“She speaks English.”
The line that ended last week’s episode of The CW’s DC Comics Green Arrow adaptation “Arrow” was both a laugh line for star Stephen Amell and also an invitation. The “she” referred to is Shado — the mysterious captive of the island where Amell’s Oliver Queen flashes back to over the course of the series. Shado is the daughter of one of the island’s other fighting archers, Yao Fei, and in that respect, the character has a few things in common with the actress playing her: Celina Jade.
Already known amongst Hong Kong kung fu film aficionados, Jade is the daughter of action film veteran Roy Horan. And now that she’s making her American debut on “Arrow,” the actress, singer and martial artist is bringing a number of her onscreen talents to a character comic fans know will be both a blessing and a curse for Oliver Queen’s superhero career.
CBR News spoke with Jade about her turn as Shado in advance of tonight’s episode, “Unfinished Business,” and below, the actress explains how she’s shifting focus from Hong Kong cinema to American film, why she won’t be doing everything that the Shado of the comics has done and what strange coincidences the part has brought her in terms of her father’s career.
CBR News: Celina, with Shado you’re playing a character a lot of longtime comic book fans of “Green Arrow” know well, but I was wondering how much background you had on the character coming in?
Celina Jade: Well, for a little of my background, I’ve actually been living in Hong Kong. I’ve been acting there since 2007, and my first movie was a kung fu film called “Legendary Assassin.” I’ve been doing martial arts since I was a little kid. My father’s name was Roy Horan, and he was like the token bad white guy in all the Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee films from the ’70s. It’s actually funny. My father never had a son, so he taught my sister and I how to fight from a really young age. God knows what happened, but somehow I’ve followed in his footsteps, and I’ve been doing Asian films for a while. I recently changed managers, and he brought me into American films.
When I auditioned for this part, all I knew was that it was a general audition. I looked at Shado’s character and got super-psyched to play her. I knew that I had the martial arts skill set to play her, basically. From there, everything happened super-fast. I auditioned, and then the casting director called to say they liked me, but I needed producer and network approval. Then the producers were like, “We love it,” and the network was like, “We love it,” and they flew me to Vancouver two days later. [Laughs] It all went really fast, and what I first had to work with was what I’d read of her DC Comics character online – which is obviously different from how she plays on “Arrow” – and the few sides I was given to audition with.
I read an interview where you said you read up on a lot of comics once you started on set. In your reading, did you find anything where you said, “I really hope I get to do this part,” or conversely, anything that you really don’t want to bring over from the comics?
[Laughs] Okay. Yeah, definitely the part where she takes advantage of Green Arrow while he’s feverish. I read that and was like, “WHAT?!?” [Laughter] That was a big surprise to me. I don’t think that’s going to play on TV very well. I thought, if I had to play that, I’d really have to dig into my brain to find the motivation. But that’s the comic book. I’ve been reading some of the fans on the forums who have been writing, “Is she really going to do this on TV?” I don’t think Steve [Amell] would be very happy about that either.
One thing we do know is going to carry over is not only that you’ll be doing martial arts on the show, but you’ll also be an archer as Shado was in the comics. Is that something you have experience with?
That’s definitely a new skill I’m picking up. I know a lot about bows and arrows from when I was a kid because my father was a really keen archer. In fact, he got banned from where we were living because he was shooting 150 lbs bows. People complained in our neighborhood, so now all his bows and arrows are held in China.
But in terms of shooting archery, I haven’t done much. I joke that I’ve done a lot at Club Med. [Laughter] But I haven’t really done much. I’m learning about it now because the show has kind of unlocked a passion in me. Of course, my father is laughing at me and saying, “It looks like you’re following in my footsteps on that, too!” I’m learning not just archery but shooting while I’m moving and doing stunts. That’s been really fun.
Tell me about Shado’s role in the next few episodes. The series is really split between two storylines, and it looks like you’re going to be inserted into the dynamic between Olliver and Slade on the island part of the show.
It’s actually a really cool dynamic. I think Shado sees herself as an equal to Slade. There’s a little bit of his alpha male status creating a competitiveness between them. In terms of Olliver, she is the first person to really say, “You’re not a loser. You might have some funky hair, but I really believe you have a lot of potential and that you can become a fighter. You can find the strength within you to get through these times on the island so we can get out of here.” She has a different methodology than Slade does, because Slade’s way is more normal. “Toughen up. This is how you fight. You’ve got to be quick if you want to survive.” But her methodology is that she’s a mentor, but the way she teaches him martial arts and archery is more of a philosophy as opposed to just technical stuff. I like to think of her more like Mister Miyagi in “The Karate Kid.”
As you’ve been filming, have you been working with the stunt coordinators to bring your style of martial arts to the character a little bit?
They actually have an incredible team that does the choreography for “Arrow,” but before we shoot, we do rehearsals to figure out what looks good and what my strengths in martial arts are. We figure what kicks will look stronger or go higher. Every time we have a rehearsal, [fight choreographer] James Bamford is totally amazing about bringing out what’s best on screen. It’s a really cool, organic process in terms of staging the fights.
This is your first big production in North America. What’s the experience been like, stepping into that world? Do you think you’ll be looking to do more Hollywood work moving forward?
Absolutely. I can’t wait to do more over here. To be honest, it’s really different from how things are done in Asia. The acting is really different, and I feel sometimes like I have a split personality. If I’m working in Asia, I have to think in Chinese and think as an Asian girl. When I’m here, even when I’m playing an Asian character, I have to think in a more Westernized way. It’s been really good for my acting career to stretch between both cultures, but I’m really excited to take on more roles over here. I’m learning a lot from the actors I’m working with, and from the directors and crew. It’s been an incredible learning experience because there’s huge differences between working here and there. We joke in Asia that if you’ve done Asian films in China, coming to America is a walk in the park. We don’t have unions, and the safety stuff is very much, “Take the risk and hope for the best!” But here, you have an incredible team around you to protect you and make sure you get the best out of you. It’s different, but I’m enjoying it a lot.
“Arrow’s” next episode, “Unfinished Business,” debuts tonight on The CW at 8:00 Eastern and Pacific.