Breaking into the Entertainment industry is hard enough, but try breaking into it in both the American AND Chinese markets. Actor Mike Sui does just that, by transcending boundaries and the stereotypes surrounding international stardom. The multi-talented actor who splits his time between the U.S. and China stars in The Wandering Earth, a film that follows the story of the end of the world as we know it– the sun’s burnt out, and the human race is facing extinction. A lottery system is put into place, and a ploy to fight for everyone’s survival is executed by moving Earth to a new solar system. What could go wrong, eh? Sui’s unlikely hero persona is alluring, and undoubtedly has contributed to the fact that The Wandering Earth is the second highest grossing film in China’s history, and not to mention has recently hit Netflix in the U.S.
Sui’s passion for action is clear with this global phenomenon, and he was nice enough to chat with Fan Fest News regarding his career, the recent release on Netflix U.S., and if you’re looking to connect with the 34-year-old, you can find Sui on Weibo, China’s Twitter, where he has amassed more than one million followers!
FAN FEST NEWS: Tell the readers a little about “The Wandering Earth” and the character Tim you play.
MIKE SUI: “The Wandering Earth” takes place a few decades in the future and is based on a story by China’s most famous sci-fi author, Liu Cixin. It tells the story of how Earthlings, under the direction of a future united world government, band together to try to save the planet after the sun begins to expand and threatens to “swallow up” and destroy Earth. The solution to this threat is that the world government decides to set up thousands of powerful engines to propel Earth out of its current orbit and take Earth to a new solar system – a journey of maybe 2,500 years. During the journey, Earth’s remaining inhabitants (selected by lottery), live underground. Unfortunately, about 20 years into the journey Jupiter’s gravitational field begins to draw Earth in and Earth is in danger of crashing into Jupiter. Earthlings have to figure out a way to save Earth from this grave threat. Spoiler: The Earth ends up being saved by a joint effort that relies heavily on the contribution of a team of Chinese specialists and “rogues.”
Tim is one of the “rogues” and accidentally plays a key role in saving the young protagonist Liu Qi. All in all, Tim is an “accidental hero.” We first meet him in jail, where he’s incarcerated for some unspecified wrongdoing. There he meets Liu Qi, who, along with his adopted sister, has been arrested for “joy riding” on Earth’s frozen surface using stolen credentials. An earthquake sets the three free and they are ultimately drafted into an effort to help restore power to some failing “earth engines” as part of a last-ditch effort to save the planet. Tim is not naturally brave, but in the end steps up and plays a heroic role. The director has said that Tim symbolizes “light.” I take that to mean that even people who might not seem to have great or heroic potential can have a capacity for nobility. In other words, there is a good, “bright” core in all of us that is waiting to be awakened by circumstance.
FFN: Have you always been intrigued by the sci-fi genre?
MS: More and more so. The more I see technological advancement, the more I realize that everything we imagine in movies will eventually become reality or most likely become reality. It’s just great looking into the future and let these things make my imagination tingle. It’s great expanding my mind and seeing a lot of possibilities and imagining the world we might live in. In that way, we can see some of the problems we might face in the future.
FFN: What drew you to this project in the first place?
MS: I got involved with this project because I am a friend of the director, Frant Gwo. I worked with him on his 2014 hit “My Old Classmate.” We got along well and became friends so he offered to create a role tailor-made for me in “The Wandering Earth.” I was happy to have the opportunity to work with him again and of course felt honored. Although none of us knew when we were filming that “The Wandering Earth” would be so successful, I was also intrigued by the idea of doing a sci-fi film. Almost all my previous film work has involved characters and stories that are realistic and take place in the modern day. It was a challenge to do something in a very different genre.
FFN: Since the release of “The Wandering Earth” on Netflix in the U.S. have you received any feedback online (or in person) from your American fans regarding this story?
MS: Not too much. Online I’ve met an American Disney employee, an “imagineer” – an engineer who works for Disney. He’s a crazy sci-fi fan and he’s watched “The Wandering Earth” five times and says he was very impressed by the plot, the production and my character Tim. He was very impressed that China could produce something of this caliber. My friends in the U.S. are very proud of me and think it’s a good step in the right direction for my career. By working on big projects, it’s one step closer to Hollywood.
FFN: What would you say is the biggest challenge you face (or have faced) in the entertainment industry?
