Arrow Q&A: Kelly Hu Talks Bringing China White To Starling City & Fighting With Knives

Kelly Hu is bringing some evil to Starling City on Wednesday night as she makes her debut as China White on The CW’s “Arrow.”

The actress, who was last seen on The CW in “The Vampire Diaries” Season 3 (as Pearl), was actually handpicked for the crime vixen role by executive producer Andrew Kreisberg, who previously wrote for the character while penning “The Green Arrow and Black Canary” for DC Comics.

Flattered to have been asked to bring to life a bad, bad woman who encounters Stephen Amell’s Arrow while trying to take out prosecutor Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) for an associate, Kelly headed to Vancouver (where the show is shot), familiarized herself with knives and brushed up on her own martial arts background.

A big fight scene between the two characters will occur in Wednesday’s episode, one of the many things she spoke about with You said Andrew called you directly about this part. How did he sell the role?

Kelly Hu: He didn’t even have to sell it (laughs). I was like, the new Green Arrow? China White? Sure!

Access: She has an out-of-Starling City background with Oliver Queen/Arrow, but I imagine they changed that for the show, because the previews show you in his town, in present time.

Kelly: They haven’t really touched on the background in the show, so I think it’s still pretty open as to how they would know each other or if they even know each other. It doesn’t even touch on that yet. But I have a feeling there’s gonna be some stuff coming up later.

Access: A few weeks ago, Stephen told us he was so excited because while shooting with you he got to speak Mandarin.

Kelly: Yeah! He did really well too (laughs). He’s just amazing. This guy can do anything. He’s so athletic and he’s just so smart, like he really could be this character. If Stephen actually got abandoned on an island for five years, I would not doubt that he would come out as Arrow (laughs).

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Access: How are we going to find you fitting into the drama this week?

Kelly: [On Wednesday,] my character gets shown for the first time. I’m so excited… I am actually part of the Triads, the Chinese mobsters, and I am sort of the right-hand man to the bad guy… Gosh, it’s so hard to know exactly how much I’m allowed to say, but there is an amazing fight scene with me and Stephen that happens in this silo and it’s really, really well done.

Access: Will we have a really good sense of who China White is at the end of the second episode?

Kelly: I think it’s still gonna be a bit of a mystery because it’s still a mystery even to me (laughs) exactly what her background is. I’m only told what I need to be told and that’s about it.

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Access: Did you get to use a much of your martial arts background for the fight scenes?

Kelly: Yeah, I did. Just a little bit. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had to do martial arts. I did a little bit on ‘Breakout Kings’ and that was actually the last time that I had to do a fight in a while. It’s been years, actually, so it had to come back to me. This kind of stuff, if you don’t use it you lose it, so, it’s been quite a trip to try and get back into shape and back into fighting form, but I have amazing stunt women (laughs).

Access: Does this fight scene go on for a little while?

Kelly: It’s a pretty lengthy fight scene, pretty significant, especially for TV, because you can’t take up like five minutes of fighting on-screen because a show is only 40 minutes. But yeah, it’s a pretty complicated fight and pretty vicious as well.

Access: I hope you leave him in a bit of pain and with a few more scars.

Kelly: Right!?! (laughs) I have these really cool curved knives I use, which was something I had to start [practicing] with, twirling them around my fingers… I got to take them home… and play around in my hotel room with these knives. They went flying everywhere (laughs).

Access: You get to be, basically, the first real signature villain from the comics on the show. Exciting?

Kelly: It is. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really know a whole lot about the Green Arrow.

Access: I suppose it’s fair to say he’s not the most popular character from the brand. (DC also has Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.)

Kelly: And that’s, I think, what makes it so interesting too. It’s a real introduction for a lot of people. And the cool thing about him, it’s not like he’s got super powers… He’s a real guy who spent a lot of time alone (laughs), and developed these insane skills with a bow and arrow and martial arts and stuff like that, so he’s not indestructible. And everybody on the show is sort of the same way. It’s not like people come in with these superpowers, they just have super refined skills.

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Access: You’re coming back after this week’s episode?

Kelly: I do, I come back for a few episodes…I know that we had fantastic ratings last week when we opened, so hopefully we can keep it up and we’ll get more episodes to do this season and they’ll bring me back for more.

Access: So she can really be a thorn in his side then!

Kelly: I plan to (laughs).

Access: Did you get to spend much time with Stephen aside from the on-screen work?

Kelly: I [did] and he’s lovely. Really, really a lovely guy and we spent a lot of time just talking and I liked talking to him about the newness of it all because although he’s very confident and everything, this is all quite a new game for him.

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Access: It’s his first real breakout role.

Kelly: Yeah, first thing and I’ve had a lot of friends on other shows (Maggie Q, Ian Somerhalder)… and I just know that The CW is great and they have such amazing, dedicated fans and so I know that he’s gonna be worked really hard and have such a great following and he’s gonna get to go to all of these press junkets and everyone is gonna know who he is. He’s got that star quality. He’s gonna be around for a while.

“Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

-- Jolie Lash

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