Sometimes it may be tough to see a video game character make the transition from the polygonal world to one that’s based in reality, whether it be for a movie or TV series. A few core elements of a character may be transferred when being adapted into a live-action setting, though usually the core essence of what made people fall in love with a particular character is totally lost once they’re adapted into a new medium.
Thankfully, fans of Mortal Kombat have been lucky when it comes to the iconic ninja that is Scorpion. While the initial depiction of the character was very barebones in the first two Mortal Kombat movies and the ensuing TV series MK: Konquest, the warrior that is Hanzo Hasashi/Scorpion has been fleshed out to an amazing degree with Mortal Kombat: Legacy.
Staying true to the backstory of the character all while making him more human, but not at the sake of losing his badass cred, Scorpion has easily been a highlight of MK: Legacy thus far and has once again lived up to being one of the flagship characters for the Mortal Kombat franchise. Of course much of the success Scorpion has had in MK: Legacy is thanks in part to Ian Anthony Dale, the actor that portrays him.
Having appeared in a variety of other projects over the years ranging from Charmed, CSI, Tekken: The Movie, and The Event, Ian Anthony Dale has now become one of the main stars of MK: Legacy and is easily one of the primary reasons why the show has managed to hook in so many people, whether they be existing MK fans or people entirely new to the franchise.
Mr. Dale spared some time from his schedule to chat about his career and what it has been like to be a part of Mortal Kombat: Legacy.
Ian Fisher: Over the years a ton of folks may have you seen you in various projects, whether it was in an episode of “Hawaii Five-0”, “The Hangover”, or “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”, but they may not truly know the man and actor that is Ian Anthony Dale. So can you tell us a bit about yourself and what made you want to pursue acting?
Ian Anthony Dale: I was really quite introverted as a kid, very quiet and terribly shy. It’s probably rather unusual for someone as diffident as I was to take an interest in acting, but I saw it as a way to challenge my fears and build confidence. That is what initially drew me to the theater.
Ian Fisher: One of the things about you as an actor is that you’re totally believable in whatever role you portray, whether it’s a secretive humanoid alien, a detective, or a ninja with supernatural abilities. With that said, what attracts you the most to the roles that you portray? Is it just a case of enjoying material that’s well-written, or do you like trying to bring a certain element out of the characters you portray?
Ian Anthony Dale: I’m particularly drawn to strong, yet flawed characters. The more conflicted the better. I don’t discriminate between good guys and bad guys. As long as the role is complex and interesting I will always take a look. Whether I’m playing a reluctant Yakuza boss or a demon warrior, I always try to bring a certain level of humanity to every character I play. My ultimate dream role would be to play James Bond. Or maybe Marvel’s Namor the Sub Mariner. That would be pretty cool too.
Ian Fisher: When I spoke to your colleague and friend Eric Steinberg, he mentioned how during the course of his career he received some interesting comments from casting agents or actual directors that told him he was either being “too Asian” or “not Asian enough” in the roles he read for or portrayed. Obviously such a thing is rather ridiculous to occur given Mr. Steinberg’s talents, but of course it does reflect the underlying element that exists in the film industry.
As an acting veteran, what has it been like for you to seek out the roles that you want and simply aren’t playing up a stereotype more or less, either be it of a one-dimensional criminal type role or something like that? Has it at times been frustrating to a degree or is it just an element of the business that one needs to accept in order to work?
Ian Anthony Dale: It used to be where stereotypical roles were the only roles available to actors of color. That’s not the case anymore. Every year, we are seeing more and more actors of color in leading roles, playing characters that are anything but stereotypical.
Sure the progress can feel disappointingly slow at times, but the needle is moving in the right direction. The face of the world is changing. Multicultural and multiethnic people will one day be the norm. It’s only a matter of time before our entertainment landscape reflects that as well.
