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Tzi Ma About “A Shot Through the Wall”

Actor Tzi Ma stars in the new film, A Shot Through the Wall, streaming everywhere now. A Chinese-American police officer’s life unravels after he accidentally shoots an innocent Black man. Facing trial, he wades through his guilt as he navigates the complicated worlds of media

A Shot Through the Wall

Interview by Lauren Conlin
Lauren Conlin:

So relatable to what’s going on in the world, but it takes it a step further. Right? And I don’t want to give it away to people, but I it’s almost like you’ve got this character. He’s Asian American and is being called a racist all while he’s experiencing the racism as a victim at the same time. People just, they just don’t understand that.  Now in your life as an Asian American, have you experienced this type of racism as well?

Tzi Ma:

Every day. Wow. It’s unfortunate every day. And, um, obviously you, you realize the film was made some, you know, a little bit, you know, few years ago, uh, can’t say how many I’m not crushing, where when Amy starts to count, you know, but, uh, unfortunately it’s still timely. And more timely than ever. I, that I’m very disappointed in, you know, however, you know, given the fact that it is timely and that we are creating, uh, an opportunity to have conversations about this, this complex issue.

Lauren Conlin:

Right, right. Yeah. No, that’s, it’s, it’s crazy. I want to, um, tell everybody sort of what, what happens and what unfolds in the film. But I do want people to watch it because I think it’s super important and something I’m going to say about it and you can agree with me or not is that, I think it’s not your typical cookie cutter movie where it’s like, you know, a cop shoots a black man and things are, you know what I mean? Things just erupt in the city. It goes crazy. It’s not like. So much more complicated. It’s so much deeper than that, right?

Tzi Ma:

Yea. I, I think what, what, what Amy did was that, you know, she had this huge canvas on a huge, so charge of a topic, but she focuses in the, uh, in, in the nucleus of the family. And I think that’s the unique part of it is that we never really get to see to the curtain, pull back. See that part of it. We see all the big pieces, you know, the demonstrations, all of the, the, the, the more overt, you know, uh, um, more in your face where the media tends to cover. We very seldom get a sense and a feel to what happens to the people who all buds around these people. And that’s what we.

Lauren Conlin:

Right as the family, the family. Yeah. You see how it, you know, it really, it affects everybody when, when this type of thing happens. And it’s interesting. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing either, but you know, uh, your wife in the film, she, she made me so mad and I don’t know.

She’s so annoying. It’s almost like all you care about is yourself and how this affects you. It’s almost like being a parent. You know, you, you do internalize everything that your child feels and you, you know, you really feel for them and it breaks your heart.

And I, again, I don’t know if it was the way, uh, just the cultural differences between Americans and, and you know, where she is from, but she really, she did not sympathize with her son. I think that was on purpose the way it was written, but it really pissed me off. That was part of the movie where I was just like, it was almost like. I loved watching you. And I loved your character as the dad, because he really, he was there for his son. He really understood what he was going through.

You know, I mean, I don’t know if that’s how you felt or, or if that’s, you know, the dynamic of it, like good cop, bad cop, you know, no pun intended with, with the parents, but that’s how it felt to me.

Tzi Ma:.

When you have these contrasts, this is where you have points of drama. Right. And that’s how we bring out these conversations. It is a debate, correct? It is a debate and Amy does not favor one side or the other. So these parents, you know, the mother and father, um, give you that kind of a very opposite way of reacting, you know, to, to a son.

I mean, not necessarily a first person that they really want him want him to begin. You know, so that’s a tough one. Really? Exactly. It’s not a doctor, you know, like the sister. And he’s in, you know, that’s hard. I mean, when you’re the son in our culture, you know, you’re supposed to hold the mantle of everything. Right. And meanwhile, his sister is shining as the MD and you’re a cop. And as far as, you know, uh, the police, uh, profession in our culture is, uh, uh, it’s, it’s not so black and white, you know.

Lauren Conlin:

Not anymore

Tzi Ma:

Absolutely not. We’re not sure, you know. Where do you, I mean, how do we, we look at authority. You know, how do we look at this kind of, uh, uh, uh, what exerts control over our lives is in question and, and rightly so in, in, in, in what we are looking at

Lauren Conlin:

Yeah, I can’t even imagine, um, at this point wanting to go into the field of law enforcement, just because it’s like one mistake, it can change your life in someone else’s life forever. And it doesn’t matter if, you know, in this case, it doesn’t matter if it was a mistake, it happened. And it’s almost like you sit here. And I was racking my brain and I was like, what, what is the proper punishment for something like this? You took someone’s life.

