Check out our interview with CW series “Kung Fu” actress Yvonne Chapman who plays the lead villain Zhilan. “Kung Fu” is a reboot of the 1970s classic featuring a predominantly Asian cast. Yvonne is extremely proud of this project and excited to bring attention to the series and its Asian led cast. She also hopes to use it as a platform to contribute to the current conversation around representation.

Follow Yvonne @ypchapman

Hi Yvonne, please tell us a little about you?

I’m originally from Calgary, Alberta. I was born and raised there. But currently, I’m based out of Vancouver and luckily, doing what I love here and that’s working in film and TV. First and foremost, I’m an actor but I’ve dabbled in directing and producing small projects and really enjoy those facets of the industry as well. Outside of my work, you’ll likely find me drawing, painting, or reading. And I really miss and enjoy team sports and training at my usual gyms with my coaches. I’m really looking forward to when we can all safely get back to that.

Describe yourself in 3 words?

I find that difficult to do myself! So rather, I asked my husband, and he said I’m: 1) Pretty 2) Smart; and 3) Caring. I thought he might be trying to butter me up. So, I asked him again to clarify and he said, “you’re pretty smart, and caring”. Punctuation is important!

How did you get started into acting?

My interest in acting started when I was very young. However, it took a long time for me to get the courage to pursue it. I was incredibly shy and introverted in my youth, and to an extent I still am. I had it in my head that to be an actor, one had to be outgoing and unreserved. I realize now that I was wrong, but back then in that mindset, I never saw it as a viable option for me. It wasn’t until I took an acting class after I graduated from University that my love for acting was rekindled. And once that happened, it really took over and I had to go for it.

How has this changed your life? 

Prior to acting I worked as a mergers and acquisition analyst. So, my life since has completely changed! Although I had some experience in commercial work and modelling during my University days, I didn’t know much about the industry or what to expect. So, when I decided to pursue acting, it felt like a leap of faith – I asked for a leave of absence from my work, packed up whatever could fit in my car, and drove from Calgary to Vancouver.

What is the best and worst part of being an actress?

Acting affords me the opportunity to learn about a myriad of topics and people. With each character and project starts a new process of research and creation, and in that process, I always learn something new. I absolutely love that about the work. And I love being on set, with a small village of people that must come together to make it all happen. The downside is I don’t get to be on set all the time.

Tell us about your work in the CW series “Kung Fu?”

I play Zhilan – the big bad of the show! I am so lucky to be a part of this project. She’s been a blast to play, because she’s complex. On one hand she’s dangerous, vile and astute. And on the other, heartbreaking, and damaged. I’m so grateful for this opportunity. And on top of all that, I also get to do a fair bit of stunts because she’s an excellent fighter. The show’s stunt team is a group of incredible martial artists, choreographers and coaches and it has been so fun working with them and learning the fight sequences.

How do you prepare for a role?

My preparation for each role is different, but something I always do is keep a journal of some sort to jot down thoughts, ideas, drawings, etc. in the voice of the character. I have a separate journal for every character I play, and the journal itself must feel like the character. For Zhilan, the notebook I eventually found took me days to find. Hers is a black notebook, with black pages. Whereas, for example, when I played a lawyer, I wrote on legal pads and sat in on public hearings to get a sense of her professional life.

What other projects have you been part of?

Right before I started Kung fu, I was filming a show called Family Law, where I played Danielle Lim – a PR specialist and girlfriend to one of the lead characters, Daniel Svensson. I was also a lead on a series for the CBC called Street Legal. It was a reboot of one of the longest running Canadian drama television series, which aired on CBC Television from 1987 to 1994.

What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?

I’m truly open to playing all types of roles. But what I’d love to do are characters that are a larger departure from who I am. It’s challenging and can be a bit scary but that’s what makes the work interesting and gratifying. I really like the process of transformation outside of myself, so the more I can find that in a role, the more enjoyable and appealing it is to me.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

That I get to do what I love. I’m so grateful for that. And getting to know and work with creative, thoughtful people.

What did you learn from your biggest failure?

That it wasn’t a “failure”. Your failures and mistakes are just opportunities to learn, to get better and hopefully, come out the other end with more conviction.

What’s your advice for the newer actresses? 

Be kind and show yourself some grace. You may have a lot of moments of self doubt and frustration at the beginning of your career, and throughout whether it be from lack of consistency of work, or the lifestyle. But do your best to find the joy in it all.

Try to practice a growth mindset – that has helped me extrapolate value from even the hardest of times. And find balance. Have activities, jobs, friends, and support outside of acting and the industry. Not only will those different perspectives make you a better actor, but it will also remind you that you and your worth are not tied to your job.

What book should every entrepreneur read?

When I left corporate finance, a colleague of mine gave me a book called The First 90 Days. There are some great tools and ideas in there about navigating new roles and transition periods.

What is your favorite healthy food?

Sashimi salad.

And your favorite cheat food?

Poutine. What can I say, I’m a true Canadian.

How would you explain your fashion style?

I have moments where I love to dress up or try out trends, but day to day I’m pretty simple and can be very lazy. Bless a good pair of sweatpants!

What is your own definition of happiness?

Waking up each day, looking forward to your responsibilities and having a feeling of purpose.

If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?

If I was going to meet someone, I’d prefer they be alive…zombies freak me out.
All jokes aside, my late grandpa. He passed when I was very young and I found out later he produced films and owned theatres on the side. I wish I could have talked to him about his life and interests.

Best advice ever given?

“Failure don’t think about. Success you never know.” I feel like this deserves some context. I was picking up a friend in a cab for a trip, and on the way I struck up a conversation with the driver. We started chatting about our lives and plans, and it was right at the time I was debating on leaving my job in Calgary to head to Vancouver. I told him I was scared about failing, and for leaving a good job and life behind. That’s what he said in response, and something in me just clicked.

I wish I had kept in contact with him, but wherever you are. Thank you.

Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years from now?

Definitely still acting, as that’s my love but I would also like to learn more about and pursue directing.

Where can we follow you?

Instagram: ypchapman
Twitter: yvonne__chapman (two underscores)


Quote: A day without laughter is a day wasted.

Book: Currently on the 4th book of the Red Rising series.

Movie: I could never choose just one! But I recently saw Raya and the Last Dragon and I would highly recommend it. It’s rad.

Tv Series: Currently watching Mr. Robot. And of course, Kung Fu!

Favorite Food: Poutine and Chips

Travel Destination: France

Sports Team: Calgary Flames



Photo credit: Laura Baldwinson