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Ming-Na Wen Talks Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, The Mandalorian, And Mulan - Exclusive Interview

Whether you know her as the voice of Mulan, as The Mandalorian's Fennec Shand, as Street Fighter's Chun-Li, or as Dr. Jing-Mei Chen on ER, one thing is very clear: you don't want to mess with Ming-Na Wen. Need proof? Just check out Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where she's played the team's resident powerhouse, Melinda May, for the past seven years.

Of course, in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s final season, things are a little different. May is still as tough as ever — look, you don't get a nickname like "The Cavalry" by playing nice — but in addition to her top-tier combat skills, she has empathy powers now too. That allows Wen to show a little bit more range than May's normal, steely demeanor allows. Unsurprisingly, she pulls it off beautifully.

In honor of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s impending finale, Looper talked with Wen about her time on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as some of the other roles that made her a certified Disney legend, and learned what her favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. fight scene is, what her appearance on The Mandalorian means to her, who she'd like to see May team up with if the agent ever makes her way into the movies, and much, much more.

Why Ming-Na Wen never wanted to be an action hero

What have you learned from Melinda May?

Oh, wow. She taught me that you don't really have to worry about other people's opinions of yourself if you hold true to your own convictions. She never worried about that. I think growing up Asian and being a woman, I was always constantly concerned about what other people thought of me. That was a nice lesson to learn. It's like, "Oh. Nah, not that important."

Are you happy with the finale?

Well, even if I'm not, what are they going to do? Reshoot it?

Yes, I think the fans will be happy with how the producers and the writing staff put a button on every one of our beloved characters.

May is the muscle on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and your roles in Street Fighter and The Mandalorian were also pretty physical. Have you always wanted to be an action hero?

No. No, not at all. I mean, in college I studied Shakespeare. We were all into the theater and plays. The only thing that we would do would be stage combat and dance and that kind of physical aspect of acting. In fact, after I did Street Fighter, I said to myself, "You know what? I'm never going to go and do action again." Because at that time I was young. I wanted to be a serious actor.

Never say never. Never make those goals. I mean, I know that I'm very capable because I've had a lot of training in dance and in different forms of martial arts, but this was really the biggest training for me, working on this show. I mean, learning how to do stunt fighting is an art form in itself.

Do you have a favorite fight scene on S.H.I.E.L.D.?

Oh, definitely the May-versus-May fight, which everybody else loved too. Yeah, that one is definitely one of my favorites. It was incredibly rigorous. It was tough. It was like three days of fighting. I chipped my two front teeth because of it. It was a definite fight scene, man.

Why her role The Mandalorian meant so much to Ming-Na Wen

Has there been any talk about bringing May into the movies?

Wow. How wonderful would that be? I would love it. Yeah, that would be a lot of fun. Because for me, I feel like May and Fury have had such a close relationship. I mean, Fury was the one that put May in a position to have Coulson recruit her. Supposedly, it was Coulson that asked her to join the team, when in reality it was Fury who set all that up. So they have a very close relationship.

I would love it. I think May might be friends with Nat, because she had her on her phone. Just to see the Black Widow and May in a fight scene, because both of them don't have any special powers. They just have massive skills. That would be really fantastic. And again, Asian representation. That would be much needed. Yeah.

At this point you've been a Disney princess, you've been a Marvel character, and you've done Star Wars. Is there a major franchise that you haven't been part of yet that you'd like to?

I've been pretty pleased with Star Wars. That's been a big one for me. As a kid, I grew up loving it. The Force was part of my religion. It's kind of shocking and surprising that I am now in that world. And I was on Tatooine! It was crazy.

What other world? Wow. I don't know. I mean, I guess I've never done anything like the Game of Thrones, sort of medieval-ish, realm. I think that would be fun. The Lord of the Rings kind of thing. That would be fun. Then there's always Star Trek. I haven't hit that. I haven't hit that franchise yet.

In addition to S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Mandalorian, you're also well known for voicing Mulan, who you've played a number of times. What is it about that character that keeps people coming back for more?

I mean, it's just a classic story that a lot of people can relate to, a young person who doesn't feel like she can follow her dreams and follow her heart, and slowly, because of certain circumstances thrown her way, she discovers her own strengths and her own convictions and grows from it. For her, she saves China.

I think that that's so appealing to all of us who grew up in an unfamiliar environment. I grew up in white suburbia. It was very tough. I came from Hong Kong and had to learn English in America. Growing up in white suburbia, I never felt like I belonged. That's why Star Wars was such a huge influence on me. It was just a great form of escapism. It's like Luke Skywalker, it's discovering that you have value and you become the hero of your own story. I think that is what's so appealing. It's everybody's dream that they find their potential.