Kung Fu: Olivia Liang Talks Nicky’s New Challenges in Season 4 (Exclusive)

Kung Fu returned from its midseason break on Wednesday night with “The Architect” and it’s an episode that found Nicky Shen (Olivia Liang) in a difficult place. After the events of the first half of The CW series’ third season, Nicky is not only dealing with the unexpected return of her shifu but. now the loss of her again as well thanks to Xiao and a major betrayal when her new love, Bo (Ben Levin) turned out to be working with Xiao this whole time.

This week, Nicky finds herself dealing with the emotional fallout of her own reaction to some of those things — namely her beatdown of Bo in the midseason finale — and it couldn’t come at a worse time. ComicBook.com sat down with Olivia Liang to talk about where Nicky is as we embark on the second half of Season 3 and what it all means for the hero going forward.

Warning: spoilers for the midseason premiere of Kung Fu, “The Architect”, beyond this point.

Nicole Drum, ComicBook.com: We left off with Nicky in a real bad place. Before we jump into things, kind of preview for me where Nicky’s head space is as we come back to Kung Fu on Wednesday.

Olivia Liang: So, as we saw at the end of the mid-season finale, like you said, Nicky kind of lost it. She was in a blind rage and really lost control of who she was and lost sight of who she was. Everything that she’s learned the last three years, maybe for now as a Shaolin monk and a protector, she violated everything that she believes in and because she was so hurt. So, I remember just telling Christina and Bob before the season started, I just want to be pushed as an actor and go to a place that I feel scared of.

And that definitely was it to have to access rage like that and to just blindly lose control. So, Nicky, she picked the crap out of Bo, and then she immediately I think realized, “What have I done?” And we’re the audience. So, we didn’t get to see Bo’s tragic backstory of abuse and manipulation, and maybe we as an audience can see why Nicky did it, but still feel empathy for Bo. But Nicky’s empathy for Bo doesn’t kick in until later. So, we come back at the mid-season premiere the year with Nicky feeling immense guilt for violating her principles, for hurting someone, for using violence, not as a last resort, but as a means to an end.

And as we see pretty quickly, this in a sense. Obviously, there’s that attack ad that we were told about in the mid-season finale and now coming back from the break, that’s now a reality. But that has to factor into her emotionally because she just had this, what she was doing in those video clips in the ads, she was generally doing a good thing. But it has to be feeling feeding into her feeling of confliction and it kind of feels a little bit as we get started into this episode that Nicky’s spiraling a little bit.

1000%. Being able to see an attack ad with a compilation of her looking violent, even though she knows what she was doing in those clips, that it was for the good of her community. It’s just adding fuel to the fire that she already fueled, which is that she might be a monster. She might be the thing that she’s been fighting against. So, it’s definitely sending her more into a spiral and she needs to find her purpose again and find her fire again in a different way.

Do you think it’s fair to say that this episode might be the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen Nicky, or at least in the top three?

Yes, definitely in the top three. I think when her family was hurt in season two because of her, that really opened up the vulnerability for Nicky because those are the people she cares about the most. But this definitely opens up a new vulnerability that we haven’t seen from Nicky because she is feeling really bad about herself, and we haven’t seen that side of her yet. So definitely top three of just raw emotion and having to face your own demons.

I feel like we see Nicky taking some chances that she may not ordinarily take. Do you feel like she’s trying to atone for something here?

Oh, 1000%, she is. It’s kind of a juvenile mindset, and I think that just shows how worked up Nicky is or how lost she feels. But it’s like, “Okay, I did a bad thing, so what do I need to do to counteract that bad thing? I need to just start doing a hundred good things and then it’ll balance it out.” So, I feel like she definitely feels so much guilt over this thing that she did to Bo that she’s like, “Okay, what’s the good that I can do that I can throw myself into?” But because she’s so blinded by wanting to atone for the wrong that she’s done, she’s missing things and she’s being a little bit reckless, even though it’s for quote on quote “a good reason.” But I think it is a selfish reason too, of wanting to absolve herself of guilt.

We also kind of get to see what I feel like is almost a big step forward. And not that Nicky’s ever been immature, but it’s a different type of maturity. And then we see Nicky in jail, which obviously that is not a good place for her. We see her struggling there, that she’s in that cell. First of all, what can you tell me about that kind of mindset shift for Nicky? And then what can you tease about what that means is next for Nicky, because it feels like she might be off the board for a little bit.

Yes. I think the decision for her to let go is obviously a hard one. And it’s not because she has control problems. It’s because she hates the idea of putting the people that she loves in danger. So, she tries to control everything around her so that she can take responsibility and doesn’t have to put it on anybody else. But a good leader knows when to loosen the reins a little bit, loosen the grip a little bit, and delegate. And Henry’s always been there for her, and he’s strong and capable.

So, I think she recognized in that moment that her running away and being a target while also trying to find Pei-Ling again, trying to save her, it’s too much. I think she’s finally realized it’s too much and she needs to face what she’s done and face the consequences for her actions and learn from them. And then when we see her in the jail cell, it’s that forced solitude that she hasn’t had a chance to have, and she hasn’t really had a good chance to look at herself and look at what she’s done and what she’s doing it all for. So, I think jail’s not going to be fun, but I think we’ll see a new Nicky come out of jail when she does.


This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Kung Fu airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on The CW.