With a career spanning more than 20 years, actor Chin Han has continued to reap the rewards that can arise from hard work and commitment to your craft. Since beginning his career on the Singapore television drama Masters of the Sea in the mid-1990’s, Han has gone on to interact with the caped crusader in The Dark Knight, save a family from the end of the world in 2012, and lead a space squadron in Independence Day: Resurgence. His latest role is playing Togusa in the Paramount Pictures film Ghost in the Shell. The only non-cybernetic member of Section 9, Togusa is a complex character with strong mental skills and deep emotional connections.
Earlier this week, Blast Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Chin Han about his predictions on the future of the film industry, his opinions on the controversy surrounding the film’s casting, and his prior experiences with graphic novels and manga.
Looking at your previous acting credits, you’ve had quite a history of playing the villain or the bad guy. Is there a reason that you gravitate more towards those characters?
Chin Han: Bad guys are more interesting to play because they are always conflicted and complex. However, in my heart of hearts, I’d love to do a romantic comedy next. After all of the training and physical conditioning I have had to do for Ghost in the Shell, I think that would be a nice change of pace. A Love Actually 2, for example, would be great. I don’t intentionally seek the bad guy roles out, but they are really fun to play.
In your career, you have had the opportunity to act, produce and direct throughout the globe from Singapore to the United States in projects for stage, film and television. Do you feel that your experiences directing and producing have made you a better actor?
Han: Definitely. As a younger actor, you go in with the confidence that the play or the musical or the film is about you and you don’t realize how collaborative the whole process is. Producing and directing has afforded me that insight to realize that these projects are the work of a lot of people. When you understand that, you begin to realize that you are part of a much bigger entity than yourself.
You have been involved with acting for the majority of your life. Was the goal always to get to Hollywood or did you originally anticipate staying an actor in Singapore?
Han: I have always loved working. It doesn’t matter if it was in the theater back in the 80’s for $500 for 3 days of work or working on a $200 million budget movie like 2012 or The Dark Knight, my enjoyment is always the same. So Hollywood wasn’t the goal, but it was always this shiny glitzy thing that was fascinating to me. I am very grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given and I hope to continue to do more work throughout the world.
Ghost in the Shell has been surrounded by controversy since the original cast information was released. Between the claims of the film being “whitewashed” and the petitions for other actresses to play The Major, the movie has definitely been a topic of discussion regarding diversity in film. Do you feel that the complaints from fans were valid both pertaining to this specific film as well as to films like Dr. Strange and The Great Wall?
Han: Looking at it from a larger perspective, it definitely is an important and healthy conversation to have especially with the globalization of cinema. In the past, people would make movies for themselves. Now, people have access to movies from all over the world and when that happens, the demand for inclusion and diversity changes so I totally understand where those comments are coming from. It’s a healthy and very valid conversation for people to have. All of the changes in the industry are definitely moving in the right direction but diversity has to happen both in front and behind the camera. The success of Moonlight has shown African-Americans represented as actors, directors and writers. It’s a process but all of the signs point to the industry heading in a constructive direction.
Ghost in the Shell has been quite successful as a media franchise in the past, stemming from the original manga to films, television and video games. Had you had any exposure to the franchise before accepting your role? If not, what research of source material did you do to prepare?
Han: I was pretty fortunate because I grew up with graphic novels from both sides of the Pacific. I was happy to read the works of Alan Moore and Frank Miller and was equally excited to consume the works of Masamune Shirow and Katsuhiro Otomo. I grew up with those works because I was in my teens in the 80’s and those pieces felt almost subversive at the time. They were very adult pieces of work and not like the usual comics. So yes, I did have a background in the franchise before I was even approached to do the movie.
In the current film, you play Togusa. While the original movie depicted him as not having undergone cybernetic replacement, the manga portrayed him as being cybernetic. What version did this iteration go with and how true to the original versions of the character will your portrayal be?
Han: In this film, Togusa is the most human of all of the members of Section 9. If he has any slight enhancements, they are only hinted to and not spoken about. He has not been augmented or enhanced in any physical way like the rest of the group. Because of this, he has to rely on his wits a bit more since he is not as strong and powerful as the others, especially The Major who is a one of a kind full human-cyborg hybrid. Togusa has to rely on his smarts and detective skills, which is why he was brought over from the police department while the rest of the group comes from the military. He also has a family consisting of his wife and daughter, so the stakes are different for him.
With such a rich franchise history and a substantially large fan base, it is evident that Ghost in the Shell has made quite an impact on readers and viewers around the world. Did you feel any pressure taking on a role with so much source material and fan attachment?
Han: Yes, because it’s a double-edged sword. The property is so beloved which is wonderful because people love it but it is also daunting because people feel so passionate about it and fans feel ownership of it. They each have their own opinions of what everything should look like and what actors should be cast for each part. Also, since there are so many storylines between all of the iterations, fans are very passionate about which storylines should be included. It Is a lot of pressure but the filmmakers, producers and actors all hope that we have found something worthy of the canon. All I can do is put my head down and do the work and hopefully the audience will respond positively.
Where do you see the film industry being in the next 5 to 10 years both in terms of diversity and content?
Han: In terms of stories, we will get a lot more variety because filmmakers of every creed, religion and gender will come together to work on one production. We will see a very interesting body of cinema that reflects the kind of multicultural, multinational interconnectedness we have in our world today.
Be sure to watch Chin Han in Ghost in the Shell, set for release in theaters on March 31, and follow him on Twitter at @TheChinHan.