Meet one of our stars on the rise representing New Zealand on the global stage.
“I’ve always loved playing pretend and took up in drama in high school as another subject to fill my timetable,” says actor Xana Tang. “Lots of people did the same thing.”
Most don’t go on to have successful acting careers, though, and for this 26-year-old from South Auckland, it wasn’t something she necessarily saw in her future either.
The AUT Bachelor of Communications graduate was drawn to the film and media industry after her first acting experience as a 16-year-old in feature film Matariki – she just wasn’t sure what her exact calling was.
“But the thought of retiring and looking back on my life and realising I never did that one thing that made my heart fill with joy haunted me,” she says.
Fast forward to 2018 and she’s on stage in Macau, China accepting the trophy for the Variety Asian Star Up Next award at the International Film Festival & Awards Macau – an accolade the Chinese-Vietnamese star counts as an honour to receive on behalf of the Asian acting community.
“I was a physical representation of all Asian artists who grew up outside of Asia and are working in a field where they’re the minority,” she says.
And it’s clear that celebrating diversity is something she’ll continue to champion when choosing roles in future.
“I think diverse characters on screen need to be less of a box to tick and more of a discovery of who, what and why. It benefits everyone – the artist, the writer, the project, the viewer,” she says.
“We need a lot more of that because we have unlimited access to a whole range of human sources to draw from. Why not get inspired?”
You might recognise Xana from her supporting role as offbeat office assistant Cherry in both seasons of New Zealand TV drama Filthy Rich, or as a new mum who attempts to stage a pro-breastfeeding protest outside a café in Australian comedy series The Letdown.
She also recently starred in Fresh Eggs, a dark comedy on TVNZ 2 in which she plays country girl Luck, a character she describes as “a force of nature, expressive in every way possible and every bit an Aucklander with big dreams of living the concrete-jungle life.”
Xana considers her big break to be when she landed the role of Bo-Lin in Australian TV series Dead Lucky alongside Rachel Griffiths and Yoson An.
“It was the first project where I felt like I earned the title of ‘actor’,” she says.
But she’s set to see her name in lights in 2020 when the live-action remake of Disney’s Mulan hits screens around the world.
Post-production is currently in full swing on the film in which Xana plays Mulan’s sister Hua Xiu, and she says she relished the opportunity to work with New Zealand director Niki Caro, who was “open to having conversations that I craved as an artist”.
Xana doesn’t take the fact that she’ll be representing New Zealand on the world stage lightly either, and says she feels “a massive wave of gratitude” every time she thinks of Mulan and the opportunity the project has given her.
“The fact that a Kiwi-Asian girl from Mangere in South Auckland can be part of such an integral human story is a great privilege,” she says.
“The responsibility of showing the world that Kiwis work hard and are filled with humility, and having other Kiwis be proud you’re representing them makes my heart warm.”
Words: Lucy Slight
Photos: Stephen Tilley
Stylist: Danielle Clausen
Fashion: Helen Cherry blouse