It doesn’t matter if this person did anything or not, or they’re about to do something. You took their life now, what, but you didn’t mean to what happens to you? You know, you’re, you’re saving lives all day. So it’s a tough situation, obviously. Now, going back to something that you said before, um, did you feel any kind of pressure in your family? Just culturally, when you said you were going to be an actor?

Lauren Conlin:

Is that what they did? Did they laugh at you?

Tzi Ma:

Yeah, they laughed. And they said, well, you know, it’s okay, go keep on playing for a little bit and then go get a real job.

Lauren Conlin:

They didn’t think that you’d be who you are now

Tzi Ma::

You know, it’s a phase, they thought I was going through a phase. Yes. They said, ah, you know, he’s the youngest son. So let him go to his phase. He will get out of it.

Lauren Conlin:

And now you’re like, look at my phase now I’m just on the red carpet. Uh, yeah, for some of the biggest films of the century, like Move on and many others. So good for you. Seriously good for you.

Tzi Ma:

And I think, I think in some ways, intuitively they know that I’m a rebellious kind of an individual. So they figured, you know, more  opposition they present I would probably fight it harder and I think that’s probably whether intended or not that’s what happened.

Lauren Conlin:

I love that. That’s hot actually. Yeah. That’s, that’s really, how are you married by the way? You are? For how long.

Tzi Ma:

Forever, she going to kill me? Yeah, I’m a long time married person yes.

Lauren Conlin:

Well, you can tell her that I said it was hot that you are a reckon, so tell her, I said that. Okay. Now what, what’s been your favorite project in the last few years, because you’ve worked on so many.

Tzi Ma:

Uh, right now, what I’m doing right now is my favorite right now because it’s, uh, Kung Fu is a very special show and, uh, it’s television, which reaches audience on a, on a weekly bases. So, uh, that’s very exciting. And it’s the only show that presents a Chinese American family on a, on a, on the little screen, but that reaches a huge audience.

So we’re proud of what we’re doing. We’re breaking ground, you know, behind the camera and in front of the camera and you know, all we are, we are true you know, inclusive and diverse and our writing staff also, you know, uh, um, most of our directors, uh, uh, uh, directors of color and women, uh, LGBTQ plus, uh, so you, you will see that, that we, we really you know, I think we’re breaking ground and hopefully, you know, doesn’t, we don’t, I don’t want them to see us that way always.

I just want that to be something of a norm, you know, that you’ll see this family and you’ll see the, uh, the, uh, the influences of, of, uh, uh, bicultural you know, uh, uh, situation and I think it’s valuable and, and, and many of bicultural families will appreciate it. I think they’ll see that they’ll see the similarities as well.

Lauren Conlin :

I think, uh, you know, it’s interesting when I interviewed Shannon Dang, she said similar. No, she was great. I interviewed her about a few months ago and she was talking about the show. It was actually right when the show was first coming out and she said, something along the lines of, I want this to be a norm, you know, having a show about that’s focusing on an Asian American family, because we don’t have that.

You know, there’s not a show out there and I thought about it and I actually couldn’t believe it because she’s right.  There isn’t a show out there. Um, so I was surprised when you think about it, there’s, there’s a lot of things missing from, from society that we should probably rethink. Um, now I don’t know where you live normally. I’m guessing you live in LA. That’s where you live okay. Yes. I live in New York.

Tzi Ma:

Yes. But I am from New York.

Lauren Conlin:

I think I might’ve known that. Where are you from in Queens?

Tzi Ma:

Staten island.

Lauren Conlin:

Wait, was that racist of me to say it, to ask if you’re from Queens?

Tzi Ma:

Not really. We have a big presence in Queens?

Lauren Conlin:

So now I feel guilty because now I think about Flushing and I think they have a huge Asian-American population Flushing.

Tzi Ma:

Okay. So that is really new actually. Definitely if you are talking about Manhattan definitely had the oldest Chinatown

Lauren Conlin:

I just want to make sure that’s not racist, that I say that, are you from Queens? I don’t know, like it’s not.

Tzi Ma:

Not in my mind.

Lauren Conlin:

I love you. So literally love you so much. You’re so cool. I love, you know, Staten island. What part of Staten Island are you from?

Tzi Ma:

Stapleton Stapleton it used used to be a, kind of a little mini kind of a shopping area. Not sure what it is now.

Lauren Conlin:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s so funny. So Staten island, just basically what I think of when I hear Staten island is cause I’m a little bit into politics as well, is that is the only Republican part of New York. That’s the only part of New York right now where, you know, you might see a little bit, uh, less masks or a little bit like let’s go in the back door if you don’t have a vax. I’m kind of into it. I’m into you.

Tzi Ma:

I tell you Staten island it’s definitely gone through its trans transformation for the longest time we were so isolated before the Verrazano bridge. We were kind of connected to New Jersey.

Lauren Conlin:

Yeah. Trust me. I know.

