Dream chaser: Get to know ‘The Suicide Squad’ star Mayling Ng
Maylin Ng is a name to know. Ng recently starred in DC Comics and Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Suicide Squad. She plays ‘Mongal’, the muscular, orange-skinned daughter of the Ruler of Warworld ‘Mongul the Elder’. Ng appeared alongside an A-list cast including Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Pete Davidson, and many more.
Ng has a unique global perspective. She was born in the UK, then spent years in the Canary Islands, Singapore, and Los Angeles. Her impressive physical conditioning & martial arts training bring to mind many of the great action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Film Daily was fortunate enough to interview Mayling Ng about The Suicide Squad as well as her exciting career, here is what she had to say.
Tell us about your history in acting. How did you start your journey?
My journey really started in Asia, where I was cast in martial arts movies. This opened a lot of doors for me to further my acting career and allowed me to eventually move to Los Angeles. Shortly after I arrived, I landed the role of Orana in Wonder Woman. and everything changed after that. It’s been a crazy last few years to say the least. I’m very fortunate with the opportunities and experiences I have realized since coming here.
You have a prolific resume in films like Wonder Woman and The Scorpion King: Book of Souls. How important is physicality to a character?
I believe it depends on the roles that I am in. If the role has a focus on action, then I work hard in advance to modify my body and presence accordingly. For movies, like Wonder Woman, where I’m supposed to look like an Amazon and perform a lot of action scenes, that means training for months in advance. My body is as much a part of the costume as the clothes and makeup that have been designed for my characters. If the role concentrates on mostly dialogue and drama without the need to show a certain physique, then I work on other aspects of my skill set.
You’re also certified to handle different weapons. Do you feel these skills give you an advantage in terms of being believable onscreen?
Absolutely. I am currently certified in 9 kung fu weapons for my Shaolin black belt, including single broadsword, double sword, and straight sword. I am also versed in long weapons such as Bo staff and guandao and soft weapons including nunchaku and whip chains. If I am asked to utilize a weapon in an action scene, I already have the basic skills in weapons to adapt and make the scene realistic.
Do you have certain acting tricks or routines you do to help yourself get into character?
Yes. In addition to modifying my body and training for the purpose of looking believable onscreen, I work closely with my acting coach, Joe Ochman, who was recommended to me by my mentor, actor Dave Bautista. Joe and I work together to break down scripts and develop my characters’ backstories. I also work with my dialect coach, Jon Sperry, if I need to learn a new accent. Costume and makeup are also very important to me, so I try to spend as much time as I can in advance studying a character’s look and how that will evolve or devolve over the course of the story. Sometimes, I’ll even create a playlist containing the type of music I think the character would listen to. This is all just a long way of saying that I work hard to get to know the character from the inside out.
You star in the new Warner Brothers/DC Comics blockbuster The Suicide Squad. Walk us through the audition process. Was it intimidating to audition for such a major franchise?
No, it wasn’t intimidating. I’ve auditioned for a lot of big projects during the last five years or so. I don’t get nervous. I get excited.
What initially drew you to the role of Mongal in The Suicide Squad?
I’ve always been attracted to strong female characters and, having read the comics, I knew that Mongal is such a badass, even an arch enemy of Superman. What’s not to like?
Can you tell us about working with director James Gunn and the all-star cast?
James created an atmosphere on set that was very creative and collaborative for everyone involved. It was inspiring and we had a lot of laughs. I genuinely felt really lucky to be a part of it.
Some actors don’t like to watch themselves onscreen. Do you like watching yourself in projects once they’re completed?
I used to struggle and would even walk out of the room if a scene that I wasn’t comfortable with was about to come on because all I saw were my flaws. These days I have been less self-critical, and I give myself a break. I think you have to do that, otherwise you will tear yourself apart in this industry and you won’t survive. I learned to let things go, thankfully, but it didn’t happen overnight.
Were you allowed to improvise during production on The Suicide Squad or did you stick closely to the script?
James is a wonderful writer, and his dialogue is amazing, so I didn’t need to ask and stuck closely to the script.
You’re currently in production on Legend of the White Dragon. How does the film differ from some of your past projects?
Director Aaron Schoenke treats his cast and crew like family, so everyone’s grown very close. The atmosphere on set is fun and creative. The combination is very liberating, and we try a lot of things. I feel like I’ve learned more from this process than ever before.
You’re slated to appear in the boxing drama, The Journeyman. Does a smaller-scale film present a different set of challenges compared to action blockbusters?
In this particular case, yes. The Journeyman is a drama about an alcoholic, drug-abusing, past-his-prime journeyman boxer, who after being diagnosed with neurological damage, continues his career on the small-hall circuit at grave risk to himself. I play Alina, a woman who previously escaped an abusive relationship and is starting her life over when she becomes romantically involved with the boxer, who’ll be played by retired UFC champion Michael Bisping. Think: The Wrestler meets Leaving Las Vegas. So, it’s a dramatic role, darker and grittier, with less action and more dialogue. The film has a smaller budget which means fewer shooting days. I’m looking forward to losing myself in a different type of character than my previous roles as a superhero or a warrior. She’s just a woman trying to get by and not make the same mistakes over again. I like that.
Who are some of your biggest acting influences?
I’m a big fan of Benicio del Toro, Idris Elba, and, in particular, Dave Bautista. I’ve loved watching Dave evolve as an actor. He’s been a big influence on me, and I hope to one day have a career like his where I balance the big action movies with the dramatic turns.
What is your favorite fight scene that you’ve been a part of?
A few come to mind but fighting on the beach after my Orana scene in Wonder Woman disguised as another Amazon in a corset with 50 guys dressed as Germans under the blazing sun for 3 weeks was pretty epic.
What has been your greatest professional success?
Winning a SAG Award for Wonder Woman.
How about a professional failure? What did you learn from it?
Looking back, it’s probably not going for my dream earlier in my life. I’ve owned restaurants in Tenerife to have a fitness company across Asia but never risked it all until I went for my dreams later in life, as I have never been as fulfilled as I am now being a creative working in the film industry.
You are of Chinese-Singaporean-European descent and were born in the UK. How important is it to you to appear in films that have a broad international appeal?
Films with broad international appeal tend to be more successful, don’t they? At the end of the day, this is a business, and you can’t make films without money. So, I want every film that I am in to do as well as it possibly can.
What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
Never stop learning, never stop training, always give your best, and keep things in perspective.
Lastly, what is your favorite film of all time?
Probably James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad! Go and Watch it in IMAX to get the full impact!