Ken Zheng: Indonesia’s Action Star Phenomenon

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Actors like Tom Cruise and Jackie Chan are famed worldwide for their talent and their drive. Artists of this ilk are deeply involved in the productions they star in, evident in their performances. Many are referring to Indonesian actor and writer Ken Zheng in a similar manner as the aforementioned celebrities. His work as an action star and as a screenwriter has made him an international sensation in the last few years. Athlete (Zheng was part of the Indonesian National Team for Kickboxing and became the youngest Champion in Indonesia’s history) turned stuntman turned marquee name, this talent from Indonesia seems to revel in the action genre. His roles in US films and those abroad have seen him starring alongside long-established actors, vetting him as a peer and a major force in the international film industry.

2017’s Down by the River stars Zheng as a prison escapee making his way through the wilderness to the Rio Grande river while being hunted by a killer. It’s a classic tale of survival driven by a small cast. No less frightening is the film Hitman in which a woman inadvertently witnesses a drug deal gone wrong and pays the price for doing the right thing. Second Chance pits two hired killers against each other. Zheng is perfectly paired in this tale, starring alongside Trent Moore (of the Coen Brothers multiple Oscar-winning films No Country for Old Men). Concerning his work in these thrilling productions, Ken communicates, “I see the beauty in action and I love bringing thrills to the audience when they watch a movie. The action itself is always supplementary to the story and the visuals help the audience integrate to the world of the movie”

Currently, in post-production, Ken starred in the upcoming feature film he wrote called Insight. The story goes beyond the label “action film” as it is centered on two siblings who possess the gift of clairvoyance. Escaping an abusive home, they are recruited by a counter-terrorism agency. The brothers grow apart as they enter adulthood and this motivates the action of the story. As Qiang, the younger of two siblings, Ken delivers an emotional and visceral performance alongside such celebrated talents as Keith David (multiple Primetime Emmy winner) and John Savage (The Deer Hunter-winner of five Oscars, Hair-winner of two Golden Globes). Zheng concedes, “There’s always room to learn as an actor. Working with John and Keith was an opportunity to learn from their experience and talent. They’ve both been in so many extraordinary films; to see them creating on set like that…it was an incredible learning opportunity. As an actor who is also a writer, it also gave me the chance to see what I could do with the script to help the actors. When I first moved to the United States I tried to bridge the East and West as each has its own unique stories. Moreover, I always try to keep my stories rooted and grounded to real emotion and real relationship between the characters. The movie itself is not always self- contained but the relationship between the characters is always clearly defined in my stories.”

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