Victor Ma: Young star aims to build a bridge between China and US
Changing the world
Published: Jun 03, 2021 05:57 PM
Promotional material for <em>Zombie Brother</em> Photo: Douban

Promotional material for Zombie Brother Photo: Douban

Victor Ma 
Photo: Courtesy of WAJIJIWA Entertainment

Victor Ma Photo: Courtesy of WAJIJIWA Entertainment

For the first time, Hollywood has turned its attention to the Chinese comic book market for inspiration.

Victor Ma, a Chinese-American actor and rapper, will play the lead role alongside British actor Colin Firth in the action comedy film New York Will Eat You Alive, an adaptation co-produced by Tencent Pictures and STXFilms of the Chinese comic book Zombie Brother.

'Do your best' 

Ma told the Global Times he was very surprised to hear he got the part.

"I tried for it [in 2018] and then for the longest time it had like literally no news… Then I thought it might be not going to happen for me, and when I almost forgot about it, I was told I was selected [in 2020]," said Ma. 

When asked if the audition was very competitive like the audition for Mulan, Ma said he did not know nor did he "really care." "It's very simple: If it's yours, do your best; if it's not, let it go. That's just how it is."

Deadline reported that Adam Fogelson, chairman of STXfilms Motion Picture Group, once expressed his appreciation for Ma in an interview. 

"He has the kind of magnetic screen presence and talent that makes casting fun. We believe this film has real franchise potential and are excited about the direction we are heading with Victor and Colin in these key roles."

According to media reports, Zombie Brother has garnered more than 28 billion views over 516 issues, while its animated series has brought in more than 3.7 billion views across its first two seasons. The franchise has also been adapted into a hit stage play, which had a record-breaking run of sold-out shows across the region.

Ma said that the popularity of the comic has put him under a certain amount of pressure as he has a lot to live up to. 

"It is actually relatively difficult to capture the character, but I think I have enough time to analyze and get a feel for the character," said Ma.

In the film, Ma will star as Bai Xiaofei, a successful biotech engineer who leads his group of friends across a New York overrun with zombies to save the world.

Ma told the Global Times that he and Bai share some similarities, including an impeccable character. 

"He wants to change the world, screwed up and tried to fix it. That's actually kind of similar to what I am doing."

Show yourself and build a bridge

Currently, the script for the film is still being revised, according to Deadline.

Although the film won't begin shooting until 2022, Ma said he is already excited about the project. 

"I think it's a fun project… Actually, I haven't really stayed in one casting crew from the beginning to the end, so I think I can learn a lot from this perspective," said Ma. 

As a rapper, Ma debuted in China on the variety show The Coming One, on which he ranked No.2 in the final. But Ma said being a rapper is not his sole identity, all he wants is to find a platform to say what he wants. 

"I just want to express myself. It doesn't matter what specifically you're doing. At this point of your life, if you have the chance to do it, do it," he said. 

Ma once appeared on the second season of Everybody Stand By and in the Detective Chinatown series, and he said he has gained a lot of practical experience through the two. 

"My ultimate goal is not only to be a rapper or an actor, but to be a bridge between the entertainment culture of China and the US," said Ma.

Growing up in the US, Ma said he had a strong interest in Chinese culture since he was a little boy. 

"My dad is from Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, and every summer holiday, my family would take me back to China. That was one of my happiest times in my life," Ma said, adding he "had a crush on Chinese culture" since then. 

Ma pointed out that there are some misunderstandings about Asian culture in the US. "Some of them think we all eat dog meat with chopsticks, and we are very good at mathematics. China has such a long history, sadly it has always been symbolized as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan."

As a Chinese-American, Ma revealed that he has also experienced racial discrimination in the US.

"It's always been a problem. I want to change it. There is a lot of stuff that is very sensitive, but I want to change that. The world needs the voice of ethnic Chinese. I believe if everyone voices it, it can be fixed," he said.