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Kung Fu's Shannon Dang On The Highs And Lows Of Althea's Season 2 Journey - Exclusive Interview

This article contains a reference to sexual assault.

The CW's thrilling reimagining of "Kung Fu" centers on Nicky Shen (Olivia Liang), who spends three years away from her San Francisco-based family to train in Kung Fu at a Shaolin Monastery, only to return to find her hometown riddled with crime and corruption. Nicky uses her newly acquired martial arts skills to protect the city, but she doesn't do it alone; her family is key to her success, including her older sister Althea, played by Shannon Dang.

When we first meet Althea in the show's first season, she's preoccupied with planning her wedding, but we soon learn there's much more to her than initially appears. In fact, Althea may be one of the most layered characters on TV. She loves clothes and knows all the best places to hang out, but she's also a tech whiz who has consistently helped Nicky with her mission. Now, in Season 2, Althea is settling into life as a newlywed while starting her very own tech company, developments that reveal even more about the character.

In an exclusive conversation with Looper, Dang filled us in on what we can expect from Althea as Season 2 continues, including her struggles with being a boss for the first time and the challenge of new conflicts in her marriage, as well as whether we'll ever see her spring into action on the show.

The joy of playing Althea

When we first meet Althea, she comes across as a bit of a stereotype of a woman obsessed with her wedding, but we quickly learn that she's a lot more complicated than that. What have you enjoyed most about playing her?

Yes! In Season 1, especially the pilot, like you said, she comes off as very stereotypically [in] bridezilla mode, planning, obsessed with her wedding, but you really do find out that underneath all of her humor and her levity and her anxious personality, she really does have a big heart.

In Season 1, you see that she's hiding a lot of deep trauma and pain. She was sexually assaulted by her boss in Season 1, so you see her find herself and come to terms with that and heal from her pain. One of my favorite things about playing Althea is her range. The writers do a great job with showing the multiple layers of what makes Althea. She's up, she's down. She has her good days, she has her bad. She loves her family. She has a lot of fears, and it's really fun. I feel very lucky that I get to show all of such a three-dimensional character.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Althea's big professional choice

Althea got a job early this season that didn't really fit her values, so she quits very publicly. It's an empowering scene. How did you feel about Althea's choice?

I admire Althea. She is extremely relatable. Even though she doesn't quite know it, she's actually very brave. She knows that she's brilliant and she knows she has a lot to offer, but she wasn't happy there. She really knows in her heart that she wants to do something bigger than herself and give back and use her tech skills for good. As you see in Season 1 and what has aired so far in Season 2, it fulfills her to use her skills to help Nicky with her quest and help her community and defeat bad guys.

There's always been something more that Althea has wanted, so to go to a work environment where it's all about money and no one really cares what they're doing and they're settling to hit a quick fix, it's really admirable to see her want to take the risk and venture off from that and follow her heart. It's scary to leave your job, but she knows in her heart that [it's] not where she was meant [to be] and in Season 2, you get to see her journey and follow that, and she will find what she's meant to do. It's really nice.

Now that she's started this brand-new venture that's all hers, she's leading for the first time. Will we get to see more of her struggles as a first-time boss as the season continues?

Yes, you will definitely see her struggle more as a first-time boss. Most people can relate, but she wants to be a good leader her first day, she wants it to go perfectly, she wants to be inspiring and have her employees think that she has it all together. She really is figuring it out and making the best of what comes her way, and a lot of people can relate to that. Especially in Season 2, Episode 4 ["Clementine"], we see her come to the realization [that] she's not going to be perfect and she's going to figure it out, and her employees are there to see it all, the up and downs, and that's what's going to make them a great company and that's how they're all going to grow together. It's really nice, and you'll definitely see ups and downs from her journey. It's quite funny, actually. I'm very excited for people to see.

Will the product her company creates fit into Nicky's quest at all?

It definitely helps, and you will see [what] Althea's journey and career and her business ends up doing for Nicky and the community. You'll definitely see.

Starring in the 'rom-com episode' of Season 2

We also saw in Episode 4 that Dennis (Tony Chung) and Althea have their first marital spat. What was it like for you to explore that side of your character's relationship?

It was really fun. In Season 1, the relationship between Althea and [her now-husband] Dennis was very much picture-perfect, what they showed. Yes, Althea is going through turmoil on her own, but Dennis is always right there being the most supportive and kind husband, and that's how people fell in love with him and them as a couple. They're newlyweds now, and so post-marriage, this is the first time that you are seeing them have conflict and it is fun. Especially, you see it in Episode 4, and that's the episode where Dennis loses Althea's baby, AKA the symbol of her independence, which is her vintage BMW [that Althea named Clementine]. He is responsible for that and you see how upset she is, and they go on this mission to go find this car.