I’ve been really fortunate throughout my career to be able to steer relatively clear of the stereotypes. It hasn’t always been easy, especially when I was first getting started. Perhaps if I can hang around this industry long enough I will see the day when stereotypical roles are a thing of the past. Now wouldn’t that be something?
Ian Fisher: Throughout the years you’ve had the pleasure of acting in a variety of projects such as “The Event”, “Dollhouse”, and “Tekken”. But amongst those projects and others that people may recognize you from, is there one in particular that you really enjoyed working on but people may not have had the chance to check it out?
Ian Anthony Dale: I guest starred in an episode of “Cold Case” back in 2007 that dealt with the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. In the episode I played the father of a family that was interned. The internment of the Japanese represents a very dark period in American history, and rarely do you ever hear stories of the injustices committed by the United States during this time. I was proud of the writers and producers of “Cold Case” for daring to tell a difficult story, and proud of CBS for airing it. In the episode, my character becomes a symbol of Japanese American Pride. Being a Japanese American myself, the experience was very cathartic for me. It’s definitely an episode of television that I will always be proud to have been a part of.
Ian Fisher: You may be seen the most in-front of the camera acting in various TV shows and films, but you’ve also done some voice-over work in the past for hit video games such as “Sleeping Dogs”. What was it like to use your voice as your sole tool to act and was it something that you enjoyed doing?
Ian Anthony Dale: I had a lot of fun working on “Sleeping Dogs.” Voice acting for video games poses an entirely different set of challenges then acting on film. You don’t always have the luxury of getting to play off of other actors, and rarely do you get to learn much about the story prior to recording. The process really forces you to be spontaneous and experimental with your performance, which I found to be very liberating.
One of the biggest challenges I faced while working on “Sleeping Dogs” was having to record several lines in Chinese. Fortunately I had a terrific dialogue coach with me in the studio to make sure I got it right. I hope to get the chance to voice many more video game characters throughout my career.
A cutscene from Sleeping Dogs
Ian Fisher: Right now folks can see you reprising your role of Hanzo Hasashi/Scorpion in Season 2 of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”. What was it like to once again assume the role of Scorpion and delve into the intense action/fantasy world that is “Mortal Kombat”?
Ian Anthony Dale: I was thrilled when Kevin asked me to reprise my role of Scorpion, and had such a blast working on season 2 of Mortal Kombat: Legacy. It’s been a great privilege to be associated with a franchise as iconic as Mortal Kombat. For me, getting to play Scorpion, who many consider to be the most popular character of the franchise, has truly been an honor.
Ian Fisher: When you initially joined the cast of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” in Season 1, did you imagine things would turn out the way that they have with the series being loved by millions of people? And were you at all familiar with the “Mortal Kombat” games in general when you first took the role on?
Ian Anthony Dale: Although I didn’t play much Mortal Kombat as a kid, I was still very much aware of the game. That is a testament to how culturally pervasive Mortal Kombat has been throughout the years. When I first linked up with Kevin to shoot Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, I had no idea it would go on to become such a viral sensation. The digital world is still so new and we have only begun to discover the true potential of developing and distributing content via the web.
Legacy Season 1 was in many ways an experiment. An opportunity to see just how popular and successful a web series could be. Prior to launching Season 1, we knew we had made an exciting, quality product, and we figured based on the enormous popularity of Rebirth, Legacy had all the potential in the world to be a success. That being said, I think we were all a little shocked, but also very pleased to see it perform as well as it did. I believe Season 1 currently has somewhere close to 70 million views. With Legacy Season 1, we set the bar very high, and redefined what was possible in the digital world.
I believe the success of season 1 invigorated all of us to want to make an even bigger and better and more exciting season 2 and I think we were able to accomplish that. We all felt a responsibility to raise the bar even higher, and I think the fans will really appreciate just how much we were able to elevate the series to a whole new level.
Ian Fisher: Having played Scorpion in S1 of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”, was there a particular element about the character and how you approached it that you really wanted to evolve or delve into more once it came to filming the second season?
