Interview with Sam Tjhia

Sam Tjhia is playing Kitana in the new web series “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Sam about her role and chatted about her other film stunt work.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with stunt work?
Sam Tjhia: Well, I started martial arts when I was around 4 because my mom was a black belt and both of my brothers participated as well. I started to just really love the challenge and disciple of something so physically demanding and so I continued on with the Chinese style, Wushu all the way up until now. I suppose if you love performing and love a physical challenge, there really isn’t a career more perfect than stunts, right? Anyhow, After the Olympics I had a little more credit to my skills and happened to know a few people in the industry, like my Wushu coach, who also did stunts. I guess all in all it was just the drive of wanting a challenge and luck of meeting amazing people.

MG: What would you consider you most dangerous stunt?
ST: Hmm, this one is a little tough because though I LOVE adrenaline rushes and mental obstacles… I’m normally hired for my fighting/acrobatic skills and just haven’t crossed that road yet. I mean I GUESS having swords and whatnot poked and swung at you is dangerous but it’s no full body burn, that’s for sure. So I’d probably have to say when I was on a wire and I got pulled back into the air a good 15ft., smashed into a car laying on it’s side, chipped off the car, hit the ground and rolled. It didn’t feel so dangerous just because I trusted the stunt riggers 100% but it just sounds the coolest [laughs].

MG: Tell us about working on “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” playing Kitana?
ST: Firstly, I can’t even begin to say what an honour (Yes, I’m Canadian and spell it with a “u”) it is to play such an iconic female character in possibly the BEST video game ever…. I’ll admit that I’m not a HUGE player of video games, but I played Mortal Kombat, and I played with Kitana!! I kind of have a mild case of “Girl Power Syndrome” and so I just want to show the world that girls can kick ass too!! On set in Vancouver was an amazing experience in itself. I think it was the fact that everyone knew and appreciated how amazing Kevin’s vision was and knew how AWESOME the final product would turn out to be. I don’t want to say too much about Kitana’s episode yet, but I feel very privileged to bring her to life in “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”.

MG: How did you research for the role?
ST: Aside from doing an online background check, I really wanted to focus on A: Her relationship with Shao Khan and Mileena, and B: Her style and physical capabilities. I pretty much engulfed myself with any information, cinematics, artistic representations, and forum discussions about her as possible. One thing I spent long periods of time on was people watching. Yeah I’m sneaky like that… sitting at a coffee shop and just observing. I feel very close to my family so it was definitely fun being able to try on a different pair of shoes and try to understand the sibling rivalry and betrayal involved in her back story.

MG: Do you plan on doing more acting roles vs. stunts?
ST: One thing I know about myself is that I love a challenge. I love a challenge and I love to perform. Both acting and stunts have their obstacles so I really love and appreciate getting to experience both careers. I am a go with the flow type of person. If presented with an opportunity that sounds interesting and challenging then I’ll dive in headfirst as long as I feel as though it will allow me to perform and create something amazing… physically or emotionally.

MG: How was it working on such a big film like “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2”?
ST: From a stunt perspective, it’s always a thrill being able to work on big films like “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2” due to the preparation time you’re normally given. It’s cliché, but Michelangelo didn’t paint the Sistine chapel in a day. Being given time to use your creative mind and have time to perfect the things you feel most important is probably the biggest bonus. Now from a girl out of Barrie, Ontario Canada… I feel so grateful to have somehow flown from the nest and just experience life like this.

MG: How does it compare to working on the web series?
ST: For “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” it’s a little difficult to compare just because it really didn’t feel or even look for that matter, like a typical web series. Kevin knew exactly what he wanted and Larnell Stovall (Fight Choreographer) had the time to understand him and create his masterpiece. Everyone on “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” was just so cohesive and happy to be there, that it made it feel just as thrilling as any bigger budget film. Maybe the budget didn’t allow for as much fancy equipment, but as everyone could see, it really didn’t make much of a difference in quality. It’s the people working the equipment and their attitudes that polished the web series.

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