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Celina Jade is a triple threat: an actress, singer/songwriter and martial arts artist. Born in Hong Kong to Kung Fu star, Roy Horan, Celina grew up around martial arts. Her career in the industry began in music as a singer, but she eventually branched out and her role in the 2008 action thriller Legendary Assassins put her on the Hollywood radar. Her U.S. film debut came when she was cast in a small role in the 2012 Quentin Tarantino-produced martial arts film The Man with the Iron Fists. Currently, she star as “Shado” on The CW hit show Arrow. TheCelebrityCafe.com’s Sari N. Kent had the chance to speak with Celina about how she went from a singing career to acting, what acting is like in the U.S. versus Asia, what it’s like kicking butt on The CW’s Arrow, as well as her other projects.
SNK: Your career as an entertainer started at the age of 14, when you won an Asia-wide singing competition, which led to a record deal with Japanese producer, Tetsuya Komuro and together you released two albums. You even had a No. 1 hit at the age of 15. How did you become interested in music?
CJ: I was interested in music from a really young age. Growing up as a Eurasian in Hong Kong in the late 80s early 90s was pretty difficult because it wasn’t really accepted yet to be mixed, so I was a bit of a loner. *laugh* I went to Chinese school and music was really my only outlet. I wasn’t very good at communicating and it was the only way I found I could express myself and connect with other people. I remember my father told me, ‘You’ve been singing since you were six years old,’ Once there was a carnival in town and there was a woman up on stage singing. So, I climbed on stage and pulled on her skirt *laugh* and I grabbed the microphone and started singing.
SNK: How did you go from being interested in singing to beginning an acting career?
CJ: It was a total fluke actually. *laugh* I was interested in singing, I’d never really thought about acting. I was too scared to follow in my father’s footsteps, my father was a really incredible martial arts master who did all of the old Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies is Asia. So, I didn’t really want to do what my dad did, so I thought I’d stick to singing, it's different. But, after I graduated, I came back to Hong Kong and my manager said, ‘Would you be interested in auditioning for a movie?” He said, ‘Why don’t you try it out. It’s a lead actress role for a martial arts film with national champion Wu Jing.’ He also said they were also considering some big name Asian actresses and I said, ‘I don’t even know if I can act.’ So, I auditioned and I got it, I was like ‘Uh-oh, I gotta learn how to act.’ *laugh* So, that’s how I got into acting. It’s an incredible way of expression and it’s a way to thoroughly learn about yourself and other people. The empathy involved, it’s huge. I really enjoy it. That’s how I started acting, it kind of snowballed and I’ve been doing it ever since.
SNK: Your father, American Kung Fu star Roy Horan, shared the screen with such iconic martial arts figures as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, as well as starring in other notable martial arts films. What was it like growing up around martial arts?
CJ: It was great. I remember one incident as a kid that’s kind of funny, kind of serious. My father’s reflexes are incredible. One day, I tried to scare him and out of reflex, punched me in the stomach and I fell on the floor. *laugh* My mom was freaking out and screaming at me, ‘Don’t ever do that!’ I mean it was totally automatic, it was a reflex. I was fine, I was like, ‘Wow, that was so cool. I want to learn to do that.’
SNK: Since your role in 2008’s Legendary Assassins, you’ve garnered a solid fan base from your roles in 2009’s Love Connected, and All’s Well That Ends Well and in 2011, you starred as the lead actress opposite Asian superstar Peter Ho, in the romantic web series, Wish Upon A Star. What was that experience like?
CJ: That was so fun. It was my first series and work doesn’t get better than this. We shot in Paris, followed by Thailand, followed by Hawaii. Because it was sponsored by Starwood Hotels, they have the Le Meridien, the Westin, I mean it was ridiculous. It was a really cool series, the story lines were very romantic and dramatic. Very Audrey Hepburn. It was my first drama I’d ever done, which was fun. It was a little bit physical.
I remember, it was actually really funny. It was a scene at the very end, it involved my ex-boyfriend being a total dick, and he gets in a fight with my best friend. I was supposed to run up and pull his arm to try to stop them from fighting because he was being physically abusive. And, so the camera starts rolling and action and I run up and I grab this guy’s arm and pulled and barely touched him and he fell on the floor. Everyone burst out laughing. Then, they said, ‘Why don’t you just hit him with your handbag’ and I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll try that.’ *laugh* Yeah, that was fun.
SNK: You brought your talents to the U.S., by appearing in the 2012 martial arts film The Man with the Iron Fists which was produced by Quentin Tarantino. It also starred Hollywood heavyweights Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu among others. What was that experience like?
CJ: It was cool. We shot in Shanghai, it was winter so it was freezing! I really didn’t have a big role in it, I was guest starring in it, but I really enjoyed it. Other than them having to color correct my breasts because of the cold *laugh* it was okay. I mean, the crews in China are huge, the atmosphere was absolutely beautiful. Shooting there, culturally it’s very different, the communication between the Chinese crew and the American side is vital in making a project work. Tarantino, was a fan of my father’s, through one of the other actors. So, the other actor called my dad up and said, ‘Tarantino knows all of your old movies,’ because those were the days. So, it was definitely cool.
SNK: Is acting different in television and film in the U.S. versus performing in Asia?
