As Clarice Fong, aka Blink, Chung is one of central characters of FOX's hit series set on the fringes of the X-Men universe, a member of the mutant underground with the unique ability to teleport in and out of situations – mostly out, as Blink continually proves elusive in both combat situations and emotional confrontations.
Chung – who first came to fame on the MTV reality series "The Real World: San Diego" and rose to prominence in Hollywood with her roles in films including "Once Upon a Time's' Mulan and "Gotham's" Valerie Vale – admits she has been chasing a superheroic role for quite a while now, and as she tells Moviefone she's extremely pleased that she was the one who finally caught up with Blink.
Moviefone: On a scale of one to ten; how excited are you to not just be a voice of a superhero like in "Big Hero 6," but to actually physically get into the action in "The Gifted?"
Jamie Chung: I've missed out on so many opportunities to be a superhero, and I've come so close, that this time I kind of went in with an attitude like "I don't really give a f**k." You know what I mean? Which was kind of perfect for the character, because they wanted someone who didn't care, who kind of had an attitude about things, who's kind of guarded, and kind of sassy. So I played all of those things, and I got the gig. If only it worked out like that all the time, but it doesn't.
Maybe that's the trick. Act like you don't want it.
No, no, no – sometimes you have to care like you want it!
Matt Nix has told me that in a sense Blink's super power is "I'm outta here!"
Yeah, exactly! She doesn't stay long enough to develop any true relationships or friendships, and she's always kind of been on her own.
What was fun about kind of getting into her head?
I don't know about you, but growing up as a minority, I've experienced a lot of racial discrimination, teasing, some bullying, and you develop tough skin. You go through a phase where you kind of hate who you are, culturally, and how you look. And then, 'Why don't I fit in?" And then later in life, you realize how awesome your background is, and how proud I am to be a Korean-American – from an immigrant family, but someone who is also able to succeed in such a tough world
My parents have nothing, and they barely speak English, and they were still able to buy a home, build a business, and support two kids, and send two of them to college, so I think it's something, definitely, to be proud of.
There's certainly a resonance of this show will have in this particular moment in time when people are targeted and ostracized for being different – when different can mean "mutant," or different can mean "immigrant."
It's alienating a group of people based on their religion, their culture, or being a mutant, like on our show. But throughout history, we've done that: discriminated against and stereotyped a group of people because we feared them. So during World War II, it was the Jewish people from Europe – we shut down our borders. Today it's Syria. And before that, even also World War II, it was the Japanese – sending them to [interment] camps. It's always overcoming some sort of adversity, based on your race.
And that "outsider" aspect has always been part of the X-Men story. When did the X-Men sort of trip your radar? When did you discover them?
Aw, man! I mean, as a kid, I loved watching the "X-Men" cartoon. That's kind of what got me really excited.
That cartoon still deeply resonates.
It's the 90's! For the kids of the 90's, totally. It was one of my favorites. But it was so sad, because there were so many reruns because they actually didn't have a lot of episodes. So we were watching the same ones over and over. And then, after that, I got into the comics, and then the movies came out when I was in college, and post-college. I've always kind of been a fan. There was always something every year.
You've worked with Marvel before, on "Big Hero 6." Was there a difference in the experience?
There's certainly a different vibe. For example, for the Marvel Disney movie for "Big Hero 6, it's just a totally different story. But never have I worked on specifically an X-Men project. And this is quite different and unique, because I've never experienced anything like it.
We certainly are in good hands, you know, we have Lauren Shuler Donner, the Donner company, as well as someone like Bryan Singer who's attached to this show that have really guided the way to make an awesome Marvel movies. "Days of Future Past" is one of my favorites. I know we're in good hands.
I know FOX has a particular look to their shows. I feel like "Gotham" is a great example of that. It's targeting a different audience than, say, something on ABC – which is also a great network, and I've worked with them many times as well. It's just the tone is a little different, and I'm sure you've realized, you've recognized that. I feel like ABC is geared heavily towards women, and FOX, there's a different variety of people that watch the show and different programming.
It's cool. It's gonna be different. I think the universe that we've created, there's something really gritty about it, and dark, and even though we're talking about super powers, and mutant abilities, and it's quite fantastical, it's still very much grounded.
Yeah, I was pretty well-schooled in X-Men comic book lore in my youth, but then I kind of drifted away right about the time Blink came in with "Exiles." Doing my homework to refresh about her and backstory, they've come at her in so many different ways. I didn't envy you in your research!
So what did you latch onto as you looked at her? Obviously, there's the Blink that you got on the page on the script, but then was there anything about the Blink in the comics that you wanted to draw a little inspiration from?
Doing some research on Blink, I realized that she was quite ... She's kind of a spaz! She's really spazzy, but she's also kind of scared, and she works on fear. That's a similarity, because my character runs on fear. Her abilities are the strongest when she's scared, when she's trying to get out.
