Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Thalia Tran & Izaac Wang Join Kelly Marie Tran In ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’
Raya and the Last Dragon will be hitting theaters and Disney+ (with premier access) this March, and we at Geeks of Color could not be more excited!
Early this month, I had the chance to attend the early press day for the film. Firstly, there was a press conference with with Don Hall (director), Carlos Lopez Estrada (director), Osnat Shurer (producer), Qui Nguyen (writer) and Adele Lim (writer)!
Check out the new cast members of Raya and the Last Dragon below:
Osnat Shurer began by speaking about up-and-comer, Izaac Wang, who plays Boun.
Shurer: I’ll pick it up with Boun because we were working so hard to cast that role. We had auditioned a lot of young gentleman, and we just weren’t finding it because it’s a difficult character. He’s an adult in a kid’s body, and yet there are moments of showing his vulnerability. And he’s also fun and he’s also a little sassy. We were towards the end of auditions and Izaac Wang came in and just nailed it. I remember us looking at each other going this is it, we found him.
Shurer: So, I was the one who went outside to talk to his mom in the kitchen area because I was so excited, and then I realized that I recognized her. She had been at our Laos ceremony just weeks before since she’s a Laos traditional dancer. So, it all came full circle. But it was a great moment to find Izaac, because he is Boun, definitely.
Qui Nguyen then spoke about the amazing Gemma Chan and a little bit about her character.
Nguyen: She plays our antagonist, Namaari. When we were crafting this character, it was a character that we knew was going to be a bad guy that had to be Raya’s equal in every way. But also, one that I think always are the best—a bad guy who is one that you understand, and that you have sympathy for. In a strange way, you want to see them turn.
Nguyen: And, with Gemma, she was able to work with that kind of nuance and subtlety to also show the pain of what Namaari was going through. So, even though she was our bad guy, our big bad, we always had, like, “whew, I wish they could get along.” That feeling was always there, and it was a hard tightrope to be on. But she did it wonderfully.
Shurer had to say about Daniel Dae Kim joining the cast.
Shurer: I’ll speak to Daniel Dae Kim as Benja, Raya’s father. We really wanted somebody you could feel that warmth and compassion with and yet that sense of authority. And Daniel Dae Kim, within our community of Asian Americans in the United States, has done so much in terms of really promoting visibility for people who are underrepresented. And just him as a human being with so much warmth but again, you feel that strife. And it was just such a great piece of casting for us.
Don Hall then went on to speak about Benedict Wong’s character.
Hall: We should mention Benedict Wong as Tong. He is such a force of nature and he’s elemental in his power. Every recording session with Benedict was so much fun, and watching him become the character and how he physicalizes his performance and never wears down, never gets tired and gives you a different version with each take. In fact, we generally had to stop him or he would still be going.
Last but not least is Thalia Tran! Check out what Shurer said about the star below.
Shurer: Thalia is amazing. She’s actually 14. She’s not a baby. But she’s a wonderful actress, and we gave her this not very easy challenge – which is you need to express where Little Noi’s expressing emotion. Little Noi has points of humor. She’s funny, she’s scary, she’s good, she’s bad. And Thalia somehow found this way to vocalize where you feel like you know what it is that Little Noi is saying. Thalia Tran did a good job with that.