Samantha Win started in the movie industry at a young age, and the first time she worked with Zack Snyder was when she was 17. She worked as a stunt double and in stunt acting roles, and she has been transitioning to acting roles in the past few years. Now, she can be seen in a lead role at Snyder’s Army of the Dead, a Netflix film set in a zombie-filled Las Vegas. Win plays Chambers, who is recruited in a team headed by Dave Bautista’s Scott Ward to recover money inside the City of Sin.
“I’ve got to experience different sides of the Snyders,” Win tells Nerd Reactor. “They’ve always been so personable at whatever level I was at, which is a really unique gift. For myself, there have been different challenges along the way. I’m really grateful for how it’s all evolved. I think in stunts, there’s so much to learn when it comes to technique, being behind the camera, and learning to dance with the camera. I kind of had a slow evolution towards getting to this place where I’m at now. And I feel like I got to soak up so much along the way, that perhaps other actors that didn’t get to work on stunts before might have taken longer to learn. It’s been an evolution. And I think I have a unique perspective of it that I’m really honored to have.
Samantha Win has worked on different projects from the Snyders, including Sucker Punch, Zack Snyder’s Justice Leagueand now Army of the Dead. She has described Zack Snyder as the kindest director who is very approachable with a good presence on set. And as a lead, Win gets to see a side of Snyder where he lets his creators and actors play and have ideas.
“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a single person who doesn’t enjoy working with him,” she said. “I think that is the truth for pretty much anyone who’s worked with him. And I am no exception to that rule, even from when I was super green on Sucker Punch. I probably didn’t do my best work. I didn’t know a lot; I’m sure I made a ton of mistakes. He was always the kindest director, the most incorporated with the crew that I’d ever seen. It was actually really difficult for me to even tell he was the director on Sucker Punch because he was so friendly with everyone. He played catch with the electrical department on lunch, and he would come and train martial arts in the morning with stunts. So it was hard for me to at that point, even spot that he was the director.”
“If I could only work on his movies for the rest of my career, I would be a lucky woman,” Samantha Win said of Snyder.
Samantha started off in stunts and martial arts, so there was a fear of being categorized in that department and not as an actor.
“I’d like to think that every casting director is different,” she replied about casting. “And some, maybe it’ll affect them just like that fear affects some stunt people more than others, whereas some can see it as a strength and something that can be added to a character. And I think that John Papsidera falls in that category. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been what I got to be an Army of the Dead. I do think that the casting community as a whole, in the last 10 years has become so much more inclusive, whether it comes in the form of including stunt people or people with special skill sets, or diversity, or having a global cast now, I think the world is opening up a lot. And the casting directors for me feel like they’re at the forefront of that movement. We’re starting to see the effects of it. And projects coming in now, it’s much more common to see a globally and ethnically diverse cast.”
Working on big sets isn’t a new thing for Samantha Win, but as a lead, it’s a different experience. Before, she would be in the front lines, but when the first team would step in, she would step away and make sure everything was good, hanging close by when she was needed. Having a lead role, she gets to work with actors she respects.
“So I’m sure that I have had dreams as a child of being in a position just like that, where there’s an elaborate set design, elaborate costumes, some green screen, a cast that I respect and look up to so much: David Baptist, Hiroyuki Sanada,” Win said. “And then to be there among them, and they’re seeing me as a peer, it was pretty mind-blowing for me. And I know, I’ve gotten to work on big sets before, but I think it’s like allowing yourself to feel involved. Whereas when I was working as a stunt actor, or stunts, I think, I personally just carried a small level of holding myself back or keeping myself dim or not fully allowing myself to appreciate the moment. But here, I felt like I put in the work, and I was valued and seen. And I was on the call sheet as such. And so I felt like I earned my place at the table and could really soak it in finally.”
It’s known that the main cast and director in many Hollywood films get to have their own chairs with their names on them. That was not the case with Army of the Dead.
“Actually, that’s something the little ego part of me was excited about,” she mentioned. “But when I got there (and this is a very Zack thing, and I love it so much), he’s not about hierarchy and who’s above who. He likes to have a family kind of environment. So there are no chairs. No one had director’s chairs, not Dave, not anyone. We all just work communally together and hung out with whoever you’re sitting with on the set pieces. You just chill together. There’s no this person goes off to their chair, and no one’s allowed to talk to them. It was not that at all. So it was awesome. It was really awesome. It really kept everyone on the same level and it feels like an ensemble, rather than separate stars or egos or this idea of an unattainable unapproachable actor.”
