In a world where racial and cultural diversity is increasingly encouraged, it seems like Asians have often been left out. That’s why Ludi Lin believes it’s time we stop being the ones serving the tables and start getting a seat with the rest of the world.
The sky was pitch black and the roads were empty. We cast a bleary-eyed look towards our watches and still found it hard to believe that we were going on a little road trip at three in the morning to see Ludi Lin. While mere mortals like us would usually be sound asleep at this time of the night (morning?), Ludi has an almost Mark Wahlberg-esque drive when it comes to his physical fitness, getting up before the world has risen to get things done.
To be honest, it’s not a huge surprise. It’s this kind of work ethic that has paved the way towards the path he’s currently on – he made the tough decision of rejecting more “traditional” careers to pursue acting; he had to learn how to adapt at a young age due to moving around several countries; and he’s had to prove himself as an actor and an artiste, taking up challenging roles in Hollywood and in China.
Things have changed a fair bit for the Power Rangers star since we last spoke with him. Most notably, he was part of one of the most successful DCEU (DC Extended Universe) films to date, Aquaman. So when we heard that Ludi was across the causeway to film Netflix’s new original, The Ghost Bride, we knew some catching up was in order.
True to form, the 32-year-old was already up with some chill out music playing from his room at around five o’clock, and was more than ready for what we were about to challenge him to.
“All Singaporean guys have to do this thing called IPPT and we want you to do it. Are you ready?” we ask.
“I’m good, man. Looking forward to it,” he replies with a wry smile.
There was almost no question that he’d perform well on our fitness test. Halfway through when he found out he hadn’t done enough reps on his push-ups to get the maximum attainable points, he insisted on redoing it to make sure he hit that number.
“Asians have to get perfect scores right?” he laughs.
As we wrapped up the morning PT (which Ludi clearly aced), we made our way back to Singapore with him and got to talking as he prepped for the photo shoot.
JUST FIT IT IN
The Fuzhou-born, Canadian-raised actor hardly looks different from the last time we saw him. He’s still as strong, lean, and flexible as he ever was despite his increasingly busy schedule with new projects coming in left, right and centre.
“It’s really not that difficult,” Ludi exclaims, when asked how he plans his workouts around his work. “If I work 16 hours a day, then I’ll just wake up a little bit earlier and get my workout, and rest when I can.”
“If someone calls me on set at 5 A.M., I’ll get up at 2 A.M. to work out, and I won’t find anything wrong with that. It’s just dark!” he chirped.
And the most important thing he must train is the one that gym bros everywhere warn to never skip: leg day. “I have to do very heavy leg workouts; that’s what I love the most because that gives me the most power,” Ludi explains. “But it’s the hardest thing because each place I need to find a squat rack or something, otherwise I’m just spending all my time jumping around it hurts my knees.”
His dedication towards his physical fitness is paired with an equally disciplined nutritional plan. It may surprise some to discover that he’s been vegan for the past couple of years, but it never seemed like a problem for the Hollywood star.
“One thing that I haven’t eaten for the last two years is meat and animals. And that includes fish by the way!” he jokes. Earlier, he voiced his confusion when he found out that some people don’t seem to consider fish to be meat. But Ludi’s secret is a special concoction he mixes, consisting of nutritious stuff like powdered plant protein, cinnamon, sugar, and cocoa powder.
“It’s this meal replacement thing that I make myself, and when people see me sucking powder through a straw, I get three questions: ‘Do you need water?’ ‘Is that hard to swallow?’ ‘Do you do that for muscles?’ And I have answers for all of those, you can come ask me anytime,” he grins.
IT’S TIME FOR CHANGE
While Ludi’s approach to physical fitness, life and career hasn’t changed much, the media landscape certainly has in recent years.
There has almost been a cultural shift of sorts in the acting world. Actors and actresses from lesser represented ethnicities and races are pushing back against the broadly whitewashed state of Hollywood, and this impact has been felt, especially from the black community who are no longer content with taking a backseat. The #OscarsSoWhite movement back in 2015 highlighted their dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in the film and TV industry, and it seems like some progress has been made since.
This push for more diversity is certainly a welcome change, but there’s more that still needs to be done for Asians. And Ludi believes that it’s high time we get a fair shake.
“I think it’s not just time, it’s past time, it’s past due. Especially when America and Canada have touted themselves as this melting pot, this mosaic of different cultures, accepting of all immigrants, right? Where everybody has a place at the table,” he says. “I feel like Asians and Chinese people have always been serving the food at the table as Chinese takeout. But it’s really time for us to actually get a seat, and have a word in.”
Having auditioned for a wide range of different roles around the world, Ludi has personally experienced some of these challenges, missing out on roles purely due to ethnic reasons. But he recognises that while there is a need to speak out, some things can’t be changed overnight.
“I think that’s part of the business. I think sometimes, there needs to be that [racial quota] in order for things to get more naturally fair,” he contemplates. “Because now things are in an imbalance right? If you don’t set those quotas, how do you ensure diversity? Some of the quotas are set against us, but in the end, I understand that movies are a business, and people have this set way of doing things because there was a proven formula before. But things are changing.”
The success of 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians was viewed as a monumental first step towards getting the sort of recognition that Asian artistes deserve. Yet, part of the reason it’s taken so long may be due to the inherent competitiveness within the Asian community.
“Because there are so little [opportunities] out there, we’re all afraid that some other Asian person will take that away, and there’s not enough for you,” Ludi explains. He likens it to sharing a grain of rice; when someone takes it, no one else can get fed.
“Instead, I try to imagine it as they’re actually taking that grain of rice and planting it in the field so that more rice can grow for everybody in the end. So that we’re trying to feed the community at once,” he explains. With Ludi’s positive outlook and constant support of other Asian actors, one can’t help but feel that the limelight will perhaps fall on the Asian community sooner rather than later.
EMBRACE THE SUCK
As the shoot winds down, it has become evident that throughout all the struggles he’s faced, Ludi is the kind of guy that relishes a challenge. Whether it’s in his workouts or in his career, it’s all about being passionate about what you’re doing, and accepting that it’s okay to be bad at things sometimes in order to get better.
“You need to really love the way you suck,” he declares. “If you can really love how you suck at something, then you can do anything. If you really like that awkwardness at that lowest level, then any progress you get will be even better than that!”
“To me, life isn’t just about happiness. It’s about happiness and the pain; the things you’re good at and the things you’re horrible at,” he adds. “If you’re starting at a place where you really are this horrible, and you think ‘I’m such an idiot, but it’s kind of fun at the same time, and I want to keep trying this until I get better’, then you just keep working at it and you will get better, and life will get better.”
A version of this article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Men’s Health Singapore.
Text: Gilbert Wong, Men’s Health Content Producer; Photos: Charles Chua; Art Direction: Jason Tan; Styling: Sheh; Hair: KC Chua using Davines; Make-Up: Beno Lim using NARS