As if leaping from the pages of a comic comes former assassin Rian Leung, as she confronts a corrupt scheme in Black Mast Studios’ new action-narrative music video “No Hero Now” for singer Vy Nguyen featuring Jason Chu on Stan Lee’s YouTube Network World of Heroes which premiered on October 28th and can be viewed in its awesome entirety here.
The video, introduced by Stan himself was written and directed by Jennie Kong (Made By Maggie) and stars Jessika Van (CW’s Messengers) alongside Jack Lang (A Leading Man), Beth Riesgraf (TNT’s Leverage), Dan Feuerriegal (Starz’s Spartacus) and Tony Messenger (The Expendables) among others as well as nods to Netflix’s Daredevil and the MCU.
Within the video we follow the retired and reformed assassin Rian (Jessika Van) fall into a web of conspiracy and reluctantly taking up the role of hero after receiving an SOS from her former base. After finding her former allies slain she learns of their dark discovery of genetic superpower serum vials being pushed on the black market by a socialite known as “The Mantis” (Beth Riesgraf) and it’s up to Jian to rescue her former team’s leader (Jack Lang) from certain death.
Boasting a diverse Asian cast and talent both on screen and behind the camera, something we’re always looking out for to showcase, I was keen to learn more about the project and video and was able to hold short one on one Q & A’s with writer/director Jennie Kong, singer Vy Nguyen and actress Jessika Van about their experience in developing the project as well as learn a bit more about what drives them personally and professionally.
Jennie Kong, writer/director:
SC: First off congratulations, you both wrote and directed this music video, that’s quite a feat! As both a writer and director could you tell us more about how this project came to be at Stan Lee’s World of Heroes?
JK: I was lucky to have been already working on a previous project with Stan’s World of Heroes when I was approached to direct and collaborate on this project. Our producer Yuka Kobayashi, was already developing this song with Vy and Jason, and brought a team together to see what we could come up with. I pitched the story of Rian and her world, and the group was excited for us to make something epic.
SC: The entire project, from your production, musicians, to cast all showcase Asian talent. Any thoughts on the current state of American media in relation to that?
JK:I think it’s an exciting and long overdue time for diverse voices to be showcased within the media. If you look at projects such as Into The Badlands or Master of None or even Fresh Off The Boat – there is certainly an appetite and market for it right now, and it is only growing. “No Hero Now” is a small project, but I do believe that licensing or green lighting projects that have diverse cast and crew is a good step.
SC: How far do you want to take the character Rian Leung? She’s a fantastic concept and I’d love to see more of her. Is there anything else for her to come?
JK: Thank you. I really enjoyed developing and writing that character. I grew up with watching phenomenally complex female characters onscreen such as Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor, as well as more recently Beatrix Kiddo and Carrie Mathison. These types of characters are a writer and director’s dream to work with, and so I wanted to tell a story with someone who was somewhat of a reluctant prodigy and antihero. I would love to write more of that character too… I’m just happy to get this video released first to be honest and see where it goes from there.
Vy Nguyen, singer:
SU: How did the song for “No Hero Now” develop? It’s a very powerful song.
VN: Knowing that I had to keep the song within the superhero theme made it a little easier to write because I didn’t have to come up with a concept to start. I didn’t decide what direction I wanted to go in with the lyrics until I got in the studio with composer/musician/producer Keith Jackson. We sat in the studio together and he pulled out a simple track he had started months before and we used that as the starting point for the song.
A few months later rapper, Jason Chu, joined our team and we collaboratively decided to have him be the conscience of the female character in the song. His rap is the voice in your head that creates self-doubt and fear. Jason’s verses really helped elevate the song to new heights and we all worked really well together. It was a really special collaboration in the studio.
SC: Where do you get your musical inspiration from? Who are your musical heroes?
VN: Lyrics generally come to me at random. Sometimes I get a spark of inspiration from a line someone said in conversation or during times of extreme frustration, excitement or anger. I like to channel those strong feelings into lyrics. I am known for writing songs that are girl-empowerment songs. I really care about creating unique stories and inspiring lyrics. I don’t typically write love songs or breakup songs. Growing up I was a big fan of Janet Jackson. I was always in awe of her talents because she sings, dances and is a songwriter. I really envy any artist who can be honest in their music and who aren’t afraid to push the boundaries.
SC: What’s it like doing music in today’s industry?
VN: Creating music in today’s industry is really unique because of the accessibility to the masses through social media, which we didn’t have years ago. With just a press of a button, the whole world can hear my song. And with YouTube, the average Joe can share his talents with the world. It’s really quite remarkable. I’ve written and recorded several songs over the last few years, but never released any because I just really enjoy the creative process and have always done music for my own love for the art. But it’s a very exciting time to share “No Hero Now” with the public because it’s a song that I really love and I really enjoyed the collaborative process of putting this song together. I’m excited for people to hear it.
Jessika Van, actress:
SC: You’re actually the first actress I’ve had the pleasure to ask a few questions to, so I’m both really honored and excited to do so! How was playing Rian Leung? She seemed like a engaging and different character to play.
JV: I’m honored. Rian Leung was a blast. She has a no-nonsense physicality and a plethora of conflicting emotions brewing underneath her stoic exterior. It’s a world I love exploring.
SC: What does being an actress in today’s industry mean to you?
JV: Fighting for unique and diverse voices to be heard, so we can bring understanding to our different cultures and points of view.
SC: Who are your personal heroes?
JV: Without fail, my family. But in a larger sense, all the people who make my world such a wonderful place to live in. I’m always amazed by the phenomenal people I meet and their generosity toward a stranger. The more I travel, the more I believe in love.
Audiences attending Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles CA later this weekend will be able to attend “Stan Lee’s World of Heroes Presents…’No Hero Now'” panel featuring cast and crew to feature and talk about the project on Sunday November 1st at 12pm in Room 511ABC. Check it out! Outlets for diverse marginalized voices in mainstream American media, especially within the superhero, comic and “geek” industry are extremely welcome and much appreciated. Go show your support!
We’d love to see more of Rian. How about you? Let us know what you thought at @maxlikescomics or @Sub_Cultured. Thanks to Jennie, Vy and Jesskia for answering our questions, keep doing the amazing work!!
See you all real soon!