episode 4: Blind Cannibal Assassins. However INTO THE BADLANDS is an original show, not based on any previous tale or comic, so we don't know much about Gaius except that he's a top-notch fighter in the Badlands; That's saying a lot given the martial nature of that show. Shatterstar stands out amongst the legion of colorful Marvel comic characters and a welcome introduction as another sword-wielding hero.

DEADPOOL 2 assembles Marvel's newest cinematic superhero team, X-Force. The initial 2016 DEADPOOL was Marvel's venture in R-rated films, a box office blockbuster that broke the record for highest grossing R-rated film, earning two Golden Globe nominations and two Critics' Choice wins. DEADPOOL 2 is directed by David Leitch, the stuntman-turned-director behind ATOMIC BLONDE (2017) and action scenes in JOHN WICK (2014). Under Leitch's hand, the fight choreography is sanguineous, gratuitous and tight. But beware. The Merc with a mouth is a prankster, so DEADPOOL 2 goes some unexpected places, and given the MCU's recent penchant for killing off characters as seen in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR the month before, well, we don't want to spoil anything but expect the unexpected with X-Force.

Lewis' role as Shatterstar is well cast. Lewis is a lifelong martial artist and Shatterstar is a genetically-engineered warrior from the planet Mojoworld. To appreciate a character like Shatterstar, consider the excesses of comics publishing in the 90's. At that time, the most valuable Marvel property was its growing collection of X-men titles and their superstar artists. Those titles included The Uncanny X-Men and two spin-offs, X-Factor and The New Mutants, wherein both Deadpool and DEADPOOL 2's villain Cable first appeared.

This was a time when the typical superhero was replaced with cooler edgier versions wielding swords, guns and festooned in pouches. Cognisant of the growing market for the original art, these comics quickly jettisoned storytelling and anatomical accuracy (such as it was) in the service of display-worthy comic pages which could be sold by the artists and then resold by dealers and collectors engaged in a quickly growing speculator's market. In this economy, the first appearance of a cool new character could skyrocket the resale value of a given comic issue. Today, the asking price for a pristine copy of The New Mutants #98 (Feb. 1991) is about $750; this is the issue where Deadpool first appeared as a spoof the DC Comics villain Deathstroke, last seen in the post-credits sequence of JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017).

Shatterstar also premiered in the pages of The New Mutants issue #99 (March 1991), merely a month after Deadpool. With most of these creations characterization, a consistently designed costume, or the logic behind their choice of weapon, were minimal considerations when compared to the primacy of "cool." For Shatterstar, this included billowing sleeves, a sparring gear head protector, a ginger ponytail of indeterminate length and a pair of double katanas vaguely reminiscent of tuning forks.

Lewis Tan as Shatterstar

Now, thanks to DEADPOOL 2 and Lewis Tan, all of the fabulous Mojo magic of Shatterstar is recreated with marvelous accuracy for the big screen. We caught up to Lewis Tan while he was on promotional tour for DEADPOOL 2.

GC: Your character Gaius Chau debuts in Season 3: Episode 4 INTO THE BADLANDS in the same week that DEADPOOL 2 comes out where you play Shatterstar. How does that feel?

LT: I just finished the premiere in New York and it was absolute madness. The best fans in the world, Such a fun event. It was a surreal experience. Timing is an important thing in this industry. I have learned when you follow your heart and work hard, the timing aligns and these sort of things manifest. It is basically a years worth of work on those two projects both being released in the same week. It is a feeling I can't describe. I am just grateful and proud of the work.

GC: Tell us about your movie and martial arts background.

LT: I grew up on film sets watching my dad, Philip Tan. He was a huge inspiration to me. He worked with Spielberg, Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan, Jackie Chan, Ron Howard, Peter Sellers, the list goes on. Coming from a martial art background, my father did action choreo to stunts to directing to acting with Kurt Russell and Mel Gibson. This led me at a young age to an obsession with cinema and a love and deep respect for the greats that came before my time.

