Saturday, June 03, 2006

Melancon as Psylocke

Of course we're all like, "We've got a Pinoy X-man! We've got a pinoy X-man!". Then we go watch 'The Last Stand' and she's there for a 3 second period in two instances.

Blink and you miss it.

Hot Complex:

Mei, Oh MeiMove over, Storm and Mystique: Mei Melançon is the latest superwoman to take on the X-Men franchise.

Shana Ting Lipton

Photos: Fredric Reshew

There are no damsels in distress in X-Men 3,” says Eurasian beauty Mei Melançon, who plays Psylocke in the third installation of the comic-book-based film series. The 26-year-old model-turned-actress portrays the bad girl who, as the story goes, started as a member of the X-Men before switching bodies with a female assassin to become an evil mutant hybrid. The 5’8” Melançon is something of a hybrid herself, the product of a Japanese/Chinese father and a French/Native American mother.Melançon shares more than a mixed background with her on-screen character. Psylocke’s superpowers include shadow-shifting and psychic strength, and Melançon has her own intuitive ability. When she was 16, her brother’s friend showed her a comic book featuring none other than the exotic villainess Psylocke. The teenage Melançon mused, “Maybe when I grow up I’ll look like this. I could play this girl!”Fast-forward a decade, and she’s ready for action in motorcycle pants, boots, armbands, and a leather corset—a sci-fi look she describes as “really hot and rad.” “When I put the outfit on, it empowered me. I felt a lot fiercer,” says Melançon. The Philippines-born actress, who previously had a bit part in Rush Hour 2, shouldn’t need much help doing that. In her free time she practices Wushu kung fu, hits the waves on her surfboard, and plays guitar in an all-girl garage band with a friend and a younger sister (one of her 10 siblings). She describes the unnamed band’s sound as a mix of punk and soul influences, crediting her hippie mother for teaching her to play guitar at age 5. “I was in a kids’ band called The Blossoms when I was 9. We used to perform at charities and clubs,” says Melançon.Beyond The Blossoms, Melançon’s childhood consisted of moving across the globe—Japan, Texas, California, Hawaii, and Hong Kong. From the final destination, she fostered an interest in the classic films of Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Jackie Chan, whose son she was friendly with. The spirited actress is most inspired by the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as an example of powerful female role models in action. “Men want the feisty girl they can try to tame,” she says. Note: That’s try to tame, fellas.

Published on Page A2-1 of the June 2, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