CJ: Completely different. I mean, first of all, the hours are different. Working here is a lot more relaxed than working in China. It's different, the style, there’s more production value per episode. The shooting schedule is a lot slower than it would be in China. There it would take like three days to shoot one episode and here it’s quicker. It’s quite different. Then again, in China, you could find yourself working 20 something, 30 hours straight, whereas here that wouldn’t happen.
SNK: You’ve just been added to the cast of The CW’s action-adventure series Arrow as “Shado.” What has being on the show been like so far?
CJ: It's been really exciting. Working with Byron [Mann,] who I’ve worked with before. It’s been really great. They’re all really nice people. The production crew is really friendly, it has been amazing so far. Although the weather is slightly painful in the winter. It rains nonstop. Its been really fun. The action choreography is really professional. I’m really enjoying it and it’s cool because I love the writing. I think it’s creative and I’ve never played such a strong female character. I think that’s great, to have a woman that’s equal and as strong. For her to play an equal is just, it rocks. *laugh*
SNK: Were you familiar with the character from the DC comics before you auditioned for the role?
CJ: I love comic books. I hadn’t read it. I knew about ‘Oliver Queen’ and ‘Arrow’ but I didn’t know much about ‘Shado.’
SNK: Is the character on the show much like the “Shado” in the comic or are their differences?
CJ: Well, right now, we’re still finding out about her. In the comic book, ‘Shado’ is a very skilled archer as well as a martial artist. Her father, in the comic book, is Yakuza, whereas here he’s military general. But, on the show, ‘Shado’s’ character hasn’t fully developed yet. We are still seeing her early on, so whether or not she’ll become as she is in the comic book, we have to wait and see. She very well could become that, she’s got definite potential.
SNK: I also read that in 2003, you decided to pursue a degree in Management, from the respected London School of Economics and graduated at the top of your class. What made you decide to do this?
CJ: Well, when I was 15, I released my first album. It did really really well and my parents were both really supportive and the company at the time gave us an offer for me to quit school and become a singer. My parents never said, ‘We want the money. We want you to be famous.’
I decided I wasn’t becoming somebody I would admire so I quit and after that, I knew I wanted to be in entertainment. But it’s a business, so I decided to pursue a degree in Business Management, which would give me a really strong base. At the time I wanted to sing, write my own songs and I didn’t want to be controlled and be a puppet. Knowing the business side of entertainment, I would be able to control the direction of my career and where it was going. I figured it would be a great backup. It really gave me a well-rounded perspective I think. I was a total geek. *laugh* I loved studying. I was always the girl in library with glasses on. To me, it was like, ‘I want to learn as much as I can.’ I also paid for a lot of my education. I wanted to get the most bang for my buck *laugh* and I really enjoyed it. It was intellectually stimulating and I loved my time at LSE.
SNK: At the end of 2012, you independently released your first self-written album across the internet to share with your audiences globally. Can you tell me a little more about that?
CJ: It was my first self-written album and all the songs are inspired by my own stories, my own kind of sense of humor and sarcasm, my insecurities and confidences. Before I released it, when I was writing it, I was told by my music manager, Terry McBride, he’s the one behind Avril Lavigne. He said, ‘The reason I’m successful is because my artists write about who they are. You’re not going to be a better Lady Gaga than Lady Gaga, you’re not going to be a better Britney Spears than Britney Spears and nobody can be a better Celina Jade than Celina Jade!’
So when I wrote that album, I just wrote it with all honesty. I worked with Kevin Corrigan, who’s a very talented producer/writer from the UK. We recorded in London and whenever we had a creative blockage, we pushed through and that’s how that album was formed. We put it together and onto the Internet and now it’s out. The cool thing about it being on the Internet is there’s really no time or age. Somebody could find it 20 years from now and like the album, or tomorrow and they can have access it to it, so I think it’s really cool. Even though I don’t have a record deal now, I enjoy writing my songs and I have total creative control. This album was kind of pop-like, the next album could be different because I’m growing and my music is growing too.
SNK: Can you give TheCelebrityCafe.com’s readers any tidbits on what’s coming up for your character on Arrow’s season finale, which airs May 15?
CJ: Well, right now ‘Shado’ is on the island training ‘Oliver’ in archery. It’s really cool because she’s got real potential, and I’d like to think that she’s kind of like ‘Mr. Miyagi’ 'cause she’s the first person to say that you can find the hero in you. That applies to everybody whether you’re on TV or living a normal life. With courage and bravery you can find that strong person in you and you can do great things. We’re going to see them form a really solid team and do everything they can to get off the island. Fans are going to love and hate the finale. Waiting for season two is going to hard. *laugh*
SNK: Do you have any upcoming projects you want to mention?
CJ: After I finish Arrow, I have a few loose ends to tie up here first. Then I’m going back to Hong Kong to be in my first musical. It’s challenging because I’m singing alongside actors that are absolutely amazing. We have shows at the biggest performing theater in Hong Kong and it’s Hong Kong’s first musical. It’s called Good Morning Hong Kong [Hong Kong’s Hand-over back to China in 1997] It’s got family, drama, ambiguity. It’s heart-warming in the context of the time that was really important.
Watch Celina in Arrow on Wednesday 8/7C on the CW. And find her music on her website,CelinaJade.com.