MS: It’s like playing basketball. You have a pivot foot, left or right foot. That means you’re forced to move your other foot first. So, I accidentally started my entertainment career in China and I’ve kind of been tied down. I do want to see it through, and actually see how far I can go. I don’t want to pack my bags and have nothing or not too much to show and start from very little in the U.S. or somewhere else. So, being in China and facing obstacles, not being your average Chinese-looking person has limited me to a lot fewer roles. I’ve had certain restrictions on the gigs I can take. I sometimes can’t be the face of a show. That’s all frustrating. But at the same time I do want to be a pioneer and influence the public, the industry and make a path for non-Chinese-looking Chinese people, or make a path for people who live in China and appreciate the culture and actually expand people’s minds and viewers’ tastes in China. But years go by and it’s sometimes challenging when you don’t make a huge difference, when you don’t make big strides.
FFN: Tell the readers three facts people might now know about you:
MS: I’ve never watched one full episode of “Seinfeld.” I have a crooked middle finger that was broken when I was 10 on a train from Beijing to Pyongyang, North Korea. I can read in Japanese because I took Japanese behind French as a second foreign language as a freshman in high school.
FFN: I hear you are hosting and a participant in a few TV shows. Can you talk about those projects.
MS: There’s one show that’s kind of a stand-up comedy talent show – an elimination show every week. Numerous contestants speak on a specific subject and come up with stand-up bits. It’s had some problems with investors, but I think it will happen in the second half of the year.
Another show is a basketball reality show, which is China’s version of the NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game. So, a lot of entertainers, singers and actors are put together and have to play real basketball and eliminate each other and decide who’s the best basketball team in China in show business.
And the last show that I’m hosting is me basically helping regular people in life who have bad habits – who have not taken care of their health. I basically visit their homes and try to get evidence of how their lifestyle is not good for their health, then take them to a training ground and give them pointers on better habits, better eating habits and easy workouts that they can slowly partake in and not get overwhelmed. So, it’s a transformation show.
FFN: You are also going to be participating in a stand-up TV competition show. What’s the end goal for you if things go well with stand-up comedy?
MS: I feel like Kevin Hart has really set a good example and shown what the possibilities are – being an entertainer, an actor who has stand-up comedy as one of his “weapons.”
I’ve always appreciated the art form, but it’s also brutal because the audience is ruthless. Being on a show and possibly having an opportunity to train, to compete, to hone my skills is just a good way to get me started and possibly develop this skill, this talent.
FFN: What is your absolute favorite sci-fi movie?
MS: I’d say it’s between “28 Days Later” and “Independence Day.”
FFN: What is your favorite comedy film?
MS: Nothing comes to mind right away. I like comedians like Robin Williams. Being a kid watching “Mrs. Doubtfire” was very entertaining. I like guys like Vince Vaughan. I can’t come up with anything exactly.
FFN: What social media avenue do you use most?
MS: It’s a mix between Weibo and a little bit of Instagram, because Instagram is blocked in China so I don’t use it as much.
FFN: Would you say you prefer to binge-watch shows or let them unravel week to week?
MS: I’d rather binge watch, because I’d rather let whatever effect or impression it leaves on me be made in one big chunk instead of having to get in front of a TV or an iPad every week and keeping up with the story. Instead, I’d rather watch whatever story I want at my own leisure.
FFN: What actors do you draw inspiration from? Anyone in particular you’d die to act with?
MS: I’d say I draw inspiration from characters that Quentin Tarantino creates. Lots of them are kind of unrealistic, comic book-life characters in any of his 10 movies or so. So, I tend to study how they are portrayed. Actors that I’d die to work with: I’d say someone like Denzel Washington and maybe Leonardo DiCaprio or possibly The Rock to see what he’d be like to act around.
FFN: If you had to choose one musical to double as the soundtrack to your life, what would you pick?
MS: I don’t know. Either “Moulin Rouge” or “Les Miserables.”
FFN: What kind of donut would [you] be?
MS: It would have to be mint cool-y, because I might look like a really warm and cheery person, but I start off kind of slow to heat up to people, so it might have this chilling taste. And obviously after you get to know me it might have some chocolate chips there or some chocolate fudge filling, something to give it a twist. Possibly a chocolate donut covered with mint icing and some more fudge on top.
FFN: Anything else we can look forward to down the line?
MS: I’m getting myself fit to try to play some action comedy character that doesn’t exist yet, but I want to be prepared for it – like a “Deadpool”-like character. Also, “The Wandering Earth” will have a sequel. It will also have a Netflix-like series with quite a few episodes involving my character, which will give me more exposure in China and might lead to more work internationally.