Philippine-born Mei Melancon is “a little disappointed” that, despite her two months of work on “X-Men: The Last Stand,” she appears only for a few seconds in the movie which earned over $120 million and toppled all box-office records last Memorial Day weekend in the US.As we wrote several columns ago, “X-Men” director Brett Ratner had these words to say about Mei, who portrays Psylocke, when we interviewed him in New York: “I first cast Mei in ’Rush Hour.’ Mei is a beautiful girl and a talented actress.”It’s unfortunate though that if you blink, you’ll miss her. She is the Asian-looking character with purple streaks in her hair who appears in a scene toward the film’s end.Saying she’s “just happy to be part of the project,” Mei has moved on—in fact to bigger things. She landed her first starring role in “Irreversi,” a film being shot in Hong Kong.“My real full name is Meiling Melancon but I prefer to be called Mei,” she told me via e-mail from Cebu, where she is visiting for the first time.Mei, 26, explained her connection to the Philippines and shared her experience working with the great British actor, Sir Ian McKellen, in “X-Men,” among other topics.Brett Ratner speaks highly of you. How is your working relationship with him since he first cast you in “Rush Hour 2”? He is fun to work with. I have learned a lot, working with him. He has been like a mentor to me, someone I can call for advice. I read for “X-Men” and he called me. He said I also had to be approved by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics, so it was a long process.What was it like being on the set with this highly esteemed Ian McKellen? I was not that nervous in the scene with Ian since it was pretty straightforward. Ian is a legend and someone whose acting talent I have always respected. He is so kind and humble. I actually got to go with him and a group to the Rolling Stones concert in Seattle (we were shooting in Vancouver). I have been working on a one-woman play. Since Ian has done one-man plays, he was very generous in letting me pick his brain about this theater form.What were some of the highlights of your work on “The Last Stand”? Just being part of such a big production, watching other actors on the set and working as a team with great actors like Ian, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Michael Murphy were definitely highlights for me.While Psylocke is a very small role, “X-Men” fans, especially Filipinos and Filipino-Americans, greeted your casting announcement as Psylocke with excitement.I was happy that people were as excited as I was when I found out that I was going to play Psylocke. I was in Vancouver working on the movie for about two months and we shot a lot of scenes. So I was actually a little disappointed when I got to the premiere and I didn’t see all the work up there in the final product. But it was a great learning experience for me.Each of the characters in the “X-Men” comics universe has interesting powers and back stories that can inspire a spin-off movie. What are the powers of Psylocke?There are talks of a spin-off movie, but at this point I am not sure if I would be in it. Psylocke has psychic darts and the ability to move through shadows, which you see only for a second in “X-Men.”Tell me about the movie you are currently filming in Hong Kong.I am doing a thriller called “Irreversi,” which is set in present-day Hong Kong. In the movie, my older brother dies in a tragic skydiving accident and I become close to his business partner, whom I end up marrying. But nothing is as it seems. What attracted me to the part was that I got to play a normal girl named Lynda Wee —meaning I am not doing kung fu and I am not “bad”—who gets caught in an emotionally charged situation and has to make choices to protect herself.The role is pretty intense. I also get to sing and play the guitar in the movie, which I am so happy about. I had a lot of fun making this film directed by Michael Gleissner and produced by Lisa Schahet and Kacy Andrews for Bigfoot Productions.I was told that you are in the Philippines in connection with this film.Michael Gleissner and Bigfoot Productions have a film studio and school on Mactan Island called the International Academy of Film and Television. I actually just arrived tonight here in Cebu from Cannes. It is great that there is something like this on this side of the world so more great films can be made over here.What are the challenges and heartaches of being a rising actress in Hollywood? The hardest thing for me is when you pour your heart and soul into something and then you are not able to see the fruits of it. It is hard for everyone but when I decided that I was going to do this, I don’t want to waste any energy on why it is too difficult because every career is challenging. Every project that I have worked on so far has been pretty unforgettable.Were you both a print and ramp model? Yes, mainly print. It was a great way to support myself while following my dream. But it wasn’t something I aspired for. It just happened.You were born in the Philippines but you are not part-Filipino?I was born in a hospital in Metro Manila. My mom Denice is French-American. People used to call her Elizabeth Rose. She had been living in the Philippines for five years when she met my biological father, a Chinese-Japanese, who was here on business. I do believe that I have family here but, in all honesty, I have no contact with my father so I am not sure. My mom remarried when I was pretty young.Do you speak Tagalog? My mom spoke Tagalog and taught me a couple of songs in Tagalog when I was little. This is actually the first time I’ve been here in 20 years so it is really cool. My brother Nathaniel was also born here.At what age did you and your family leave the Philippines for Japan? My parents traveled a lot doing volunteer work. My dad also held various translating jobs. I was 2 or 3 when I left the Philippines. My older sister Anaik, my brother Nathaniel and I are close in age so we were always chatting about where we were going. So I remember every step—getting to Hong Kong and, finally, Japan and thinking how different it was to be in this high-rise building instead of running around in the lush gardens and eating papaya. I had a really nice nanny here in the Philippines whom we missed when we left. I don’t remember her name, though. I would have to ask my mom.What was it like to grow up in Japan? And please share about this children’s performance group that you traveled with all over Asia.I really enjoyed growing up and traveling in Asia. We were either home-schooled/tutored or we would go to International Schools. I have played guitar since I was about 5. My mom is a singer and guitar player. About eight of us kids would put on productions of stories like “The Little Match Girl” and other plays and sing songs at different events. We also performed for convalescent homes, orphanages and senior citizen homes. I was pretty shy but for some reason, when I performed, I could do anything I felt like doing.How and where did you learn Wushu Kung Fu? I started training for Wushu Kung Fu about four years ago. I studied with different teachers in the Los Angeles area who each taught me something valuable.What’s next for you? I have a couple of things that I am looking at but I will have to see what happens when I get back to the States. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks for this great time.

Thanks to Ram for the remindershiphood... ness.

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