On September 4th, Disney will launch the long awaited film, Mulan. Audiences around the world have been waiting since March 27th but the coronavirus pandemic halted the film and theater industry. Disney has decided to launch Mulan on their Disney+ platform in the U.S.A. while they have a traditional theater release in countries whose cinemas are open for business. 

One of the stars of Mulan is an up-and-coming talent named Jun Yu. We had a chance to speak with Jun in March before the pandemic reached epic proportions. Yu plays the character “Cricket.” Yes, Cricket is in the live-action version! For those of us familiar with the animated version of Mulan, a live-action Cricket seemed a bit confusing but Jun provides an explanation later on. The tale of how this young actor on the rise, who landed a part in a major Disney film, is amazing and quite hard to believe. 

Cricket and Mushu in the original Disney animated film.

I asked Jun how such an unknown newbie actor who was still in school landed an audition for Disney. He stated he was just as shocked. After hiring a manager two days prior, Jun gets a call to audition for a Disney film. He was definitely nervous but he described the audition as having a “basic audition process.” Jun continued with “I thought it would be extremely crazy but really I just went in a did it. I said my lines, did the scenes, and then got a callback. We met the director and then I was told I got the job!” 

I asked Jun about the filming process such as where it was filmed and what it was like being around all the phenomenal veteran actors. Jun explained most of the filming aspect, which was done in China and New Zealand lasting for about three months. But three months prior to this the cast did a lot of training, allowing him to bond with the other cast members. Surprisingly, Jun stated he wasn’t nervous around veteran actors like Donnie Yen, Jet Li, and Jason Scott Lee. He treated this opportunity as a job. “I actually don’t get nervous whatsoever no matter who it is because it’s about the work we’re doing and that’s where my mind is,” Jun beautifully indicated. He also told me everyone was so kind and treated him like a little brother, or in some cases a son. 

So I was really curious about the character Cricket and Jun told me I wasn’t alone. He chuckled as he told me that people thought it would be his face on a cricket body. But he assured me that he doesn’t look like an actual cricket or insect. “I’m really a soldier; I’m just a normal human being who walks on two feet and can speak,” he said, going against any past memories of Cricket never speaking in the animated version. Come to find out, “Cricket” is actually his character’s nickname because of the day he was born. But the essence of “Cricket” lives on in the live-action version. Spoiler alert: there is no Mushu in this film version. 

Ironically, right after landing the “Cricket” role, Jun got casted on ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat alongside Hudson Yang. In fact, the casting director had no clue that Jun actually worked on Mulan, (Jun’s good fortune did it again). FYI, Disney is also the parent company of the ABC network. 

Jun shared his love for music with me and at the time he was working on releasing his debut EP. He assured me that he wrote his lyrics and music because he shared that “music is really a big part” of him. He wanted this EP is to be extremely special and I could hear the passion in his voice as he spoke about it. As the conversation went on Jun expressed his respect and admiration of Korean-American rapper Dumbfoundead and Rick Lee from Year of the Ox. When asked who he would love to collaborate with, Jun voiced Indonesian rapper Rich Brian (aka formerly known as Rich Chigga). He feels he and Rich are on the same vibe. And, of course, Jun would be honored to work with Rick from Year of the Ox. But I noticed Jun is humble and would never intrude, so if either Rich or Rick gets wind of this article give Jun a call!

If there is one thing that Jun wants his fans to take away from this interview is to please get to know him as a person and his art (his music and acting) will speak for itself. I must admit Jun tugged at my heartstrings when he confessed that at the Mulan red carpet event in March 2020, there were fans that screamed his name. He really didn’t think anyone knew who he was. He called it an amazing experience and one that he will never forget. 

To be honest, after this interview I have become Jun Yu’s number one fan. He is humble, professional, talented and smart. But best of all the boy’s got swag! I look forward to seeing him shine in Mulan and listening to his music. Don’t forget Mulan airs on Disney+ on September 4th here in the U.S.A. and in theaters (that are open) worldwide. 

All the best, Jun. You deserve it!

Mulan is released on Disney+ this Friday, September 4th, available to those who pay for the “Premier Access”. For more details head to disneyplus.com.

Photo Credit: Brett Erickson