Of all of the diverse characters in Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious 6, none have quite as complicated a backstory as Sung Kang’s Han Lue. Although his first franchise appearance is in 2006′s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Lin made the character a continuation of the one Kang played in his 2002 crime drama Better Luck Tomorrow. What’s more, Han was killed in Tokyo Drift and the subsequent Fast & Furious films have all been set up as subtle prequels, meaning that each entry has been bringing the character closer and closer to his death.
ComingSoon.net spoke with Kang about his five-film arc as Han, working with Lin for over a decade and his upcoming television series “Gang Related.” Kang also offers a pretty fantastic pitch for his dream role as a certain Caped Crusader and tells us whether or not Han has finally seen his last adventure. Beware of some minor spoilers!
CS: One of the coolest things to me about your role in this franchise is that it’s not just your fourth “Fast & Furious” film, it’s your fifth time playing Han. We’ve also known his fate since “Tokyo Drift.” How does it feel to finally have him meet his fate?
Sung Kang: Yeah, I’m grateful that I was able to play him as I became a little older and give him a proper sendoff. When I did “Tokyo Drift,” a lot of the philosophy that Han lived by I have actually gone through in my own life. As I got older, I realized that I really believe in those philosophies, like the importance of family. I’m happy that I get to wrap it up this way. It’s a pretty cool farewell for a character.
CS: You’ve also worked with Justin Lin on every one of those five films. How has your working relationship with him developed throughout the franchise?
Kang: It’s a privilege to have a relationship that has lasted long enough that we’ve developed a shorthand. We’ll both come to set and there’s not much to discuss. We can just start rolling film. The process is a lot quicker and easier. We’re able to be much more fluid. He can just give me a nod and I know that it’s gonna be good.
CS: One of the interesting aspects about the “Fast & Furious” franchise is that the characters seem to mature a bit. They’re not just action heroes.
Kang: Absolutely. It’s really a privilege to get to do that. Whenever you want maturity, you need to develop a mature relationship behind the camera, too. Being able to grow together with all the actors has been really cool.
CS: How are your driving skills now compared to at the start of the series?
Kang: I’ve actually started to drive slower. I never want to see a news headline that reads, “The Chinese Guy from ‘Fast & Furious’ Pulled Over for a Speeding Ticket”. (laughs) I can already see it, so every time I start going crazy, I pull it back.
CS: What’s the next step for you career-wise?
Kang: I actually just shot a TV pilot, so I’m really looking forward to getting it to TV. TV has become so good. It’s been a while now that really good TV is on cable, but now even the networks are really taking some chances. I recently finished a pilot with the writer of the “Fast & Furious” movies, Chris Morgan. It’s for Fox and it’s called “Gang Related.” We find out tomorrow if we get picked up or not. [Editor's note: "Gang Related" has since been picked up for the network's 2013-2014 season] I’ve been really looking forward to the next chapter of my life. I can hold down at home for a few years, hopefully, and start a family. I’ve been such a transient. As I get older, there’s less glamour involved with being on location.
CS: What’s your role in “Gang Related”?
Kang: It’s about a gang task force that is headed by Terry O’Quinn from “LOST.” He’s our captain and we’re trying to take down the big cartels that sell crystal meth. He pretty much creates this task force from cops that are instructed to not only go after the bad guys but after their families. Then there’s the lead, Ramon Rodriguez. Remember the Matt Damon in “The Departed”? He was adopted into the family by Jack Nicholson. It has that story element to it. It’s such a great cast. We have a mini-Gisele, actually! An actress named Inbar [Lavi]. She’s a little shorter and with bigger boobs, but just like Gisele.
CS: So you yourself aren’t haunted by one day having to go to Tokyo and die?
Kang: (laughs) If I could just visit with my family, that’s one thing.
CS: How has the embrace of “Fast & Furious” fans been? Do people come up to you on the street and know you as Han?
Kang: Yeah, they do. It’s been so great. Prior to “Tokyo Drift,” the iconic perception of Asians in Hollywood films has been either the Kung Fu guy, the Yakuza guy or some technical genius. It used to be such a joke, to be laughed at rather than with. I’ve gotten to travel and meet people all over the world who embrace Han. He’s the kind of guy that I would like to emulate in terms of his values. He’s just a guy you want to hang out with. The Asian thing totally disappears. When I started acting, I hoped I could make some kind of positive contribution to this world. When I get a letter from some kid in Nebraska saying that, prior to Han, nobody wanted to be his friend because Asians weren’t cool if they weren’t into martial arts — Now he’s accepted and recognized as a human being. That’s pretty awesome, right? That’s pretty awesome.
CS: Now that there are such defined characters in this franchise, has the mood changed much on-set? Is there more room for improvisation?
Kang: There are certain actors, like Tyrese, who have the personality that really lets them completely jump into that world. Some actors have different techniques. The general tone of it, though, comes from a real kinship. It starts at the top. Justin always protects the actors at the end of the day. Without him, these gigantic personalities would come in and I don’t think it would be as smooth a production. I mean, I’m sure you would still get through, but everyone might not be as happy about it. He really makes everyone feel safe. He’s smart about real estate. If you’re a character who’s on screen for even a second, there’s a reason why you’re there. There’s no one who’s just an extra or background or there for diversity’s sake.
CS: When you look back on the franchise, what’s something for which you think, “I can’t believe we tried that and I can’t believe we pulled it off”?
Kang: You know, that whole tank scene. Justin pulled me into his office one day and talking about how it was going to work. I was saying, “I don’t know if that’s going to look as good as you think it is.” It’s pretty amazing and that’s not even the “big” action scene. The airplane sequence is the whole third act. Justin talks about how he has a treasure chest of “Fast & Furious” ideas, so it’s unfortunate that he’s not coming back for the seventh one, but he does have a lot of tricks up his sleeves.
CS: Do you think you might follow him to other projects like “L.A. Riots”?
Kang: I don’t know. We haven’t really talked about that. He did tell me that he was in development with that. If there’s a role that’s there and I’m the best actor for it, it would be great. But we haven’t had a discussion. All I know is that he’s working on it.
CS: Is there a certain kind of role that’s a dream role for you?
Kang: Batman! (laughs) I mean, that character could be Asian, right? Why not? Bruce Wong. Yeah! His father became a billionaire because he invented the fortune cookie.
CS: So is this definitely the end for Han?
Kang: You know, I think it should be the end of Han. As an actor, I get the business side of it. I hope I don’t have to make that decision.
CS: Maybe he’s got an identical twin out there somewhere?
Kang: Maybe, but I will not be in that movie. (laughs) They’re going to have to find someone else. You know what they say: We all look alike. They could cast another guy and put on a wig.
Fast & Furious 6 is in theaters now.