Katie Leung in rehearsal for Wild Swans
(© Chris Nash)
Katie Leung in rehearsal for Wild Swans
(© Chris Nash)
Actress Katie Leung has become well known to film audiences as Harry Potter's girlfriend Cho Chang, but she is now turning her efforts towards the stage, starring in Sacha Wares' production of Jung Chang's autobiographical play Wild Swans, which will play the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, February 11-March 11, to be followed by a run at the Young Vic, April 13-May 13. She will play Er-Hong, a witness to China's 20th-century cultural revolution. TheaterMania spoke to Leung about her exciting stage debut, the scary exhilaration of live theater, and her secret talent.

THEATERMANIA: What can you tell us about your role as Er-Hong?
KATIE LEUNG: Er-Hong is a studious and respectful daughter and granddaughter who is seen growing up from a young child to into her twenties in the midst of China's Cultural Revolution. She becomes affected by it enormously throughout her childhood as she watches her communist parents sacrifice endlessly for a fairer society amongst all the corruption and oppression. As a result, Er-Hong becomes determined to excel in her studies in hope of gaining a scholarship to study abroad and escape the country's strict regimes.

TM: What sort of pressures are on your shoulders playing this role, since it based on the author?
KL: Jung has been very supportive throughout the rehearsal process, which has no doubt taken a lot of pressure off everyone's shoulders. I have bonded incredibly well with all of the cast members over the last few weeks and so with their help, the transition to my character has been fairly easy in terms of bringing her emotions to the stage.

TM: How much are you like Er-Hong? Family is a priority in my life as is Er Hong's, so I can empathize with her most of the time. On other occasions, she is far more courageous and decisive than I am, and for me that is when it gets interesting.

TM: How difficult is the transition from film to stage?
KL: The obvious challenge is of course getting it right the first time, which is weirdly exciting for me. I was told by a drama tutor once that "the blind, the deaf, and the foreigner must know what is happening on the stage," which has helped my preparation for the show immensely. I have learned that I have a lot more to learn as an actor, and also that "less is more" can be applicable within the realms of stage.

TM: What are you most nervous about? KL: I'm easily distracted, so it's more about making sure that I am able to balance the amount of attention I keep from and give to the audience. There are also one thousand and one props which are all vital to the story, so it's frightening to think that a pair of tweezers could potentially ruin a whole show.

TM: What advice do you have for young actors?
KL: To avoid cliché and strive for the truth in any given situation.

TM: What is your dream role?
KL: A part in the American comedy series Modern Family, or in a film directed by either Sofia Coppola or Lars Von Trier.

TM: Do you have any secret talents?
KL: I've yet to be beaten at Scrabble.