Don’t get her wrong: Jamie Chung has definitely enjoyed her share of comic book-style action on the big screen with roles in films like “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” and even “Sucker Punch,” but you’ll forgive her if she’s more than a little excited to finally have a full-on superhero on her resume with “Big Hero 6,” the first Disney Animation adaptation of a Marvel Comics property.
As the voice of GoGo Tomago, the team’s tough-minded, bubblegum-popping super-speedster who’s just as quick with a sarcastic comeback, Chung says she’s stoked to have landed a bona fide superhero role in animation, where the physics aren’t as limiting — but, as she reveals to Comic Book Resources in an exclusive conversation, she’s still aiming to get cast as the live-action version of a particular psychic-knife-wielding mutant one day.
CBR News: How long have you been wanting to have a superhero-ish kind of role? Is it something you’ve been dying to do?
Jamie Chung: I’ve always wanted to play a superhero role, and I’ve had the honor of doing so in movies like “Sucker Punch” or even “Samurai Girl.” I played Mulan in “Once Upon a Time.” That’s great, but to be an animated superhero, where sky’s the limit and gravity doesn’t really have much to do with it — it’s so different. It’s even more special that it’s a Disney Animation film. You know, it’s something that I grew up watching. Like, the first movie I saw in a theater was when they brought “Bambi” back into theaters — that’s the first thing that I’ve seen! “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King,” “Up.” These are all iconic movies — I was even wondering what all the hype was about “Frozen” and I was like, “I like these guys, I should definitely watch it,” and then I’m like, “I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to cry.” And here I am, bawling. “Tangled” is a great one. Oh, I love that one. And “Brave”. “Brave” was an amazing one. They just make these amazing films, and it’s just so filled with emotions and heart.
What was the first Disney movie that you got full-on obsessed with? Like, “Give me the toys, give me the sheets, the pajamas, the toothbrush?”
I had the cassette tape full of the songs. It was “The Little Mermaid.” That was right about the same age where you become obsessed with these things, so I was like nine or ten. But that was my first film that I was like, “I want every toy. I love all the songs.” It was great.
With GoGo, what did you fall for in her when the part was presented to you?
You know, I actually did a table read for another Disney project that’s in the process of being made — it’s called “Moana” — and I had the honor of reading all of her lines, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, because it’s the lead character and her emotional journey. And [Disney Pixar CCO] John Lasseter’s sitting right across from you, and the whole Disney Animation studio and all the directors are like, “This is so huge for us. This table read is going to determine whether or not this movie’s going to be made and whether or not they like the script and where it’s going.” So it was so much pressure. And I was able to do it well, and John Lasseter was like, “I want her to come in and read for GoGo for ‘Big Hero 6.'” So I was kind of handpicked, in a way, and the casting director agreed. She was like, “She’d be great. Let’s bring her in.” I didn’t really know what “Big Hero 6” was about until I got there, and I read the lines and was like, “Oh, this character’s great!” So easy. She’s so dry and sarcastic.
What was the thing that you keyed on immediately? Like, “Okay, as long as I remember this, I’ll always be able to get right to her”?
She’s a woman of very few words. She only speaks when she’s really curious about something or she wants to express frustration. I think the key to remembering it: this is her family and these are people that she loves very much, and so she can be herself without any judgment from her friends. So if she’s sassy, she’s sassy. If she’s questioning carbon-fiber underpants, it’s because it’s ridiculous.
You’ve played characters before that I think people would get excited about as sort of role-model-y, or for the empowerment side of them. For this one in particular, is it exciting to have little girls want to be her? They’re certainly going to rally around the character.
Yeah, little girls — or little boys, who hopefully will have a crush on GoGo. It’s rare that you get to do a film for the kids. I have a nephew who’s ten, and a co-star that I worked with who’s ten, and it’s exciting to be their role model now. And to be a part of, again, something that’s so iconic, I’m pretty excited. I don’t know how they’re going to react to this character, but I do know that my two ten-year-old friends think that I’m pretty cool and think that this character is pretty cool, as well.
