Best known for her role as the assassin Elektra Natchios in the second season of Daredevil and in the Netflix series The Defenders, 36-year-old actress Élodie Yung has captivated audiences with her ability to portray the psychological complexity and impressive physical prowess of her character. The French-Cambodian actress grew up in a rough neighborhood of Paris, France and originally learned karate for self-defense, yet little did she know that her intensive martial arts experience would help land her future action heroine roles on the big screen. After graduating from university with a law degree, Élodie realized that she wanted to pursue acting as a career instead and went on to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Her notable breakout roles thereafter include being the female lead in District 13: Ultimatum, playing the romantic interest Miriam Wu in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and portraying the ninja Jinx in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. In her latest acting role, Élodie Yung works alongside Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson as the Interpol agent Amelia in the film The Hitman’s Bodyguard. Here, Élodie shares with us her family background that has molded her into the person that she is today, some of her personal life mottos that she strives to live by, and her experiences portraying complex female characters on-screen.
Could you tell me more about your childhood?
I grew up on the outskirts of Paris in a very rough neighborhood.
How did your parents and family background shape you into who you are today?
My parents are literally survivors. My dad, for example, escaped the Pol Pot regime. But despite those challenges, they've always been happy people and sharing, loving parents who've supported their kids in whatever they wanted to do. And more than anything, they encouraged us to enjoy life.
What is the best piece of advice you've received?
"Profite! We only have one life."
Tell us more about your character, Elektra, and how did you prepare for this role?
I didn't know anything about her when I got offered the part! So, my first reaction was to go into a comic book store and buy as many comic books about her as I could. She's a well-educated woman who after the loss of her dad decided to remove herself from society and became a bounty killer! In the transition that we do in the series, she's kind of a sociopath, with one weakness: her love for Matthew Murdock, "Matthew" as she calls him. So to me, she's not a villain, but a complex woman, with a little tendency for the dark side...
What have been the most rewarding and challenging things about playing her?
The depth of this character. Having to train and be extremely physical for the part was one challenge. The bigger one, and the most rewarding, was to embrace her true nature. Trying to understand who she was. Trying to find the humanity in her.
What was the experience of filming The Defenders like for you?
The Defenders was a completely different experience from Daredevil season 2. In The Defenders, Elektra is brought back to life but doesn't remember anything. As an actress, it gave me the opportunity to explore the same character from a different angle. This time, she was amnesiac! And the quest for me was to figure out when she would have her memories and identity back.
Tell us about one of your most memorable moments on set.
The day I met Sigourney Weaver! It was in Manhattan, on the rooftop of Rockefeller Center at nighttime, with the moonlight over St. Patrick's Cathedral... Couldn't have been more romantic! And Sigourney was striking my cheek in the scene.
You mentioned wanting to do something creative to give back to your father's country, Cambodia. What are you thinking of doing?
I would love to be involved in any form of storytelling that has to do with the Cambodian history and help remember what happened and heal wounds. I'd love to work with Rithy Panh, Angelina Jolie, or Davy Chou.
Has your background in law helped you in any way in your acting career?
What life philosophy do you live by? Please share some of your favorite quotes or life mottos with us.
Basically any song Queen made like Under Pressure, Don't Stop Me Now, I Want to Break Free, and The Show Must Go On!!
Tell us more about your role as Amelia in the upcoming film, The Hitman's Bodyguard.
Amelia is an Interpol agent in charge of an important mission: taking a notorious hitman in a convoy to The Hague for him to give his testimony against a dictator. The mission goes wrong and the only thing she can come up with is calling her ex who's a bodyguard to take over it, as she suspects there's a mole in Interpol who wants Kincaid dead. She is a straight to the point, tough woman who prioritizes her job over her feelings.
In what ways did you personally relate to Amelia? What aspects of her character did you find difficult to portray?
I think I'm softer than her and I wear my feelings on my sleeve. She internalizes more and stays focused on her mission. For me, that would be very hard to do!
What was it like working with Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson?
They're the best! I loved working with them. They're very well-prepared as much as they are instinctive; it makes the scenes way more fun because you never know where it's going to go.
Special thanks to Bloomingdales Beverly Center
Marvel's The Defenders is set to be released on August 18th 2017 on Netflix.
The Hitman's Bodyguard is set to be released on August 18th 2017 in theaters.