Better known for her near decade old stint in TV’s Smallville, the gorgeous Canadian actress Kristen Kreuk is no doubt hoping for bigger and better things in the rebooting of the once popular Streetfighter, based on the classic video game, in which she plays Chun-Li in this new origin tale. Kreuk was born on December 30, 1982, in Vancouver, Canada. She attended and graduated from Eric Hamber High School.
Although she did some stage work in school, she focused more on her studies. She described herself as shy and boring. For her first professional work, she went to an open casting audition for Edgemont, a teen-drama series aired on CBC television in Canada.
Her career was set to take off when she landed on the highly acclaimed WB television series, “Smallville” as Lana Lang, Clark Kent’s object of desire before he meets Lois Lane. “Smallville” proved to be a giant step for Kristin’s acting career, and led to big-screen role as action heroine in Street Fighter. But as she told Paul Fischer in this exclusive interview, her ambitions lay beyond the acting arena.
Question: Has it been important for you to try to find something that is as far removed from Smallville as you can get?
Kreuk: In a way. Mostly just to find a female character that was really strong. Not that Lana isn’t, at this point. But I think that she’s been very damsel-in-distress for a long time. And I did want to move away from that.
Question: Well, this girl is obviously the very antithesis of that. I mean, how surprised were you in some ways that the producers of this saw in you a quality that represented the strength of this girl, that Chun-Li has?
Kreuk: I may be delusional, but I think that I do have that strength. And it feels more natural for in the way that I perform, I’m also very vulnerable and open, which I think has worked a lot for Lana and this character has the strength, as well as the vulnerability. So, I mean, I was surprised in a way, but also not, because the character fits my heritage really well. I have a lot of physical training. In regards to that stuff, it seemed to work really well.
Question: Movie adaptations of video games are very tricky, in that there have probably been more misses than hits in that particular sort of sub-genre. What were you concerned about, and what was the attraction of taking this on?
Kreuk: Well, there were a few points that were really valuable to me. One was, there’s a bit of a spiritual story imbedded into this big action movie, which I thought was really great. The second was that it was a strong female lead, without a love interest, which I thought was really unique and of as well. And then the third thing was the appeal of training for five weeks in Thailand, and shooting a movie there, was really incredible. And I wanted to do that really badly.
Question: Had you been there before?
Kreuk: I had never been to Thailand and I love to travel.
Question: So, what was the work experience like? And obviously, you know, geography plays a very important role in this movie. Did it help accentuate your performance?
Kreuk: I think that it made it a lot easier. I mean, when we’re shooting, Robin and I did all of the training stuff in this incredible temple, on the top of this building, with a parcade at the bottom, and fishy smells all the way up, and then this Buddhist temple on the top of it. And it’s real. And it overlooks Bangkok. And it’s not a set, and it was the most beautiful thing. And that’s what it was like. Nothing – it wasn’t a set. It’s like, working on Smallville, it’s always a set, and you’re pretending that it’s real. And there, that environment – it was hot. Like, the sweat isn’t sprayed on. It’s – like, just all of those little elements.
Question: The humidity there can be unbearable. How did you cope with that?
Kreuk: I liked it. Drank a lot of water. And just gave into being drenched all the time.
Question: What was the training process like for you? And was it different to what you expected, or did you really revel, immerse yourself in the training process?
Kreuk: I did expect the training to be a lot harder than it was. And I don’t know if it wasn’t hard actually, but I really took to it, and I enjoyed my experience. And it felt wonderful to go in there every day. And the worst part was always just after stretching, which was when we did kicks for ages. And that was our little cardio workout, and that was always the part I wanted to get through, and get to the choreography, and work on that stuff. But it was wonderful, because nobody spoke English except for Dion and his wife, and a couple other people had a few words. So, the people who I was working for would teach me through movement, and not through words, which is so rare and wonderful.
Question: You speak Chinese in this movie, in the beginning parts of the film. Did you have to learn that phonetically? Did you already know, you could already speak fluently? What is your background in languages?
Kreuk: I’m Canadian, so I took French. My Mom’s Chinese. She doesn’t speak any Chinese. But I went to Chinese school one summer, so I have a little bit of Mandarin, but nothing, really – I don’t remember it. The guy who played the servant in the household was the dialect teacher, as well. So he taught me Mandarin. The lines that I needed to know, and the Cantonese.
