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‘The Brothers Sun’ Review: Asian American Representation Through Cinema and Action

With the first episode airing on January 4 on Netflix, “The Brothers Sun” features an impressive all-Asian cast and writers.

'The Brothers Sun' on Netflix with Michelle Yeoh (Credit: Netflix)
'The Brothers Sun' on Netflix with Michelle Yeoh. Credit: Netflix

With the first episode airing on January 4 on Netflix, “The Brothers Sun” features an all-Asian cast and writers, with Michelle Yeoh, Justin Chien and Sam Song Li.

The series follows Charles Sun, son of the head of a Taiwanese triad, traveling to Los Angeles to avenge his father’s assassination and protect his mother and younger brother.

The Cast

First, let’s take a look at the cast of this series.

Justin Chien plays Charles Sun (Credit: Netflix)

Justin Chien plays Charles Sun, also known as “Chairleg” Sun, in the series for his bloody reputation as a killer. Although he is a fearless character who kills to protect his family, Sun shows a softer side of him through his love for baking and family. Baking and bloody battles don’t seem to mix, yet Chien plays both sides of Charles Sun effortlessly.

Michelle Yeoh plays Mama Sun (Credit: Netflix)

Academy Award winner Michelle Yeoh plays the fierce Mama Sun. In the series, she does her best as a mother and wife to protect her sons and the reputation of the Jade Dragons. Yeoh plays the role with ease and elegance as she navigates between the world she’s built in Los Angeles and Taiwan.

Sam Song Li plays Bruce Sun (Credit: Netflix)

Sam Song Li plays the seemingly incompetent and improv-loving college student Bruce Sun. Bruce discovers his true identity as the son of the head of a Taiwanese triad and is plummeted into the world of violence. Will he step up to protect his family alongside his brother? Watch Li play Bruce as he navigates between his two identities in the series.

Asian American Representation

This series was mainly filmed in Los Angeles, especially the ethnic enclave San Gabriel Valley, or the 626, area. As Mama Sun goes to negotiate with gangs and Charles fends off assassins to protect his loved ones, the audience can see the filming locations of the series.

One of the most prominent locations is Newport Seafood Restaurant, a well-known restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley. This restaurant was turned into a secret mahjong club in the Netflix series as audiences can see Michelle Yeoh give her stellar performance in this location.

Another prominent location is Kee Wah Bakery. Kee Wah Bakery is a staple for Asian Americans, especially those in the 626 area. From pineapple buns to hot dog buns to green onion buns, audiences can see that sense of familiarity in the series.

By filming in the 626 area, audiences from that area can see their home being presented on screen and in mainstream media. This helps achieve that sense of authenticity in the series.

The Action

The series features impressive fight sequences with intricate choreographies and interesting locations.

We got to interview Isaac Wong, who played the young Charles Sun in the series, to talk a bit about the preparation that went into the fight scenes. Below are some highlights from our conversation.

Isaac Wong as young Charles Sun (Credit: Netflix)

The Interview

What was the training process like for “The Brothers Sun”? 

The training process for ‘The Brother’s Sun” was something I’ve never experienced before. There was a whole team to help train me and guide me through the basic choreography of the fight scene. I learned a little bit of jujitsu, how to fake hit, and pretend like I got hit. I did this about once or twice a week for a month. There was also a Chinese speaker who helped me perfect the tone of my Mandarin that was included in my lines, though that issue was resolved pretty quickly

What was filming like for “The Brothers Sun?”

The filming process was more tiring than I thought it would be. I wasn’t a huge part of the show, so I didn’t expect that the shoot would take the entire day. I got a haircut from a barber and didn’t really get any makeup on, though they would be there for the entire shoot to redo my hair if it fell, or put any makeup that I had on, back on.

How was filming with the cast?

The co-stars I met were incredibly nice. Though I didn’t shoot with Justin Chien… he purposely went out of his way to see the shoot. He was and is an extremely encouraging and fun guy to be around, even though I was nervous to see him for the first time. He would give me advice on how to act in this situation that the shoot was in, and I like the way that he talks to me pretty casually… I also met the rest of the cast like Michelle Yeoh, who were incredibly nice, but also intimidating due to the fact that they were very well known and experienced as actors or actresses. I found the main fight scene to be my favorite part of the shoot because I was pretty confident that I could pull it off well since I had practiced it over the course of that month and knew martial arts pretty well already. 

What are your takeaways from training and filming for “The Brothers Sun”?

Some takeaways from training and filming for “The Brother’s Sun” is being patient. I am not a very patient man, but seeing the whole cast willingly retake scenes over and over while still being positive and joyful of this creation, made me also patient during these moments of shoots. 

Why Watch it?

Whether you watch it for the cast or the fight scenes or the comedy, there is no denying that “The Brothers Sun ” plays its part in representing Asian Americans and the San Gabriel Valley. Watch the 8-episode series avaliable on Netflix to experience the family dynamics and thrill of the Sun family.

Written By

Hi! I'm Rufina, a 2nd-year English major at UCLA. Besides writing for Trill Mag's Entertainment section, I'm also a Copy Rimmer for UCLA's The Daily Bruin. When I'm not writing or researching about the latest shows and movies, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, playing golf, and watching dramas/anime.

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