Social media has its upsides and downsides, like everything I guess! For me the upsides have been jaw-dropping incredible – I have met some truly interesting, talented, writers, actors and filmmakers across the world. This ever growing network of connections that would have been quite difficult to amass in the time social media didn’t exist (yes there was a time in the dark ages).
It’s been fun reaching out to filmmakers around the globe with relative ease which has opened doors I have never dreamed possible and this blog has gone from strength to strength through those wanting to share their experience.
This interview with Mark wouldn’t have been possible without my contact with Mike Leeder who suggested “You should interview this guy!” and again Mike was right! (another big thanks Mike, my debt in Twiglets to you will be mountain high at this rate).
Mark, already an accomplished martial artist, moved into acting in the late 90s and has worked across a wide range of TV and film projects including RED2, Redcon-1, The Medallion and Displaced. His latest film, Avengement, saw him working alongside Scott Adkins and he also features in the highly anticipated finale, Ip Man 4 – which I can’t wait to see!
Vikki: At what age did you start martial arts and then want to turn it into an acting career?
Mark: I was 10 years old when I first started practicing martial arts. My earliest interest came from watching movies! I started on Jackie Chan’s work and remember enjoying those from a very young age, films like Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow had a big impact on me. I saw martial arts as a stepping stone to working in film.
Vikki: Who were your martial arts and acting inspirations?
Mark: Jackie Chan and Jean-Claude Van Damme were always big inspirations in terms of martial arts, but my number one inspiration would be Sylvester Stallone. His career story and journey from getting Rocky made, to everything he’s done since, is very inspiring to me.
Vikki: What are the challenges for actors specialising in action films wanting to cross into non action parts and how do you overcome these?
Mark: I believe that working with better actors than you is the best cure. You can watch and learn on the job and they will make you dig deep and work even harder, just to try and match them. Also, remember that if you’re known for specialising in action but you want to do more non action and drama, you’ll need to develop a show-reel to show off that side of your work.
Vikki: What have been your most enjoyable films to work on, and why?
Mark: Redcon-1 was a very tough experience, but my character gave me the biggest and most developed role I’ve played, so it was also the most enjoyable. I played a small role in Avengement, and it was really fun working with Scott Adkins and Jesse V. Johnson. Ip Man 4 was an amazing experience as well, and very enjoyable working with Wilson Yip and Master Yuen Woo-ping.
Vikki: What character have you played that has made you reflect on your strengths as an actor?
Mark: I think it would have to be my character in Redcon-1. Before that, many of the roles I played were moodier, more action driven and had less opportunity to show a character arc. That film gave me the opportunity to take the character further and also interact a lot more with the other actors.
Vikki: Do you feel there is room for more female action stars outside of superhero films?
Mark: Definitely! I’m a big fan of iconic female action stars like Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock, and I’m a big of Gina Carano’s film work today. Zara Phythian, who I worked with on Underground, is another talent flying the flag for female action. I enjoy watching tough, female driven action films and TV shows so the more, the better!
Vikki: You were in the British independent film, Underground, what are the strengths of the British film industry?
Mark: I think we have a lot of talent in British film. As well as playing a role, I helped produce the film. After I worked on Batman Begins doing stunts, I hooked up with some of my old school action and fight friends who were also on the film and we got them involved in Underground! All in all, we had people like Joey Ansah, Nathan Lewis, Leon Sua, Zara Phythian and Beau Fowler. We were lucky to discover Liang Yang who has had an amazing career and recently fought Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill in Mission: Impossible – Fallout. In fact, everyone we had on that film has gone on to do amazing work. I think the film sets a benchmark for UK stunt and fight talent.
Vikki: You’re in the upcoming Ip Man movie (Ip Man 4 – release Dec 2019 HK). Can you share your experience at all working on this incredibly successful movie series?
Mark: I first got the call from Mike Leeder and I’m so grateful because he gave me an opportunity and believed in my ability. It’s a huge honour to be part of such a popular, iconic movie series. It was very tough, one of the most challenging jobs I’ve had as a performer, and I’d challenge anyone who thinks they’re tough in real life to take on a Hong Kong film! What they do is on another level, and it’s why those films look so good.
I’d never worked with Master Yuen Woo-ping or Wilson Yip before, so that was a huge privilege. Unfortunately, I wasn’t on set with Donnie Yen and I would have loved to meet him as I’m a big fan. Hopefully there’s an opportunity in the future.
Vikki: Who or what has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
Mark: My biggest hero is definitely Sylvester Stallone. As I mentioned, his story and career journey has been incredible, but he’s also a very talented director and writer, as well as actor. The Rocky and Rambo franchises have created some of my favourite films of all time, and they still inspire people now.
Vikki: What advice would you give anyone stepping into the action world?
Mark: You need to work extremely hard and never give up if this is what you really want to do. Keep training, pushing yourself, stay motivated and make yourself consistently better.
Big thanks to Mark for this interview, wishing you all the best for your upcoming projects. Vikki, The Mighty Dragon.