The character of Blink originally came and went as fast as her codename implies — introduced by ’90s X-Men mainstays Scott Lobdell and Joe Madureira in 1994’s Uncanny X-Men #317, and then killed off soon after.
Yet Blink reappeared a few months later as part of the reality-twisting “Age of Apocalypse” event, and became a fan-favorite, resurfacing again as a major part of Exiles. The character — who has the power of creating teleportation portals — saw an increase in profile to the point where Blink was featured in live-action in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, as played by Chinese star Fan Bingbing and a part of the team of mutants in the film’s post-apocalyptic future timeline.
Blink returns as a series regular in Fox’s The Gifted, a new series set in the same universe of the X-Men films, but in a divergent continuity than what’s been seen on screen. On the show, Blink is Clarice Fong — rather than Clarice Ferguson, her name in the comics — and portrayed by Jamie Chung, already a veteran of comic book-based material including Big Hero 6, Gotham and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
On the show, Blink is seen as struggling with her powers and reluctant to accept her new role as part of the Polaris-led Mutant Underground, a group of mutants formed to face oppression in the absence of the X-Men. CBR talked with Chung late last month on the show’s Atlanta set, to discuss for Blink fits into The Gifted, the ways the character is similar and different to the source material and the continued importance of diverse representation on screen.
CBR: Jamie, you’ve been in a good amount of genre-y shows and films in your career — especially comic book-related projects. This feels like you in the thick of it even more than before — what do you like about this type of material, and what about this experience has been unique?
Jamie Chung: You’re right, there has been a lot of genre-y material that I’ve been in, and I love that that’s my niche. But what’s different [about The Gifted] is, I think really, truly the story of growing up, being different and the negative and positive things that come along with that. I think what’s interesting about Clarice is that she can never hide the fact that she is a mutant. She has the markings of a mutant, she has green eyes, she has purple hair — she kind of looks like a freak, and she’s always been an outcast. I think that’s really affected who she is today.
It’s a cool story in being the reluctant hero. She’s a survivor. She’s always been on her own. She doesn’t want to be a part of a group, she doesn’t want to be part of a “Mutant underground.” You see the reluctance in that. But she really finds her way, and I think she opens up a bit more throughout the series. What’s fun about playing this character is, there’s more of an emotional journey than a physical one. I feel like that could get lost in a show like this, where it really is about powers, and the explosions, and this and that. We have all those things, but you still have a really deep-rooted emotional journey.
You see in the first episode that Blink is really struggling, with her powers and identity, and it doesn’t look like things are getting easier for her anytime soon. What’s that like for you as a performer?
I am actually in real life, very open. [Laughs] If anything, I think I’ve gotten in trouble because I’m not guarded enough. But it’s fun playing the opposite. It’s fun playing someone that has so many walls, someone who truly doesn’t need anyone else — or thinks she doesn’t need anyone else. Because it’s fun to see her eventually form these friendships.
Blink is one of the characters on the show based on someone from the comics, and she’s uniquely popular.
It’s so strange, because I feel like she’s a cult classic.
Yeah — you have to know X-Men to know who Blink is, but people who know her, love her. What did that part of it involve for you? Research into the source material?
Oh, a lot of research. The great thing about working for a Marvel show is they give you all of the tools that you need in order to embody this character. Not to be confused with Blink from Exiles or Blink from a different series, she’s very different than what she’s known in the comics, in terms of traits and personality and whatnot. The powers are similar, but you get to see her grow with her powers. She’s still struggling to make these portals, which I think is really cool. She’s nothing like the comic books, but working with Marvel, they give you access to all the comic books that they have in their vault. It’s really cool to be able to have access to all these things, because before I got the job, I was trying to buy comic books. She’s very prominent in Exiles, and I could get like, #2, or #9, but I couldn’t read everything else and finally they gave me access to it.
Driving all over town, looking for comics.
Exactly! So it’s good to know where her powers could possibly go, and the relationships that she has with some of these characters. I think that’s really cool. And also, [Exiles] is a really fun series — the idea of them going back in time, on all these different missions, and how time travel affects the current events; the trickle effect of fucking with things in the past.
It’s really cool — but then throwing all that away, and just being engrossed in our version of the character; luckily, I had a lot of help from Bryan Singer, who did the pilot. I had a lot of questions about Blink, and he told me a lot of the ideas he had for our version. That was pretty rad, knowing that he had done Days of Future Past. I had a lot of guidance.
This also a cool role because there are still not a lot of Asian Americans on TV, and in general, it seems like it’s up to genre shows, which frequently make more of an effort towards representation.
It’s a show about diversity, and about a group of minorities that are being shunned by society. So they better have [minority representation] on the show. It’s a constant struggle, and it’s not to par — it’s not where we want it to be, but I think it’s going to be an ongoing battle. Thank god for shows like Fresh Off the Boat, [upcoming film] Crazy Rich Asians. People that are really making an effort to show what it is to be an Asian American. It’s nice that they’re featuring those stories.
If it wasn’t for Fan Bingbing, who played Clarice first, and they turned [her] into Clarice Fong instead of Clarice Ferguson; the flexibility that 20th Century Fox had with turning these comic book characters into something a bit more reflective. It’s nice that they’re doing that, but it’s nowhere near equal.
There are a lot of characters on this show — what are some of Blink’s important relationships in the early going with the rest of the cast?
She has a very quick and easy friendship with Thunderbird (Blair Redford). He’s the one who’s constantly trying to help her, and always trying to make a connection. There is some physical attraction there as well. I think it’d be really fun to grow a relationship with Emma Dumont’s character [Lorna Dane/Polaris], because it’s too very strong, emotionally unstable characters.
The Gifted airs 9 p.m. Mondays on Fox.
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