We rang Ming-Na Wen to chat about her challenging role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and why diversity in Hollywood still needs to change.
You have to be one tough cookie if you’re brawling with members of Hydra or Inhumans and being hurled across a room after doing a serious flying kick into your enemy. Yet it’s just another day on set for Ming-Na Wen, who plays Agent Melinda May on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. With the season finale nearing (Tuesday, May 17), this two-hour action-packed show will reveal a certain loss of a team member which will leave a huge impact on the S.H.I.E.L.D. team.
Find out what she teases about on the season finale, if playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with Kevin Bacon is a good idea, and why Asian actors are still struggling in Hollywood.
Your character, Agent May, is kind of a hard character who doesn’t show off a lot of emotion. Is it challenging to play that sort of gruff character? Ming-Na Wen: It is THE most challenging character I’ve ever had to play because it is such an antithesis of who I am. I am joking and laughing all the time. It’s really challenging, but at the same time so interesting for me to find the nuances—whether it’s just a look, a smile, or something in the eyes. What I was really surprised about was people not liking her because she’s such a bi---. It turns out that the fans love her for it! They love that she can feel so much and yet not show it. It’s kind of sadistic in a way.
This season, we lose Daisy to Hive. Should we remain hopeful that she comes back to the good side? MW: That’s the big question. Daisy, from day one, has been sort of the adopted daughter that we’ve taken in to the family. There is going to be a major confrontation, especially in our two-hour season finale. It’s caused a lot of emotional turmoil for us because—as Daisy had foreseen and hinted at—someone dies. It’s a matter of who, it’s a matter of how, and it’s devastating.
Will your character show more emotion? Will she cry? MW: (laughs) It depends on the edit that they decide. I will do [a take] with a little more Ming, a little more emotion. And 9 times out of 10 they pick the more May, less Ming. It’s really out of my control. They have let her shed a tear here and there in this season, and I’m very thankful for that.
You have a horror film out soon, The Darkness. Can you tell us a little about your role? MW: I play Paul Reiser’s wife, and friends to Kevin Bacon and his wife. I have a couple of scenes where [my character] informs Kevin Bacon’s family of what they might be experiencing. Actually, it’s an emotional scene! I definitely emote in The Darkness.
Did you play the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with Kevin Bacon? MW: I asked him about that. He was like, yeah, yeah, yeah. Could you imagine everybody with that approach? I’m like, oh my God, now I’m one degree of Kevin Bacon. I was feeling pretty cool about it. He’s just so sweet. We had fun shooting.
You were one of the very first Chinese-American actresses to receive a contracted role on As The World Turns back in the day. What are your thoughts on diversity in Hollywood in this present day? MW: Knock on wood, I’ve done really well as far as being cast in roles that were not written for Asians. And now I see a great deal more diversity, our show in particular. But, when it’s a specific Asian role and you’re taking that part away from an Asian person, it’s just wrong. To me, it’s just not fair. We’re all struggling to try and just have our creative input. We definitely need to write more, we need to do more for ourselves, or we’re not going to keep advancing.