Shuang Hu plays Candy Law on the hit SBS comedy series The Family Law. She sat down with Hello Asia! editor Johnny Au to tell us about her journey to get the part, and recalls the incredible experience of working on a groundbreaking Asian-Australian family focused show.
Well, Shu, let’s start at the beginning. When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in acting?
I decided to seriously go for it about four years ago. When I was younger I always loved watching movies. My Mum told me that when I was about 4 or 5 I would just sit in front of the TV and I wouldn’t do anything else. All of the other kids would go outside and play, but I could just sit in front of the TV and not be distracted by anything else. I was just so interested in the storytelling behind movies, TV shows, and characters, and I was always, always intrigued. I had this dream in the back of my mind that one day I would love to be in that industry, but having Asian parents I knew that that was going to be a big obstacle. So, I didn’t really even give it a second thought. It wasn’t until my sister got an agent to do commercials and extra work that it really reignited that passion in me again. I went to apply to the same agent as my sister, but the lady on the phone was really nasty because I didn’t have any experience. I just wanted to know what I needed to do to start. She asked if I had experience, and I said no. So she said “if you don’t have any experience how are we going to send you to auditions?” Now, I’m a really competitive person so when somebody thinks I can’t do something I will go to the end of the Earth to prove them wrong. From that day I knew that I was going to go out there and learn how to be an actress. It was like something ignited in me, and I knew I was going to pursue this. From there I just started taking classes.
When you were younger what movies or TV Dramas inspired you to get into acting?
I honestly don’t remember at 4 or 5 what it was. It was probably cartoons… I did watch a lot of ‘Playschool’! I actually didn’t come to Australia until I was 5, so when I was in China it would have just been Chinese dramas that my parents were watching (which they still watch a lot of). When we came to Australia, though, I loved ‘Beethoven‘ and ‘Little Rascals’, and all those typical childhood movies.
So, what was the first role you were cast in as an actress?
It was for a commercial. This was before I got an agent, and they had an open casting for a Sony ad. We just went in there and they told us to bring as many Asian friends as we could. At the time I didn’t even think of them as my competitors, so I invited a whole heap of my Asian friends to the audition who were the same age and had the same sort of look as me. We all went to the audition, and I was so surprised when I got the role. In hindsight I realised that I nearly sabotaged myself! Commercials especially can be quite fun to do. So, it was a very positive experience as my first role. It definitely hooked me in.
You also did an ad for Sizzler, too. Right?
Yeah, they do a lot more commercials in Queensland. So I got cast for quite a few when I was living there.
Let’s fast forward to ‘The Family Law’. How did you actually get the role of Candy Law? Can you talk us through the process?
Everyone says this, but really I it was very lucky. They say luck is preparation for opportunity, and that’s exactly what it was. I went on holiday to Hawaii, and I was enrolled to do Tom McSweeney’s masterclass (a famous casting director). At the exact same time I was reading The Family Law book. I remember the class being full, so I emailed to ask if I could get in, and I just managed to get the last place. It was in that class that Tom McSweeney told me about the role of Candy Law. At the time I remember telling him that there weren’t many opportunities for Asian actors on TV, and I was thinking of looking overseas. Then he auditioned me, and I didn’t think I’d get it because I’m a lot older than the character, but because I look younger I got away with it. After the first audition, I didn’t hear anything for about 3 weeks, so I assumed I didn’t get it, but then I got a call back with the director and one of the producers. After that my agent called me and said “you haven’t got it yet, but we’re close. We just need to do a chemistry read”. Then, I had another call back with one of the potential on-screen boyfriends and one of the potential on-screen brothers. The whole thing felt like the longest couple of months of my life! After that I had another chemistry read with a potential on-screen boyfriend over skype, which was really hard because you aren’t even in the same room. After that is when I finally found out I’d got the role.
Do you see any similarities between Candy Law and yourself?
When I read the character description I thought- “that’s me”. She has a good heart, and she loves her family. She kind of plays the second mum to all of her siblings because her Mum is so busy trying to look after the house. Candy is the big sister to everyone, but she is going through a new phase in her life as well. She discovers boyfriends and people outside of her family, and she wants her freedom. She is essentially going through a rebellious phase, and I definitely had a rebellious phase back in high school. I feel so bad when I look back now because I did upset my parents a lot, and so I know how she feels. She doesn’t want her parents to control her anymore and she thinks she’s making the right decisions. It’s all about the hormones! Looking back, I didn’t care what my parents wanted, I just wanted to do what I wanted.