Ian Anthony Dale: One of the things I loved about Season 1 was that we got a chance to see a more human side of Scorpion. We got to see him with his wife and child, being a family man and a father. We even got to see vulnerability when his family was murdered. As an actor, I love playing characters with conflict and vulnerability, and Scorpion certainly had no shortage of either in Season 1.
That being said, I was a little apprehensive about showing too much vulnerability because the last thing I wanted to do was make Scorpion seem too weak. I’m sure there are many fans out there that didn’t really care to see Scorpion’s softer side, and would rather see him as the stoic badass they have come to know and love from playing the game. Well, in Season 2 those fans will have their wish. In Season 2 we will get to see a much darker side to Scorpion. He has definitely gone through a major transformation since the last time we saw him. If Season 1 was all about humanizing Scorpion, Season 2 will be all about demonizing him.
Ian Fisher: Compared to the first season, the action sequences for Season 2 of Legacy have definitely been amped up a notch, both in their complexity and the use of special effects and the occasional scene of gore through a gruesome Fatality. So what was it like for you to delve into that aspect and work alongside Eric Steinberg in doing the amazing fight sequences in the series?
Ian Anthony Dale: We definitely ratchet up the action in Season 2. The fight scenes are so dynamic and hard hitting, and the special effects have gotten a major upgrade as well. The fatalities are by far the highlight of the Season. I guarantee people are going to love them.
I really enjoy any opportunity I get to rehearse and film fight scenes. It’s hard work. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the men and women who make their living doing stunt work. When you’re fighting, you use so many different muscles you didn’t even know you had and you definitely feel pretty beat up at the end of every rehearsal. But all the pain and sweat is worth it when it comes time to step on set and do it for real. The more you practice, the more confident you feel on the day of the shoot to expertly execute the fight scene.
All the hard work by our cast and our amazing stunt team is definitely on display in Season 2 and I think the fans are really going to love it.
Ian Fisher: Another element that your colleague Eric Steinberg brought up during our chat about S2 of MK: Legacy is that it really pleased him to not only work alongside friends such as yourself, but to see so many other talented Asian-American actors in one project. For you personally was it pleasing to see a cast in which it stayed true to the source material of the video game rather than betray it with a cast that was nothing like what has been presented for the last twenty-years?
Ian Anthony Dale: For Season 2 I had the good fortune to work alongside Kevin during the casting process and was able to call upon several of my good friends to participate. We were able to put together a really solid cast and I think people will be pleased by the many strong performances throughout the season. It’s always great to work with friends, and it’s always great to see more opportunities for Asian American actors. The fact that we were able to cast so may talented Asian Americans while staying true to the source material is fantastic. Hopefully we will begin to see more and more projects with casts as colorful as ours.
Ian Fisher: For you, what was the standout moment of working on Season 2 of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”? Did you really enjoy a particular scene or was there an action sequence that you were thrilled to see how it came together?
Ian Anthony Dale: I really enjoyed Brian Tee’s tortured portrayal of Liu Kang, as well as Casper Van Dien’s hilarious turn as Johnny Cage. However, my absolute favorite moments in Season 2 would have to be the Fatalities.
Ian Fisher: Right now people can enjoy watching the second season of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”, but do you have any other upcoming projects that we can keep an eye out for in the coming months?
Ian Anthony Dale: I’ve got the Season 4 premiere of “Hawaii Five-0” coming up on September 27th on CBS, and I will also be appearing in the Season 3 premiere of “American Horror Story” on October 9th on FX.
As a longtime fan of Mr. Dale’s work throughout the years, I want to extend a huge thanks to him for taking out the time to chat with me about MK: Legacy. You can catch Mr. Dale tonight on the season premiere of “Hawaii Five-0” and you can also follow him on Twitter for other future updates.
Originally posted on September 27, 2013