It’s kind of an interesting time where certain restrictions or barriers about gender or about race are kind of dropping away. Actors are able to play all kinds of parts now that even ten years ago would have been trickier to land. I don’t know how much of that you experienced in the beginning of your career, but what are your thoughts on just where we are today.
I think there’s a huge feminist movement, and I think it’s being reintroduced into the younger generation as to what it means, and that it’s not putting down men. It’s just literally being equals, and it goes both ways. If you want to be sensitive and talk about your feelings — little boys, they’re not being wusses. They’re not being called names and that they should be able to express as much as girls do. And girls can be as tough as the boys and not be called tomboys or lesbians. The thing about this is it’s not so much about playing a very girly role. I feel like I’ve been able to play very strong female characters without being categorized as one or another, and I think that’s important to do, because you’re furthering the separation between the sexes if you’re doing that.
Tell me about the advantages of being able to just roll into the recording studio and be your character, as opposed to all the costume, makeup and green screen stuff you have to do to play someone like Miho in “Sin City.”
Yeah, there’s no two-hour hair and makeup session, which is great, but the work is just as difficult. To express only through your voice, there’s something really raw about that and all defenses have to be down, because sometimes you feel so silly doing the things that you’re doing in these recording studios, but the sound matches what they’re drawing, and it matches up quite beautifully. You kind of have to let go of your ego in that way, like, “Oh my God, I sound so stupid doing this. I sound so silly!” But it works, and I have to thank the producers and the directors for great guidance. They really see day-to-day how these animations are progressing, and putting things together, they’ve been doing this for a long time.
You’re getting a taste of the scope of the merchandising and the different forms your character’s going to appear in, in toys and everything else.
I’m so excited. I thought it’d be at Target by now, but I strolled by yesterday and I didn’t see anything. But I’ve already collected a little plastic figurine — a plush Baymax, a plastic Baymax that I think you can put over your hand and fly, and a little plush GoGo Japanese anime head that you can put on your car, I guess. Those are the only three items I collected — so far.
Do you want all the GoGo stuff when you can get it? Like, “Disney, can I get boxes of…?”
Yeah, I really just — it’s such a great gift to give fans, you know. It’s such fun memorabilia. But I really want, just selfishly, a plastic collection of all of the Big Hero 6, including Baymax. I think that’d be really cool.
Now, we talked about Disney love. Did you have a special affinity for anything Marvel?
Oh, I mean come on! As a kid, Marvel Comics was the only thing that I collected with my sister. We loved it so much that we — in terms of taking care of the comic books, we never wanted to read them, we just kept them in their plastic sleeves. If we wanted to read one special one… Remember when Superman died, they sold — well, that’s DC, I know! — but in terms of comic books, whenever they were sealed from the manufacturer, we would buy two, one to read and one to keep in the sleeve. But growing up, “X-Men” was my favorite Marvel property. It was Wolverine and Cyclops. I’ve always wanted to play a Jubilee or a Storm or a Jean Grey, the Phoenix series was amazing, and I was so intrigued with Mystique. But ultimately I thought the coolest character was Psylocke. I really wanted to be Psylocke.
And there’s not really been a definitive film version of Psylocke.
No. Hopefully they’ll bring her into something. But I think the fans — I kind of put it out in the universe, and the fans, some are like, “Oh my God, that would be amazing.” And the other fans are like, “No, that’s so wrong casting. She needs to be British. She needs to be this and that!” And so I just put it out there for fun.
Have you practiced the accent, just in case?
[Switches to British accent] You know, quite a bit!
What do you want to accomplish next? What’s left as far as the challenges you want to throw your own way?
Oh man, it’s endless: Doing a great period piece. Doing a biopic. Working with certain directors. Doing like a fun rom-com. Doing a sequel to “Big Hero 6” is on my list. I mean, it’s endless, and I think ultimately the goal is to continue to work and continue to grow. And never stop, really.
“Big Hero 6” arrives in theaters Nov. 7.
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