Question: Is it difficult, when you’re speaking in another language that you’re unfamiliar with, to at the same time deliver a performance? I mean, what – when you’re thinking consciously of how you enunciate pieces of dialogue?
Kreuk: Yes, I would say it’s challenging, but because I knew the intent behind it, it was a lot easier. And I tried to learn it well enough that I wasn’t thinking about my words. Just the same with acting regularly, I guess.
Question: Now, I assume this could be the springboard for a franchise. Are you actually signed to do another film?
Kreuk: I’m signed for one more film, but I think they can do a lot of things with this, if they want to go franchise. There are so many opportunities within the Streetfighter universe. So whether or not I’m in it, or I’m supporting, I have no idea and I guess we’ll find out if they decide to do it.
Question: Now, as I mentioned earlier, there have been a lot of video game movies that have not faired particularly well. And what do you think sets this one apart from those that have come before?
Kreuk: Well, it’s hard for me to compare, because I don’t think I’ve seen any of the video game movies.
Question: Oh, really?
Kreuk: But I think that what sets Streetfighter apart is, there’s a story in it. And there’s a strong character. It’s character-central. Like, the characters are the focus, as opposed to the fighting, in my opinion. And the fighting just enhances all of the story, so I think that’s really important, for people to really want to watch a movie. At least for me, there’s got to be some human element that I relate to, and want to connect to. And I think this movie has that.
Question: Now, I was doing a little bit of research on you, and was reading that in fact, professional acting was a little bit of an accident for you. I mean, that it wasn’t necessarily something that I aspired to be from a very young age. Did you stumble upon acting? Or was it something that you really wanted to do? What is your take on this?
Kreuk: I’ve been acting since I was teeny tiny, and I used to put on plays for my family. And I took acting classes, and I did drama in high school. So it was always something I loved to do. It was just that I didn’t plan on doing it professionally. So, I didn’t just stumble upon the profession, like, ” Oh, I’m gonna try this random new thing.”
Question: But you enjoyed doing it as an amateur, as play, but not necessarily professionally.
Kreuk: Exactly. And the professional thing was something that I didn’t plan for, and kind of happened. I chose that opportunity, and then it became everything in my life for ten years, almost.
Question: How surprised are you by that success, and by what Smallville ended up doing for you?
Kreuk: I’m fairly surprised. It’s weird, because it has been my world, so it’s hard to be surprised about it, because I didn’t have a specific expectation, going into it. So I think the surprise would happen if I was comparing it to the results of what happened, versus an expectation. But I was just talking to people today, and people were like, ” It’s been around ten years.” And I’m like, ” Ten years! How does that go by?” I can’t believe that it’s been ten years, that I’ve been working pretty consistently. And that’s really due to Smallville.
Question: What’s the future of Smallville? Is there a future?
Kreuk: I’m not sure. I think it depends on Tom. He hasn’t signed on for Season Nine as of this moment, but it looks like they’re gearing up to go more. But I have no idea, because I am not in the loop.
Question: Would you like this to come to a natural conclusion, or would you like – do you anticipate that the finale, when it finally ends, that it will serve as a kind of a beginning, as it were, of the next chapter in the history of that character?
Kreuk: I’m not sure, because I left the show fairly recently, so I’m not sure what the heck’s going on over there, and I don’t know what the creator – or, they’re not the creators any more. The producers plans are, in regards to doing their finale.
Question: Is that a permanent departure, or would you be in –
Kreuk: I think it’s pretty permanent. I’m open to going back if there’s a reason for it, but I’m not sure what that reason would be, at this point.
Question: So, if they came up to you with a good idea for the end of the show, which would involve your character, you would consider it.
Kreuk: Absolutely. It’s a lovely group of people.
Question: Anything else that you are planning on doing after, obviously, working your butt off promoting this movie?
Kreuk: I’m really working on building a company called Girls by Design, an on-line content creation and social networking site for teen girls to help build self esteem. [LAUGHTER] That’s really my focus.
Question: Oh! How different would that be from something like a Facebook or a MySpace?
Kreuk: In a sense, it’s only utilizing the social networking technology. It’s not just a social network.
Question: When do you hope to launch that?
Kreuk: We’re building data right now, so I’ve got to see how that goes, and go from there. But right now, we’re just working with girls we’ve got aboard, and we’ve got a workshop coming up in a few weeks.