Tzi Ma:

Yeah, it’s interesting. Staten Island is interesting. They actually, there was a really huge artist community on Staten island. Yeah, Snug Harbor.

Lauren Conlin:

Snug Harbor,  the Playhouse, the theater. I know that. Yes, I do. I know, I know I’m a big theater girl, so I’ve definitely gone out there to see a show or two. I think I saw Rent out there. Um, but I know it’s so good. Such a good show, but what do you feel then about your, your state and your city? What do you feel? You know, I’m sure you’ve been reading about what’s been going on here. How does that make you feel? It’s your hometown?

Tzi Ma:

Yeah. I not only about reading, I have still many friends and I still have family in New York. So it breaks my heart really in what’s been happening it is so avert now. I mean, it’s not like, you know, it’s just happened yesterday. You know, these things have always been there. It’s always been kind of underneath in a subterranean style, but right now everything is bubbling to the surface. And given the politics in New York City it is not difficult to, uh, to assess because you know, the anti hate Asian hate .

It’s just ongoing. I mean, every week I read somebody being pushed to the train tracks and what’s interesting is I’m not quite sure how the media is covering these things because from what I understand, and what I’ve been hearing is that they don’t even mention the ethnicity of the person that’s been killed.

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They just said a woman’s been pushed. No, it’s an Asian-American woman pushed. So I’m not quite understanding the omittance of that. And I think, you know, I feel that we’re, we’re no longer the news where everything’s in the back banner burner and, and, and that’s, that’s a shame. It just continues to happen.

And, uh, the homeless situation, you know, where. the city for some reason, took advantage of these empty hotels around Chinatown, and it is converted to a, to a housing for the homeless. And if that happens then really, where are they going to go for the assistance? Chinatown, where else are hey going to go, they can’t go anywhere else because there are no places for them to go.

So if you’re going to run into Chinatown and Chinatown right now, Manhattan, Chinatown is basically a community of elderly and, and they, then they, they are not used to having you know, the kind of sense of danger that’s been happening. You know, people recently being attacked and it’s always the most vulnerable population that’s being attacked and that’s very concerning and it’s not just, you know, uh, New York, New York city is not not, uh, alone in this, in this it’s all Chinatown  all over North America has been happening.

Lauren Conlin:

It’s just exceptionally bad in the city though. You, you agree with that?

Tzi Ma:

It’s absolutely because it’s just the, the sense of the, the, the masses that we have in, in uh, it’s so tightly, you know compacted, you know, when you have that kind of urban environment, you know, even when, when this, if the temperature rises, you’re going to get mad. We’re in our faces when this close.

Lauren Conlin:

Yeah. I know you make, you make a good point, but I, I guess I disagree somewhat about it happening like this in every city only because I think, you know, like today it came out that Eric Adams was actually restoring money back to the police that De Blasio defunded, you know, so it’s like, these things are happening in the city because he has to fix what was, excuse my language fucked up before. Right?

So there’s a lot of things that are going on now where bad things are happening, but I am, I’m so hopeful that you know, that good things are coming. I feel like we really, you know, we deserve this and to your point about them, not even saying, you know, an Asian American woman was pushed. It’s like they put, I don’t know if you saw The Post, but, and I get it. I completely get it.

This is what sells the paper, but they have the guy’s face, the crazy guy that pushed her all over them. And I’m like, where is, where is, you know, the poor woman that was pushed Michelle? Like now I feel like an asshole, cause I forgot her last name, but Michelle. Thank you. Yeah. Um, but so I was like, where is she? Like, this is crazy. They just want to sell papers. And that’s what they do. So that is upsetting. It’s so upsetting.

Tzi Ma:

But does it change? I mean, really, I think it will stoke the, uh, the fires of, of, you know, people who, who, who know how to what’s the right thing to do, you know, hopefully that will continue to, to fire up the younger generation, you know, to really come out and, and do something, say something, be proactive, you know, participate. Go vote.

I mean, really, I mean, I think ultimately it is that at the ballot boxes, you know, we, we need to show, we really need to, to show a force. And I think all of these things needs to happen simultaneously. Now, you know, a lot of times we, we, we look at one thing and we say, oh, let’s do that. You know, we have to do everything at the same time.

Otherwise, you know, you, you prop up one side, the other side is going to fall. And we need to find our allies. We need people who are allies, we need to, we cannot function. You know, there’s one thing that I feel, you know, liberal and progressive factions of the country is that we’re too individualistic. We just function on our own way. We can’t, I don’t, I think we can’t do that. We don’t have the numbers. I think we need to really get together as a one unit. Otherwise, I, I think that the efforts is wasted.

