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Warning: This article contains spoilers for Mulan.
As the live-action Mulan wound its way to audiences, stories abounded about its changes from the 1998 animated feature film: there would be no songs! Mushu was out! General Shang is no longer a character and Mulan won't have a love interest.
While most of those changes have come to pass, it's not true that Mulan (Yifei Liu) doesn't have romance in her life in the live-action film, which hit Disney+ at a premium this weekend. This time the stirrings of attraction come via a more equal plane, her fellow soldier and friend Chen Honghui, played by Yoson An. The film is all Liu's, her grace through daredevil stunts and the tale of a woman coming into her own is the whole point. But it's also hard to resist the chemistry she shares with An, even if they don't ever quite go there.
An is a relatively fresh face, having started acting professionally in 2012 and then largely in international productions, including Australian crime series Dead Lucky starring alongside Six Feet Under's Rachel Griffiths. But he's perfectly poised to be the new man in Mulan's life. The Chinese-born actor was raised in New Zealand and he has a black belt in karate, which helped influence his performance and approach to the physically demanding, martial-arts heavy role.
"I was able to communicate with our stunt coordinators in terms of coming up with the sequences together in some aspect. They did majority of the work and I just had a little input in terms of, 'Oh, I think this would look cool,'" he tells EW. "Although the story is set in ancient China and we have swords, arrows, and shields, the action sequences are quite grounded in reality. There's a little bit of MMA incorporated as well as traditional style martial arts."
If you've admired An onscreen, he welcomes it. Working with Jackie Chan's stunt team, as well as teams from Marvel and John Wick, An honed a six-pack and became what he says is the most "ripped" he's ever been. Liu jokes of her costars, "The boys trained so, so hard, but they were also really happy about their body shape. There were comparisons going on."
But while that might be a perk of the experience, An was most excited to bring to life a film he's loved since he was a kid. Born in 1992, An has fond memories of watching the 1998 animated Mulan at his grandparents' house. "It was funny and there was this fantastical element to it, this action-packed element," he says. "I just remember how excited I was by watching as a kid. Being involved in the process of making this film, all those elements are still there."
An says he was also particularly proud to work on a film bursting with Chinese talent, which helped give the cast a common foundation. "Mulan is the Chinese story," he says. "Everything about it is Chinese. What was cool is that everyone on set all the cast members, we all have a Chinese origin. We all have very similar Asian backgrounds. There was an instant connection when we met each other."
For An and the entire cast, Mulan is a chance to put a contemporary spin on a very old story. "They went back to the original ballad and created a new re-imagining, more relevant to audiences today," he reflects. "It's action-packed. It's got comedy. It's got elements of mysticism. Mulan is a badass; she's an amazing warrior."
Who said this new version of Mulan didn't have someone who was crazy about her?
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