Five Questions with Katie Leung

Best known for her role as Cho Chang in the Harry Potter series, actress Katie Leung is moving beyond her Hogwarts days as she takes the stage in the play “Wild Swans” at the American Repertory Theatre. The play, based on Jung Chang’s best-selling memoir, is being performed at the A.R.T. until March 11. Fifteen Minutes corresponded with the star of “Wild Swans” through email and asked her about her past in Harry Potter, her shift from film to theater, and how she “taps” into character.

Fifteen Minutes: What was it like moving on after the Harry Potter series ended? What experiences did you feel you gained from working with the other stars in Harry Potter?

Katie Leung: Although it was a sad day when the Harry Potter series ended, it was also a great feeling to be moving on and to be able to spend a consecutive month at university. I think one of the many experiences that I have taken with me from HP is keeping in mind the importance of having fun within a work environment. Being surrounded by stellar actors on my first acting job was nothing short of intimidating as they are all incredibly professional and serious while filming. But before long I realized there was a whole different world behind the camera and quickly learned that we as actors must find ways of entertaining each other whenever, wherever, and as much as possible in order to keep ourselves sane.

FM: What is it like working with the cast of “Wild Swans”?

KL: It has been and continues to be a real pleasure working with the cast of “Wild Swans”. They are inspiring and intelligent individuals who have all been especially good to me from the very beginning of production and have taught me an endless amount about the art of theater. Being part of an all-Asian cast has also meant that our cultural similarities have brought us even closer together and, in turn, I have made some lifelong friends.

FM: Do you find it difficult to adjust from getting in front of a camera to acting in front of an audience?

KL: The transition has been fairly simple but a personal concern of mine, which was never a problem with film, was having to work on my vocal energy for the stage since I have a naturally quiet voice. The initial moment of stepping on stage in front of an audience was overwhelming, but it took me only a few shows to begin embracing them. Now it feels almost impossible to do a show without their presence.

FM: How did you tap into your character’s emotional state in the play? Are there any tricks that help you get into character?

KL: It’s not been overly difficult to tap into my character’s emotional state in this particular play. Unlike film, the narrative progresses in chronological order, so I am able to live through Er Hong’s experiences as a child right up until she becomes an adult, which has given me the necessary time for the emotions to develop as the story unfolds.

FM: “Wild Swans” will also be staged at the Young Vic Theatre in London. Have you noticed any differences between performing in the U.S. and performing in England?

KL: From my time performing at the A.R.T., I have noticed that the American audience is quite vocally responsive, which has been very helpful in gauging the flow and reaction of the play as well as boosting our performances as actors. Currently it’s hard to imagine [if] the British, who are known to be more reserved, will respond in the same way, but I could be completely wrong. It will be interesting to find out.

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