Image Credit: Ziyang Wang
Sam Song Li is ready to take Hollywood by storm. The actor stars in the brand-new Netflix series The Brothers Sun, out now. Sam plays Bruce Sun, who discovers that his family members are renowned gangsters in Taiwan. Talk about family dysfunction.
Hollywood Life spoke exclusively with Sam about the upheaval in Bruce’s life when his brother returns to town with a chest full of family secrets. “I actually think he is pretty conflicted,” Sam says about Bruce’s reaction to Charles’ return. “I think he’s very uncertain, and I feel like part of him is really happy and really excited too, but then part of him starts to realize what this all means. It’s not so much about having an older brother as it is having Charles as an older brother. He’s trying to find the balance between that, and I actually think that Bruce is one of the only people in the world who actually challenges Charles and challenges him in his way of thinking. I don’t think anyone else can do that, at least in Charles’s universe.”
Before his brother’s return to California, Bruce had been living a semi-normal life with his mom, played by Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh. “I relate to Bruce’s relationship with his mom a lot because, just like Bruce, I actually grew up with a single mom. I was raised by a single mom in Southern California. I think when you think about it, in terms of just even my own life and personal experience with my mom, there are a lot of intricacies and nuances when you are raised by a single mom.”
(Photo credit: Ziyang Wang)
Sam noted that Bruce has an “unwavering loyalty” towards his mom. “But at the same time, it’s so funny because it’s like, you grow tired of your mom and in the things that they want for you as well,” the actor said. “Because they’re so close to you they might feel like they always know what’s best for you. But then you’re also your own person. So how do you balance that? I think the show does a great job of trying to find that balance.”
When Bruce learns about his family’s legacy, it’s a shock to the system. However, Bruce’s determination to be an improv comedian helps him adapt to all the changes being thrown his way.
Sam Song Li as Bruce Sun. (Netflix)
“I absolutely think he is in the most extreme degree of shock that you could be as a person,” Sam told Hollywood Life. “I think that he really struggles with it, and he’s taken aback, but I feel like what makes Bruce such a great character, and this stems from even his desire to be an improv comedian. He’s so good at going with the flow. The term ‘yes, and’ gets thrown around a lot when it comes to this kind of stuff. It’s a giant game of ‘yes, and’ when it comes to improv, and it kind of means just going with the flow. I think he’s really good at adapting and really good at playing that game. I feel like he just applies that to what he’s going through, so he’s able to adapt really quickly and that combined with how strong their family feels about the values of the family really kind of pressures him and creates a diamond, if you will, through that pressure.”
He continued, “I think he gets to see things from an outside perspective. That’s the superpower of Bruce in this story. Everybody else is so power-hungry, and he’s the only person who can take a step out and just be like, you guys are crazy.”
The Brothers Sun marks Sam’s first major leading role. It’s not every day you get the chance to work with an esteemed acting legend like Michelle. “I’m starstruck. I’m in shock. It’s incredible. It’s a dream come true,” Sam said. “She’s phenomenal. She’s so good. And I’m so glad that she is so effortlessly easy to work with. They have a saying: never meet your heroes, right? But with Michelle, she’s the exception. I’ll tell you what, she is the dang exception. She’s an incredible person.”
The Brothers Sun features an all-Asian cast and an all-Asian writers’ room. Sam declared that this is “the golden age of cinema for Asian Americans in Hollywood. If you look at the history of this country, in terms of representation, this is the best it’s ever been, so what an honor. How lucky that I was born in this generation and wanted to do this in this generation. I think about that a lot when it comes to just timing of things. It’s really incredible, and I want to pay homage to all of the pieces that came before, all of the projects that allowed us to be here and to get to this point and give credit where credit is due.”
Sam Song Li and Michelle Yeoh in ‘The Brothers Sun.’ (Netflix)
He added, “But also, I hope that this project does amazing and people love it and see the authenticity and freshness that we bring to the table and continue to create even more opportunities to celebrate these diverse, rich, fresh stories. Because here’s the thing, I feel like it’s not so much even necessarily an Asian project, an Asian-led project, as it is just a really fresh project and fresh perspective on things. I think that anytime you can hit on an authentic community in a very fresh and endearing way, audiences have this hunger for it. I think they want to see this. They want to learn about the world. They want to see things and experience things that they never have before.”
The first season of The Brothers Sun was released on January 4. Sam revealed that he hopes the story will continue into season 2 and beyond. “It is not a limited series,” Sam told Hollywood Life. “I think everybody on The Brothers Sun hopes that we continue to explore more of The Brothers Sun, and I think season 1 does a great job of setting up these characters and setting up the circumstances and building the world that we’re living in. I really think when we get to the future seasons, that’s when we can start to have some fun and really start to challenge these characters.”