My martial arts background is deep rooted. My father won the national title in Taekwondo at a young age in England and trained under Master Sken and Benny the Jet. He also fought in professional Muay Thai for many years. I was learning from my father and these masters since I was a child. I began competing in kickboxing tournaments under my sensei Mark Para and Petey Cunningham, coming away with no losses only one draw. I also trained Jujitsu and Judo. Once my career began as an actor, I trained with many different masters depending on the film or show to learn a specific style. My Katana sword coach is 7-Time World Champion Caitlin Dechelle, who I have been training with for a few years. I will forever continue to train for the screen and for myself. 

Also, a shout out to my late sensei, Grandmaster Bill Ryusaki. He passed away last year and was a Hall of Fame martial artist.

GC: There was some buzz about you being cast as IRON FIST, and then the Netflix series was a disappointment for most martial arts fans. Nevertheless, you went on to deliver the best fight scene of the entire first season that show.  How do you feel about that now?

LT: IRON FIST was a challenging job. I have trained very little Kung Fu not to mention learning arguably the hardest style, Drunken Fist. I am 6'2, 180 lbs, and having seen and loved DRUNKEN MASTER (1978), it was very intimidating for my size. The Hitz Stunt team were whooping my ass straight off the plane from an overnight flight from LA with 3 hours of sleep. After getting a grip on the movement, rhythm and choreo, I began to add the soul of Zhou Cheng into it, using the dragon that is deep within him, the intoxication from the liquor, the foreign accent. I did my best to make big choices with the character because he is such a powerful foe in the comic books. I was grateful when so many fans claimed it was their favorite moment in the series. 

GC: Were you a comics nerd? 

LT: Yes, I love comics and manga. Its similar to storyboards of a film. I enjoy the process of imagination when you are reading and looking at the artwork, especially now days when everything is on a phone or tablet. It is nice to hold something in your hand, feel the paper. Sounds weird but it is special. 

Lewis Tan as Shatterstar

GC: Shatterstar is famous for preposterous comic book swords and those are teased in the trailer. What was it like to wield those?

LT: It was a dream. He is like a samurai from the future, ninja alien gladiator. I love it. The swords were designed really well and were sturdy but light. The hard part was the knuckle guards. It didn't allow for much room to flair or flower the swords, so I was a little limited there but when you have four blades you can still do some serious damage with basic cuts.

GC: Shatterstar also had the first gay kiss in Marvel comics although his character is supposed to be asexual. How did that play out for you?

LT: I think it is great to be playing a character that has no concept of labels, orientations, biases, He was engineered for war and killing so it is cool that he has all different experiences when it comes to his emotions. It's a perfect time for a character like this in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

GC: Marvel had some issues with whitewashing with Ben Kingsley playing the Mandarin in IRON MAN 3, and Tilda Swinton playing the Ancient One in DR. STRANGE. Now Shatterstar is going the other direction because in the comics, although being an alien, he was portrayed as a redhead. What do you think about that? 

LT: If he was genetically engineered to be the perfect warrior, I am sure he would have genes from Asia where martial arts was established, probably genes from all over. Myself being of mixed ethnicity, I think it is really cool to be able to bring that to life and add some color to the mix. I think the red/orange hair is iconic and Shatterstar had different hair styles throughout the comics. 

GC: What’s next for Lewis Tan?

LT: Hopefully more of Shatterstar in the X-Force film, but for now check out INTO THE BADLANDS on AMC every Sunday night at 10pm for more insane action, this time with a basic single blade Katana.

Lewis Tan appearing in Into The Badlands

Louis Tan as Gaius Chau in INTO THE BADLANDS


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About Gene Ching and Patrick Lugo :
Find us on facebook Gene Ching is the Publisher of Kung Fu Tai Chi and the author of Shaolin Trips. Patrick Lugo is Senior Designer at Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine and illustrated the award winning Little Monk & the Mantis. More of his artwork and comics can be found at PLUGOarts.com.

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