Lauren Conlin:

I couldn’t agree more. I miss the days when Republicans and Democrats could actually be in the same room without completely hating each other and, and destroying each other. And just, it’s gotten to the point where, I mean, it’s, you know, it keeps me up at night.

I will say it, the, all of everything that’s going on and, and also how nonsensical it’s become, if you will. I think that right. I mean, and I think that something Democrats and Republicans can actually agree upon. Everybody’s really confused. Nobody knows the right thing to do anymore. And these rules that are coming out, it’s like, what are we supposed to listen to? Everybody’s confused.

Tzi Ma:

Yeah the confusion on the, on the other side of the aisle is that they don’t say anything. They just hide and I don’t get that. I don’t understand. I really don’t understand how outrageous it preposterous , but what is being, you know, perpetuated outside.  And really, you don’t have the guts to say something about that that’s wrong and they need to be held accountable for that really that’s to just turn the blind eye. I mean, that’s, that’s just not gonna do it

Lauren Conlin:

I get it. And I, I feel like it’s, everybody’s up in arms right now in New York because you know, they, the Supreme court blocked the mass mandates, which is sorry to say it’s great for us because I don’t really want to wear a mask all the time. Um, but because I had COVID,

I’m fine, but people are freaking out because the kids still have to wear the masks in the school. Now, I don’t know how I feel about this. I just know that my daughter gets a little sad wearing a mask at school. And when she wants a mask break, she has to sit in a corner like she’s being punished and she can’t play.

Tzi Ma:

I didn’t know that.

Lauren Conlin:

Well, that’s just what happens at certain schools that are very, you know, my friend’s daughter, they gave her a call and they said, listen, we love your daughter, your daughter’s amazing but thinking like, oh no, she needs more practice with her, her phonics skills, her reading skills. Oh no. She, her mask is below her nose too much. It’s like this, these are the calls that parents are getting now it’s like, come on.

Can we go back to what actually matters? Like teaching our children? It’s it’s so funny. It’s like, when can we go back to. I don’t want to say normal life because things will never be the same. Do you agree with that?

Tzi Ma:

Absolutely agree with it. And I think ultimately I think we’re still feeling, finding our way because everything is still so unpredictable. We’re learning a lot more as day in, day in, day out. We’re learning more. I think eventually I think we’re going to find a happy, happy medium. Mask wearing is interesting because it is, it is. I mean, we, we wear even on the show, you know, this is a real mess until we are ready to shoot. Yeah.

Lauren Conlin:

You’re used to it.

Tzi Ma:

Yeah. I am, you know, I am getting used to it, but it’s, it is kind of like a cumbersome in a lot of ways. And hopefully we will find some happy medium is when we wear them when we don’t have to, you know, and I think if we’re going to get there, I think that that’s the least of my worries, really, because we have good scientists. You know they know what they’re doing, you know, they’re working day in, day out, you know, trying to solve this riddle of Covid. And I think with the gifted, you know, it’s the other stuff that I’m really much, much more worried.

Lauren Conlin:

It’s the Russia Ukraine stuff. Now, just to, just to wrap things up because we do have to go, I just want to close out with the movie only because again, it means, it means so much to me that you took this time to talk to me about this amazing film. Last thing. And it’s a little cliche, but just plug the movie. Why should people rent or buy A Shot Through the Wall?

Tzi Ma:

I think you’ll appreciate the filmmaking of it. If you’re a, if you’re a film buff, because it is an excellent film. Okay. The storytelling of is really compelling. If you want something to move you’re going to love it because if you just want, you know, some model stuff, then, then this may not be the movie for you. But as far as if something that’s meaningful, something that is going to create conversation, if something that tickles your mind, something that tickles your heart, something that tickles your soul, go see shot through the wall.

Lauren Conlin:

Wow. I should pay you for that. Or they should pay you. Not me. It’s not my movie, but they should pay you. That was amazing. And let me just add to that. It’s like you said, there’s this movie. It’s something that you want to talk about?

Like I watched it alone, but I really want to have a discussion full out with somebody about the ending per say. And just again, so many things that unraveled in this movie and what’s fair and what’s not. And so everybody watch it and then you can inbox me or whatever. We can talk about it and have a coffee.

Tzi Ma:

And again, you know, you’re talking about Amy Long. It’s the first time filmmaker, her first feature film. Come on. You know, if you, if you believe in, in diversity and equality, you know, and go support her, she’s amazing

Lauren Conlin:

A cast like that. It was like you and take her in and Kelly Aucoin. And I was like, this is a great cast. I love everybody. Oh my gosh. Well, thank you so much. This has been so nice. You’re so. So amazing to speak with and talk to you. I feel like I’m talking to like a friend that I’ve known forever.

Tzi Ma:

Of course. Okay.Well have a good one. All right. You bet. Okay. Okay. Nice to meet you. Bye.

 

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