‘John Wick 4’ Star Donnie Yen Reveals The Changes He Requested (And Received) To Make His Character Less Of An Asian Stereotype

Even though the John Wick series features gratuitous violence and guns on guns on guns, the process of making the movie is probably (hopefully) a little bit nicer than it seems. We know that Keanu gives his input to make Wick look cool, and Chapter 4 brings in a new dangerous assassin from the High Table who considers John an ally.

So when actor Donnie Yen was brought on board to play that assassin, he requested to make some character changes, starting with the name change. “The name was Shang or Chang,” Yen told GQ, which he considered an Asian stereotype. He continued, “Why does he always have to be called Shang or Chang? Why can’t he have a normal name? Why do you have to be so generic?” he said.

It wasn’t just the name: Yen also said that the character needed a wardrobe upgrade. “Then the wardrobe again—oh, mandarin collars. Why is everything so generic? This is a John Wick movie. Everybody’s supposed to be cool and fashionable. Why can’t he look cool and fashionable?” He concluded. After talking with Yen, director Chad Stahelski agreed to change the name and his character’s look in order to pay homage to Yen’s hero Bruce Lee. He sure does look like a superstar wielding both a sword and a gun while also wearing sunglasses indoors. That’s talent.

The actor also recalled being typecast in Rogue One as Chirrut Imwe, a martial arts warrior. Yen explained, “One thing I pointed out is he was a stereotype. Typical master. Doesn’t smile.” Yen ad-libbed his own jokes and lines in order to give the character more personality besides being a token character.

Yen added that the success of Michelle Yeoh, who also petitioned for a name change for Everything Everywhere All At Once, is making him feel excited about the future of Asian representation in Hollywood: “There will always be more people like Michelle. People who continue to keep thinking and to go forward no matter what the negativity or setback.”

The actor concluded that these types of conversations are important in the industry, and his criticism isn’t only directed at Wick. “I had a very respectful experience working on John Wick. Overall, I enjoyed making the film.” What’s not to enjoy about over-the-top violence mixed in with imagery of cute puppies?

John Wick Chapter 4 hits theaters on March 24th.

(Via GQ)