This week was a week of firsts for actor Yoson An.
The 27-year-old actor, who stars in Disney’s “Mulan” premiering on March 27, traveled to New York for the first time to experience also his first NYFW: Men’s.
An checked out the Whitney Museum, walked the High Line, saw Times Square and the 9/11 Memorial, and had his first authentic New York pizza. He attended the N. Hoolywood show, Keenkee, Todd Snyder and Victor Li in a custom ensemble designed by Li himself.
He was also photographed by Tommy Ton in outfits by N. Hoolywood, Phillip Lim and Deveaux, the New York City-based label that the photographer designs for. Not bad for the first fashion week or the first time in the city.
“It’s my first time in New York and sitting in this hotel building and looking out the window I’m like ‘Man, it’s a whole new world for me,’” An said. “I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of stuff I gotta see.”
“Do you think I could walk to Times Square from here,” An asked at his hotel room on Spring Street in SoHo. Despite the even tone in his voice, one could sense the excitement that was bubbling inside him.
“I’m really excited. I’ve seen glimpses of fashion shows, I find it super interesting,” he said. “Fashion is super interesting. I see styles in the Eighties and styles are always timeless because it just suits people’s characters and personalities. I’m excited to see and learn and be exposed.”
Born in Zhuhai, China, just outside of Macau, and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, An has three younger sisters and he is very close to his “very fashionable” mother. He performed in musicals in high school and acted in student films in university before appearing in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” and “The Meg.” In “Mulan,” he plays Chen Honghui, a recruit in Commander Tang’s unit and Mulan’s love interest.
“I still remember watching it as a kid in my grandparents’ place for the first time and it just stuck with me,” An said about the 1998 Disney animated movie. “The tunes were catchy, everything was really catchy about it and cool seeing the Chinese culture that I grew up with in my early childhood on screen. But in the time that didn’t really click for me, but it still stayed with me. It’s one of my favorite animated movies.”
The live-action adaptation that An costars in with Liu Yifei, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee and Gong Li is much different from the animated iteration. The adaptation draws more from the Chinese ballad, but according to An, “All of the elements that I personally loved — the mystical elements, the action-packed elements, the comical elements, the camaraderie from the animated movie — are still in this live action adaptation. The animation itself was derived from the ancient ballad, the ancient poem, so we went back to the ancient poem and we’re making it relevant for our audiences today.”
The audition process took several years for An. He said he imagined himself playing the love interest role hearing in 2014 through industry whispers that fellow New Zealander Niki Caro would be directing the film. (Caro was officially announced as director in 2017.) An did a brief audition and didn’t hear back for a year.
“And then literally a year later I get a random e-mail from my agent and was like ‘Hey do you remember that audition you did last year like a year ago? Disney wants to see you for it again,’” he explained.
“I learned my lines again and did my Skype audition with Niki and within five days I was in L.A. meeting Niki and the producers doing the audition in person. I flew back home, and I didn’t hear back for another eight months. It was a long process but it was a relief when I signed that contract.”
Mulan refers to “magnolia” in Chinese, which was the main detail of An’s custom ensemble by Victor Li. The actor wore a black corduroy suit with embroidered magnolias that Li liked so much that he added a similar look to his fall 2020 collection inspired by travel and food.
Li jumped on the opportunity to design for An due to his excitement for the live action adaptation. “When I first heard they’re doing a “Mulan” remake I was very excited. It’s all about representation, that’s really important to me,” Li said.” We styled [the suit] with this kimono shirt. It’s a good balance of our Asian culture together and he fit it beautifully and I’m really happy.”
An expressed interest in attending the international fashion weeks in London, Milan and Paris, but said attendance is dependent on scheduling. He couldn’t discuss all of his 2020 projects, but spoke briefly about an upcoming BBC show called “The Luminaries” that he stars in with Eva Green, Eve Hewson and Marton Csokas. “It’s an ensemble piece written by Eleanor Catton who won the Man Booker Prize,” he said. “It’s about these 12 zodiac signs and I play the Aquarius sign.”