It seems as though the success of the show was due in part to the way that the characters and the story resonated so much with the Asian-Australian community. When you first read the script did it resonate with you in that way too?
Yeah, absolutely! Especially growing up in the 90s. My parents were learning English when they first came to Australia too, and I was an immigrant child as well. And, messy houses! I don’t know what it is with Asian immigrants of that generation, but they just had messy houses. You know it’s an Asian house as soon as you walk in. My Mum used to keep everything, and I’ve inherited that habit now because I hoard as well.
The show has an awesome cast. Tell us about what it was like working with these guys on the show.
It has honestly been one of the most fun times of my life. They really do feel like a family to me, and it was like that from day one. We knew were going to play a family, so we might as well act like one. It felt really natural calling each other by our character names, and “Mum” and “Dad”. I don’t know if it’s because we are also Asian as well. When you meet another Asian in Australia, you have this instant connection with them. With them, we just clicked. We had so much fun on set, and I loved the fact that I had younger siblings on the show because they took me back to my childhood. They just want to play, and they have no filter. They say what they think. Also, Anthony, having so much experience in the industry, would coach us through scenes. He was the helpful Dad on set. Fiona is amazing as well. When I first heard her do her table read I thought, “Wow this character has really come to life”. Her accent is amazing (they spent quite a lot of time with the real Jenny, and the real Danny). I have so much respect for Anthony. I have attended a number of his classes now, and he really practices what he preaches. I can’t believe he spoke Cantonese without any knowledge of the actual language…and he pulled it off! He was so genuinely wanting to give the language the authenticity that it needed for the audience. He would do scenes over and over until he knew he’d got the accent right. Everyone just worked so hard. For a lot of the younger actors it was their first job, and it was just so inspirational to see how professional they were. I’m so proud to be part of that family.
Well, some people have said that this a watershed moment for Australian television. Some even say that this show is our version of ‘Fresh Off the Boat. Do you see ‘The Family Law’ as breaking new ground?
Definitely, because before the show what was there? It has taken me this long to get a role on TV because other than this I haven’t had any other offers for auditions. For the 4-5 years I worked I had less than 5 auditions for TV roles. Since then, I’ve had a lot more. It’s only been a year since we filmed, but I’ve had nearly 3 times as many auditions than the 4-5 years previously. These are actually for Asian roles, too, which is good and bad. Good, in that you can see that Australia is embracing ethnic roles, but bad in that this still means that I’m characterised as that ethnic role. I can’t be going against a Caucasian for a white person role on ‘Neighbours’ or ‘Home and Away’. We are still not quite there yet, but I definitely think that the industry has realised that Australian audiences want to see people of colour on TV. I think there is going to be more change to come, and I’m very excited about that.
I believe that ‘The Family’ Law Season 2 filming is about to get under way. I know you can’t say too much about that, but are you excited to start filming?
I am SO excited to see my family again. I’m also really excited to see what happens with Candy’s character arc because it was left a bit open-ended with her boyfriend, Wayne. We’re filming it in Brisbane in October.
Let’s talk about your YouTube channel. You seem to have made a few videos, is that something you’re interested in pursuing?
Yeah, I’ve just started that actually. I posted a video about the best oysters in the world that I ate in South Africa. It was amazing! Last year, I decided to be pescitarean. I was going to go vegetarian but I couldn’t give up seafood because of how much I love oysters! I was on holiday with my Mum in Knysna, on the South East coast of South Africa, and supposedly they have the best oysters in the world there. We went out on a boat to the middle of this beautiful lake surrounded by these amazing houses, and there was the oyster farm. They were the most incredible oysters I’ve ever tasted. They didn’t have that gross fishy taste that some of the oysters over here.
Is travel and food vlogging something you’d like to do more of?
Yeah, I actually filmed quite a lot when I was in South Africa, so I’m just in the middle of editing them.
We look forward to seeing more of your South African adventures. Did you manage to see the Big 5?
I saw all of them. I’m very lucky…but then I did go to about 5 different parks!
Looking forward, what are your plans for the rest of the year, Shu?
I was actually in the pilot for Ronny Chieng’s ‘International Student’, and if that one goes to a series that’d be more work for me. I’ve also got a few auditions I’m waiting to hear back from, and I’m doing more traveling so there will definitely be some more travel vlogs from me.
For more information on Shuang check out her Facebook page.