Army of the Dead features a lot of zombie action, and there are plenty of gory and bloody moments throughout the film. Samantha Win got to participate in some of the craziest moments.
“That’s this slow-motion 360 shot of all of us shooting zombies, back to back in a circle,” Win exclaimed. “And that was the craziest moment for me because it was set up as a superhero – the team assembles – kind of shot. It’s a very iconic way of shooting it. And it wasn’t me at home with my iPhone, like this was the real deal. I was like, ‘Oh wait, this is actually Zack Snyder shooting the iconic shot. So that was a mind-boggling experience as I was back to back with Dave and Matthias and Ana and Raúl. I knew that it was a trailer moment, and I knew with it being Zack Snyder that it would be an iconic culture-shifting film, and I would be a part of it.”
Samantha Win played Kitana in Mortal Kombat: Legacya live-action web series from director Kevin Tancharoen back in 2011. With the new reboot out, she shares some thoughts on the video game franchise and the film.
“I’m so excited that there’s a Mortal Kombat movie and they’re continuing the franchise and Hiroyuki Sanada, I mean, I got to work with him on Army,” she explained. “I thought he was amazing in Mortal Kombat. I absolutely loved watching him. And it’s like I got starstruck all over again when we were doing press and I got to see him on Zoom. I was like, ‘Yeah, I just watched him in theaters. This is so cool.’ But I’m absolutely in love with all the Mortal Kombat characters. I think Ed Boon has crafted such a detailed world that there are so many different characters to fall in love with. Of course, I was sad that there wasn’t a Kitana in the film, because she’s obviously my favorite character. But maybe that just means that there’s room for one in a sequel. We shall see.”
There is one genre that Samantha Win would like to tackle after acting and performing in superhero and action films, and that is comedy.
“I would want to do comedy,” Win responded. “Probably because I’m still feeling fit and able-bodied, like an action comedy, I think it would be so fun. Yeah, I feel like I’m on a high from Army of the Dead, and the violence part of it was so much fun for me to work on. I want to continue on that path for a little bit. I’ll probably continue to make and create short films, maybe with more serious subject matter on my own to keep those muscles fresh. But to be a part of an action comedy and be able to live out that experience with an amazing cast and crew for a few months would be a dream come true.”
This year has been a great year for Asian-American and Asian-Canadian actors where they are the lead in big films like Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon and Marvel’s upcoming film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Samantha shares her excitement about the entertainment industry embracing these types of films.
“It really warms my heart, I think especially at this time in the world when there are so many hate crimes against our community,” Win commented. “It is a necessary and relieving balance that there are also these amazing opportunities that are cropping up at the same time. I don’t know if they’re related, but I am very proud of our community for coming together and for making the movement what it has become. I feel like whenever people stay silent for too long or let the fears and anxieties and worries block our voices, the negative feelings and the hate just accumulate and accumulate and accumulate. And I feel like everyone has finally decided to speak up and it’s together. I feel so much support from the fellow community that we’re making a real difference.”
“It didn’t just start with the hashtag AAPI,” she added. “I think it started a couple of years ago. And this is just the next level of the movement. But I think because of the work that we’ve already done, projects like Shang-Chi are coming out into the world now, and that’s only continuing the momentum. And what really makes it a special experience is that when I see children looking at comic book genre, superhero genre, and pop culture references, children are being exposed to more Asian faces in all of those popular characters. And it’s not jarring; It’s not out of the normal. It is going to be what they grow up with, what they consider normal, and what they consider achievable for themselves. And so we’re all a part of that right now. All of us working towards this movement are a part of shaping the next generation’s limitations that they may or may not be putting on themselves. So it’s important work what we do.”
You can now see Samantha Win in Army of the Dead and Zack Snyder’s Justice League. She can also be seen in a recent project, “Unwelcome,” which she co-wrote and stars in.
The interview was edited for length and clarity.
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Samantha Win Interview: Army of the Dead and Working with Zack Snyder
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