That was quite similar, but in terms of the different iterations of Blink through the different comics, her look is so different. She's always kind of changing, and her powers grow. In "Exiles," she was able to throw the crystal daggers through her portals. Our Blink doesn't have those powers. It's cool to know where the power could go, could possibly go, and how easily she can do it, and how it can be used in cool, different ways.
We're kind of playing with the idea of what happens if a portal closes too soon, and you're halfway through it? What happens if she's having a bad dream, and she opens a portal? I don't know. We don't think about the things that could possibly go wrong, and how dangerous it can be if these powers are out of control.
Settling on what you were gonna do with Blink for TV, what was fun about getting in on the look, and what was a little torturous?
Well, I think when you're first sitting through prosthetics, the first time, it took around two hours. Once you get it down, it takes about an hour. I think the most painstaking process was the process of elimination of different contacts. I just spent one day at the optometrist, and he does a lot of contacts for movies, and films, and TV shows. He was taking them in, putting them out, but we were just trying different colored contacts. It's a lot of touching of your eye for one day. But physically, that was the most irritating, I think – literally, for my eye.
Is there another character that you've spent a little more time with in the others? Is there one that you would've liked to?
Because of the story, we end with her going with her new mutant friends, Because the underground mutant group, Polaris, Eclipse, and Thunderbird decide to try to find and help Blink, they lose one of their own in the process. That's a huge burden of guilt that Blink feels. It's because of me that one of your own is gone.
She's currently in a lot of scenes with Thunderbird, Eclipse, and the other mutants at the headquarters, one of which is Dreamer, played by Elena Satine. She's amazing. There is something so sensual about her, but powerful. She's good. She's really great, and can say so much with her eyes.
Elena and I were having our own conversations, and it's not very tasteful to talk about the superhero parts that you've missed, or gotten so close to getting, but you can bond with someone because of all the heartbreak. Only another actor would truly understand what you go through, and we had a really deep conversation. I thought mine was pretty big, and she told me hers, the role that she lost, and I was like "You win!" It was a big one. It was life-changing. It was crazy.
You've handled action before. What was different or challenging about the approach that you had to take for this?
It's a little different. It is a physically demanding role, but there's something unchoreographed about her. I've done a lot of choreographed fight sequences that required a lot of technical kicks and punches and moves and weapons training. So fun! And I love doing that, but there's something a little bit more raw about her. I think she's growing up on the streets, hopefully we'll see her get physical, and maybe it's like a dirty, gritty, fist fight. She's working with her powers, but she's also physical, but it's something that she struggles with, which is more straining on her.
I've talked to a lot of people who play on superhero shows about figuring out how to act your power.
It's the hardest! It's the strangest thing! And some people can make it look really cool, like Professor X! I watch actors all the time, and how they do this. Wolverine is super physical, doesn't require much. Cyclops is pretty self-explanatory, pretty cool. There's some physical things. Like Polaris makes it look so beautiful. That was choice that they did.
And for Blink, they were like "She's having a really tough time." I'm like, "Okay, that's not fun." "Okay, now you're straining and pulling apart space." Okay, how do you practice that? "Now you're tearing a hole, but it's the size of a volleyball..." It's all very technical looking. "Don't strain too much. Okay, now really make it exhausting." It's exhausting just talking about it! But it's exhausting acting out. It's the weirdest thing, and I know it looks so silly in person, but once they put in all the special effects it looks really cool.
I'm sure you've seen the cosplay. What's it gonna mean to you when you see someone, not just being Blink, but being your Blink?
Oh, I think it's so cool. I think she's also really quite subtle, but I don't know. I think I'd be more into seeing the fuchsia pink Blink with the green hair, and the green eyes, and a shaved head, and completely painted purple. I think that'd be really cool.
Do you think you could go there on the show? Do you think she could mutate and evolve?
I mean, we are playing with the idea of all of her markings on her face. We made a conscious decision to start with one, and as her powers continue to grow, you'll see more of the markings on her face, so that's kind of a cool progression.
Tell me the advantage of having Bryan Singer, who knows the X-Men backwards and forwards on the screen, right there, and to be directed by him?
The obvious advantage is the fans love him. I love him. Like I said before, "X-Men: Days of Future Past" was on of my favorite X-Men movies. It was smart. It played with the concept of time. The what-ifs. The characters who were like literally on the edge of desperation. The mutants of the future who needed the most. It's playing with the time jumps was really interesting to me.
Bryan came up with one of the coolest sequences ever. His vision is incredible. Quiksilver's moment of taking down the guards one by one in slow motion, because he's super fast, was one of the coolest sequences I've ever seen. It's also someone like him that would be able to say what he wanted and then bring it to life. He's very particular about how something looks. He has a heavy hand in how a scene turns out, and what the super powers look like.
We had great guidance on this show. We also have someone like Derek Hoffman, who works with Lauren Shuler Donner. Her right-hand man, who's very well versed in the Marvel X-Men universe. And then, someone like Matt Nix who's made it his life goal to do a show about the X-Men, someone who's been a fan since he was child – we're in very good hands, no matter how you look at it.