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GH’s Lydia Look & Parry Shen Talk Shared Gifts That Enhanced Story

The Port Charles duo talk about bringing an ancient language into their storyline.

lydia look parry shen general hospitalLydia Look and Parry Shen.

Many actors have an arsenal of special talents to pull from for any given role that only those privy to their resumes knows about. Whether it is horseback riding, fencing, gymnastics, physical comedy, or languages, actors are often more than meets the eye. Such was the case on General Hospital for Lydia Look and Parry Shen when they let the powers that be in on a special talent they share.

Parry Shen: Unlocking A Dying Language

When Shen (Brad) clued General Hospital’s Frank Valentini in on the fact that both he and his co-star, Look (Selina), could speak Cantonese, the ancient language of the real-life Hong Kong Triad, the producer found an organic way to incorporate the language into the storyline. The actors shared the whole story at a Coastal Entertainment event.

Shen explained how the idea came about. “Lydia and I had worked on something a long time ago where we both did Cantonese [Spiderman II background voices]. So when we both got on the show, I was like, oh, this is really cool that, you know, they would bring our characters closer together.

“So one day,” Shen continued,  “we let Frank know that we can speak Cantonese, which is the language of the Hong Kong Triad. And it’s very rare because a lot of people mostly speak Mandarin. It is kind of a dying language. I told some of the writers, too, about it. So, they can keep it under their sleeves and then, you know, when it came time, right?”

And the little morsel of information paid off in spades. “All of a sudden, we got the script, and we saw that our dialogue was in parentheses ‘(Say in Cantonese).’ We’re like, oh, this is so cool. Now, I gotta actually make sure I’m saying the right thing.”

Lydia Look: Language Changes Perceptions

Look couldn’t be happier with how it played out, and she gave full credit to Shen for the original idea. “I was so thrilled, and I really have to say it was really Parry’s idea more than mine. He sort of thought about it on the spot. We didn’t plan it or anything. So, I can’t take much credit for that.

“I love the idea of us doing that because, for me, it’s a way for me to flip the stereotype of what an Asian character should look like on a soap opera,” Look continued. “Especially a, you know, an Asian mob boss.” The actress reflected on the positive ramifications that using the dying language in a strong female storyline. “I thought this was such a clever opportunity for us to flip it in a way to show the audience that today’s mobsters, Asian mobsters, are very sophisticated.

“You know, they’re not monolingual or even bilingual. They’re like multilingual. They speak so many languages,” Look explained. “They’re into so much. Their fingers are into everything, you know, they’re so cosmopolitan, they’re international, highly educated, sly as…I thought that was a very serious and an opportunity for us to take that idea and fly with it. And, and I loved how it turned out.”

Parry Shen: A Family Affair

Shen had another take on how using Cantonese impacted the storyline between the mob boss and her nephew. “It just, on a very subtle level, but people got it. It showed that his aunt was having more of a part in Brad’s life because Brad had never spoken Chinese before.

“So, with that time passed,” Shen said, “it showed that she may have been teaching him or exposing him to that part of his heritage. It was kind of hit on a lot of different levels, which I thought was very great and not very hard to do because we didn’t have to learn the language…it was ready to go.”

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