Awkwafina gets animated about her voice-over role in ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’

Awkwafina voices Zhen in DreamWorks Animation’s ‘Kung Fu Panda 4.

Awkwafina voices Zhen in DreamWorks Animation’s ‘Kung Fu Panda 4.

Published Mar 25, 2024


NO STRANGER to voice-over roles in “Raya and the Last Dragon”, “ The Bad Guys”, The Little Mermaid” and “Migration”, Awkwafina does it once again as Zhen in “Kung Fu Panda 4”.

The 35-year-old actress, who is also a rapper and comedian, shares the spotlight with Jack Black (Po), Viola Davis (The Chameleon), Dustin Hoffman (Shifu), James Hong (Mr. Ping), Bryan Cranston (Li), Ian McShane (Tai Lung) and Ke Huy Quan (Han).

In unpacking Zhen, the actress said: “She’s a criminal that has spent her life pickpocketing, and she has a wry sense of humour, which I enjoy about her. She has some secrets, as well, that I was surprised to read.”

Zhen (Awkwafina) and Po (Jack Black), in ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’, directed by Mike Mitchell.

Shedding light on her connection with Po, Awkwafina revealed: “Zhen and Po meet accidentally while she is in the process of stealing. Po, obviously, wants to bring justice to that, but Zhen is tricky, as I assume foxes would be, right?

“Then this awesome animated sequence happens where they fight, but in the end they become friends, which is nice.”

She added: “It was so fun to be in the booth with Jack! I just hope they cut my feed at times because I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t even do my lines right.

“He is such a brilliant performer and obviously so good at playing Po. It comes naturally to him and to see that in person was very cool.”

Having starred in major box-office releases like “Ocean's 8”, “Crazy Rich Asians”, “Jumanji: The Next Level” (2019) and “The Farewell”, the Golden Globe Award-winning star was bowled over by the script of the animated comedy.

The Chameleon (Viola Davis) and Tai Lung (Ian McShane) in ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’.

She shared: “I loved it! I mean, I love all these movies, so it was just an honour to read something you are also a fan of and find out what happens.

“I enjoyed discovering Zhen because she’s a very complex character that has her own problems and her own baggage. It’s always a pleasure to play a multidimensional character.”

She sang the praises of directors Mike Mitchell and Stephanie Ma Stine.

“It was easy to find the character and work with Mike and Stephanie because they created an extremely free and fun environment to play around.

“They let you improv and try things out, so it really feels like a collaborative process. I think that’s the best environment, especially to work on animated movies.”

She added: “I think Jack as Po is especially amazing because his performance is liberating and free, but it also has a lot of heart and humility. I think he’s an incredible actor and Po, specifically, is a character that we can all love and relate to in one way or another.

“Viola does a great job creating this very scary character. The fact that The Chameleon can change into anything gives her pretty much the ultimate advantage, she’s a pretty tricky villain. I love what they did with the new characters and the animation in general.”

With the school holidays upon us, this is the perfect movie for the entire family to enjoy.

In this sequel, Po has to find a new Dragon Warrior. But there are forces working against him like The Chameleon, a shape-shifting evil sorceress, who is looking to get her hands on Po’s Staff of Wisdom.

This will allow her to summon the master villains of the past.

Thankfully, Po finds an unlikely ally in quick-witted thief, Zhen, to protect the Valley of Peace and find a successor.

Awkwafina added: “It’s an absolute must-see in the theatre with friends and family. It’s a big film with detailed fight scenes that are incredible. It’s super funny.”

∎ “Kung Fu Panda 4” is showing at cinemas nationwide.