Fans of J.K Rowling's wizarding empire (read: every man, woman, and child) all remember the moment we were introduced to Cho Chang, the lucky Ravenclaw who gets to paint the town (and do a bit of snogging) with Mr. Potter himself. But Voldemort has been vanquished and we can't all stay at Hogwarts forever, so now 24-year-old Scotland native Katie Leung is packing away her robes and trying her hand at something other than Quidditch: the stage. Leung stars in Wild Swans, a theatrical adaptation of Jung Chang's fictionalized family memoir about life amidst the rise of Communism and the Cultural Revolution in Mao's China. I caught up with Leung over email in between rehearsals in London, where the show is set to open after its Stateside debut.SO, IN THE SPIRIT OF GETTING THESE OUT OF THE WAY, I'M SURE YOU GETHARRY POTTER QUESTIONS ALL THE TIME. WHAT'S THE MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION? "Is Daniel Radcliffe a good kisser?" And the answer is "Yes, he is." WOULD KATIE LEUNG GO FOR HARRY AS WELL? I would be attracted to any man who possesses half the balls and loyalty that Harry has. WHAT WAS THE STRANGEST, MOST SURPRISING MOMENT ON SET FOR YOU? In answer to both, it was on my first day on set, when I saw the sea of people standing behind the camera whilst we were filming, and the vast number of crew involved. WHAT DREW YOU TOWILD SWANS? HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED? China has such a fascinating history that has become more and more important to me as I've grown older, so there was no doubt I would accept the offer to play one of the many inspiring women in the story. I auditioned for Wild Swans after reading the script and recall my mother's delight at hearing the news that I was offered the part, since she is a big fan of the memoir. WHY IS THIS AN IMPORTANT STORY FOR MODERN AUDIENCES? I think it's vital for all of us to be aware of China's history in order to grasp its traditions and culture, particularly in today's society with the unstoppable rate at which the economy of the country is growing and changing. It is also important to understand the struggles and sacrifices of the older generation in order for us to be grateful of all the things which we so easily take for granted nowadays. YOU ATTENDED THE CHO AUDITION ON A WHIM, CORRECT? AND NOW HERE YOU ARE DOING THEATER. HAD YOU EVER PLANNED ON ACTING? WHAT'S IT LIKE HAVING FALLEN INTO IT? Prior to acquiring the role of Cho Chang, I was unsure of my career path at school. Auditioning for the role itself made me realize the possibility of acting as a profession and now that I have a chance to be on stage, I think the passion for it will only grow from here onwards. WHAT'S ON YOUR AGENDA AFTER THIS? Preparing for my photography degree show this summer. And then hopefully continuing the life of a struggling actor. AND, FINAL QUESTION, JUST BECAUSE: BUTTER BEER OR FIREWHISKEY? Butter beer. Have yet to try firewhiskey, but would highly recommend staying away from pumpkin juice.
Actress Katie Leung has become well known to film audiences as Harry Potter's girlfriend Cho Chang, but she is now turning her efforts towards the stage, starring in Sacha Wares' production of Jung Chang's autobiographical play Wild Swans, which will play the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, February 11-March 11, to be followed by a run at the Young Vic, April 13-May 13. She will play Er-Hong, a witness to China's 20th-century cultural revolution. TheaterMania spoke to Leung about her exciting stage debut, the scary exhilaration of live theater, and her secret talent. THEATERMANIA: What can you tell us about your role as Er-Hong? KATIE LEUNG: Er-Hong is a studious and respectful daughter and granddaughter who is seen growing up from a young child to into her twenties in the midst of China's Cultural Revolution. She becomes affected by it enormously throughout her childhood as she watches her communist parents sacrifice endlessly for a fairer society amongst all the corruption and oppression. As a result, Er-Hong becomes determined to excel in her studies in hope of gaining a scholarship to study abroad and escape the country's strict regimes.
TM: What sort of pressures are on your shoulders playing this role, since it based on the author? KL: Jung has been very supportive throughout the rehearsal process, which has no doubt taken a lot of pressure off everyone's shoulders. I have bonded incredibly well with all of the cast members over the last few weeks and so with their help, the transition to my character has been fairly easy in terms of bringing her emotions to the stage.
TM: How much are you like Er-Hong? Family is a priority in my life as is Er Hong's, so I can empathize with her most of the time. On other occasions, she is far more courageous and decisive than I am, and for me that is when it gets interesting.
TM: How difficult is the transition from film to stage? KL: The obvious challenge is of course getting it right the first time, which is weirdly exciting for me. I was told by a drama tutor once that "the blind, the deaf, and the foreigner must know what is happening on the stage," which has helped my preparation for the show immensely. I have learned that I have a lot more to learn as an actor, and also that "less is more" can be applicable within the realms of stage.
TM: What are you most nervous about? KL: I'm easily distracted, so it's more about making sure that I am able to balance the amount of attention I keep from and give to the audience. There are also one thousand and one props which are all vital to the story, so it's frightening to think that a pair of tweezers could potentially ruin a whole show. TM: What advice do you have for young actors? KL: To avoid cliché and strive for the truth in any given situation.
TM: What is your dream role? KL: A part in the American comedy series Modern Family, or in a film directed by either Sofia Coppola or Lars Von Trier.
TM: Do you have any secret talents? KL: I've yet to be beaten at Scrabble.