Everyone calls it the "rom-com episode" of our season because it's so funny, the situations that they find themselves in to get this car back. I love that audiences get to see this unfiltered, less polished side of both Althea and Dennis. It's really cute to see a picturesque, perfect couple on paper have their ups and downs and that's what part of marriage and relationship is. Then, they share this big old rom-com kiss, at the end of the episode while Clementine in the background is getting blown up, and it's fun. Audiences can relate to this couple now more than before when they weren't having any conflict.

Putting Althea on the front lines of Nicky's quest

Earlier in the season, Althea and her brother Ryan (Jon Prasida) were both lamenting that they weren't involved in Nicky's quest as much as they wanted to be. Will we get to see Althea on the front lines more as Season 2 goes on?

Yes. As Season 2 goes on, we will definitely see more of Althea and Ryan get in on Nicky's quest. In Season 1, it was very much Nicky coming back and hiding her powers and her mission and going out on her own, and the rest of the family [was] always stuck in the background, hoping and praying that she would return and not sure what the heck she's doing out there. In Season 2, [now that] everyone is caught in the loop with Nicky and her powers and we're all on the same page, we do get to see the whole entire Shen family and what we like to call the Scooby Gang, or the Shen Family Shooby Gang, all in on Nicky's quest and her missions.

It's really fun because now, the audiences get to see the whole family dynamic, plus [Nicky's boyfriend] Henry, plus [Nicky's ex] Evan and Dennis, they're all in on the action, and for Season 2, it adds a really fun dynamic of everyone all hands on deck. You will see Althea get more in the action.

We did a panel and I think it was Eddie [Liu, who plays Henry,] who said Althea, she's also a warrior, she's a keyboard warrior of the family. I thought it was really cool.

That's a pretty good description.

Right? She's fighting her battles.

Welcoming Mia and bonding with Nicky

The Shens have found a new family member in Mia this season. How does that impact Althea and her feelings about her family?

Adding a new family member is really nice for the story. Some people forget that Nicky is out there saving Mia, and we know the connection between [Shen matriarch] Mei-Li and Mia as well because [Mia is Mei-Li sister's child], but Althea and Ryan just as much want Mia to be safe and want to bring her in. They're not sure how to help quite as much as Nicky since Nicky's on the front line and can go out and save her. For us, it's really nice to have a long-lost cousin and bring someone in, and it does highlight one of the strong points of this show, which revolves around family. A lot of people love and look up to the Shen family, and to have it grow is even better.

Althea and Nicky have this really close relationship that we've seen continue to grow. Will they still confide in each other throughout Season 2?

Yes. Althea and Nicky definitely have a close bond. They are sisters, they can mind meld, they can read each other's minds. Although they are very different sisters, they love each other and can relate so much, and you will see more sisterly moments in Season 2. I personally never had a little sister, so it's really nice to have an onscreen little sister where we can have sisterly moments, and I can play big sister and talk about her relationship and things [that are] going on. It's nice.

Althea doles out some pretty good advice.

I think so too! I'm learning from Althea.

Althea could become a fighter – and maybe even a dancer

You're a professional dancer, as well as an actor. We see a lot of martial arts in the show, but will Althea ever get her own dance solo?

I know, right? I've been dancing almost my whole life. I did three seasons dancing for the LA Clippers, three seasons dancing for the Los Angeles Rams, and it's funny because the year I retired, right after is when I booked "Kung Fu." People always ask, "Oh, so are you using your dance skills for the kung fu?" Ironically, Althea has not been able to fight yet, but it's not too far away in the future where she will have her time, and if she does fight, definitely she'll be dressed in something fantastic. Who knows if she will have a dance moment before her kung fu moment?. I'd be very excited to see.

Althea has some serious lows in Season 2

Can you tease anything else about what's coming up for Althea this season?

Yes. Viewers are going to have a lot of fun watching Althea's journey as she tries to navigate what it is to be a CEO of a tech company. She will have highs, she will have lows, and the lows are my favorite part. She definitely hits rock bottom and you will definitely see, as glamorous and as dressed up as Althea is normally, you could imagine what that would look like in reverse. Viewers will also be excited to see how she combines her love for tech and her career, and her love for her community and giving back.

Not to spoil too much, but some things from Season 1 might come trickling back in, some of those darker, deeper demons. Some of those demons might come back into Season 2, and how does that play out now that she thought that was in her past?

Does this mean that the sexual assault Althea dealt with last season might come up again?

I have no idea, you will have to find out!

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The fun of returning for Season 2

For you, what has it been like to come back this season after getting through the first season and having it received well?

I am so grateful. Finishing Season 2 was like graduating from sophomore year. Season 1 was our freshman year. We were figuring everything out, really nervous, and hoping people liked us and getting in the groove of things. Season 2 was a lot more fun and easy going. We already had a well-oiled machine and we jumped back in where we left off, so it's been really fun. I can only imagine our characters, our storylines, our action, our chemistry — everything has been elevated, and I cannot wait to see how that continues to grow for Season 3.

The second season of "Kung Fu" airs on The CW on Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. ET. New episodes are available on the CW website and app the following day.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.