Reality TV is an unusual breeding ground for the next action hero, but all those squabbles with her Real World housemates must have toughened Jamie Chung up for roles in Samurai Girl and now Dragonball Evolution. Just try leaving dishes in the sink now, and don't even let those Road Rules chumps get in her way.
In Dragonball, Chung plays Chi Chi, who in the original manga becomes Goku's wife after fighting him in a martial-arts tournament. In the film, an origin story, they are high-school classmates. Chi Chi encounters Goku (Justin Chatwin) and Bulma (Emmy Rossum) as their quest for the Dragonballs weaves in and out of the competitive martial-arts world in which she is fighting. At one point, a villainess morphs into an evil Chi Chi, requiring good Chi Chi to fight her own double.
Jamie Chung spoke exclusively with SCI FI Wire at the film's Los Angeles press junket last week in Beverly Hills, Calif. The following Q&A features edited excerpts of that interview. Dragonball Evolution opens Friday.
With all your training, can you fight for real now?
Chung: Heh-heh. No, I wouldn't say so. My kicks are better, but I'm sure if I ever got in a brawl I would probably lose.
What aspects of the R-rated Chi Chi from the manga might have been fun to play?
Chung: I think it would've been fun to be a bit more feisty, more comical, like the cartoon. It would have been fun to go on with the rest of the crew for the adventure, to actually go and find the seven Dragonballs instead of running into them every now and then throughout the movie. But the R-rated Chi Chi, I don't know. Now that it's PG, I can't even see her as really R-rated.
Can you walk us through the fight with your double?
Chung: Oh, man, so every actor has a stunt double. [We] only use the stunt double if it was absolutely necessary. With this fight, since I'm fighting myself, it was absolutely necessary to fight with the stunt double. So we would shoot the fight sequences.
The first one-third portion of the fight, I would play it as the good Chi Chi. Then we'd stop, reset, change up the shots, and then I would do it as the evil Chi Chi. This was for the entire fight sequence. There are three parts in the fight sequence where you see both Chi Chis in frame, very clear visuals of the face. What they did was CGI body replacement. So this was a very technical, meticulous process, and it took three days to film. So wherever my stunt double on film landed, I would have to mimic.
So what they did was they did a CGI body replacement so then you'd see two Chi Chis instead of a Chi Chi and a stunt-double Chi Chi. It was hard. Then, at some point, I had to pretend to be kicked by the good Chi Chi. I've already played the good Chi Chi, so I'm the bad Chi Chi, and I have to fall back and pretend to be kicked and hurt. How can you do that when no one's really kicking you? It was challenging. ...
This film opened in Asia first. How was that experience?
Chung: It was awesome. Fox brought us to an Asian press tour, which took us to Bangkok, Taipei, Korea and then to Tokyo for the premiere. These are all places that I would love to go, but just being fresh out of college pursuing an acting career, would not be financially feasible. It was an honor that they asked me to come and that they felt I was important to the film and would love to represent them. It was cool.
Did they go wild for a live-action Dragonball?
Chung: You know, they did. It was much bigger than the press conference here. It's just a completely different following, different fan base. These are die-hard, die-hard fans. It was crazy. At the Tokyo premiere, people came in their orange gis. In orange gis, in Piccolo outfits, the whole shebang. It was crazy. It was really cool.
After coming from reality TV, how is the movie career going?
Chung: It's been really awesome. Last year I shot back to back. I went from a pilot on a small cable show to Dragonball to picking up five episodes and filming five episodes in Vancouver to going to Puerto Rico for a month to do a Disney movie of the week to Pittsburgh filming Sorority Row and then to Baton Rouge filming Burning Palms.
It was project after project after project, and I felt myself grow as an actor. It was an amazing journey. Things have kind of slowed down this year, and it's a whole different part of the job, which is promoting and talking about the movie. So it's been such a great learning experience, especially for a person who came from reality. God forbid, it's something that I did in college, and it was fun and I didn't think anything of it, nor did I think that it would have any kind of effect on my career. As far as that goes, it made things much more challenging.