It goes without saying that actress Kelly Hu has established a niche for playing badass female fighters. In just this past year, she portrayed the characters Li Mei and Madame Bo in the much anticipated Mortal Kombat 1 video game. As Mortal Kombat fans are well aware, this isn’t Hu’s first foray with the franchise having previously played D’Vorah, Sindel, and Frost in previous Mortal Kombat projects. The actress adds yet another character from the franchise to her resume as the voice of Ashrah in the new Mortal Kombat Legends: Cage Match animated film available today. 

The film, set in 1980s Hollywood, finds action superstar Johnny Cage (Joel McHale) on a quest to find a missing co-star that leads him on an adventure of a lifetime. Ahead of the film’s release, The Beat had the pleasure of chatting with Kelly Hu to discuss her character of Ashrah, the voice recording experience, and of course revisiting the era of the ’80s.

Taimur Dar: This animated film is a bit of a departure from typical Mortal Kombat stories. It’s basically an homage to classic ‘80s movies. It’s still got the over-the-top violence that fans expect but definitely knows how to lean into comedy. As someone who’s worked on various Mortal Kombat projects, did you appreciate getting to do something a bit offbeat?

Kelly Hu: I loved it. The way that they were able to get all that violence in but still have so much fun and sarcasm takes a lot of talent. It’s definitely a great homage to the ‘80s with the references, costumes, and the music which was so much fun.  

Dar: Obviously you’ve played a number of different characters in the Mortal Kombat franchise during your career including Li Mei in new game that just came out. Here you’re voicing Ashrah.  For you as a performer, what’s unique about Ashrah that differentiates her from other Mortal Kombat characters you’ve played?   

Hu: Ashrah is much more stoic. I liken her to a Vulcan. She’s very logical and gets the job done. You don’t even know if she really understands Johnny’s sarcasm. He’s throwing out all this stuff and she never reacts to it. It’s not until the end that she finds herself and appreciates Johnny.

Dar: It goes without saying that Joel McHale, the voice of Johnny Cage, is one of the funniest actors out there.

Hu: Oh my gosh! I never actually got to be in the room with him. I don’t think I would have been able to! [Laughs]. My character has to be so stoic and he’s so funny in this. It was such a pleasure to see it put together.

Dar: McHale had previously voiced Johnny Cage in the first two Mortal Kombat Legends films. Did you get a chance to watch those before recording to get a sense of McHale’s performance?

Hu: I was not familiar with his performance as Johnny Cage at all. I’m not a gamer and didn’t watch the previous films. Everything was very new to me. I had to rely a lot on the directors and getting their direction and description of my character and background and what was going on in the scene. Kudos to them for giving me such great input and putting it all together so seamlessly.

Dar: On the subject of directors, the voice director for Cage Match is Wes Gleason. You previously worked with him on Batman: Soul of the Dragon. What’s been your working relationship and experience?

Hu: Soul of the Dragon also had so much Kung Fu ‘80s stuff going on. He’s so fun and always such a pleasure to work with him. As a voice actor you really have to rely so much on the director because you don’t get to see any of it. As an on-camera actor you’ve got the whole set and other actors and the makeup and costumes. Everything is there and presented for you. It’s so much easier to find the vibe. As a voice actor it’s really all about the director and having them put you in the right feel and vibe of the whole film.  

Dar: As we discussed, this is a love letter to ‘80s films.

Hu: You can’t get more ‘80s than Jennifer Grey!


Dar: I definitely have a fondness for ‘80s movies, particularly action movies like Bloodsport. Do you have any favorite ‘80s movies, whatever the genre?

Hu: I was definitely a Molly Ringwald fan [like] Sixteen Candles and John Hughes films [like] The Breakfast Club. This film with all the music really did take me back to those days.

Dar: How does voiceover work for video games compare to animation?

Hu: For animation, you get to see the finished product faster. Video games sometimes take such a long time for them to finish. I’m sure it’s much more complicated. They have many more characters and scripts. In video games you’re never quite sure where the character is going to go. I don’t play video games so it’s hard for me to understand what’s going on. There’s usually just a list of different reactions and you just check off each reaction to this or that. When you’re doing an animated there’s more of a storyline. With both, you have to approach the characters in the same way.

Dar: As always, a pleasure chatting with you. With any luck, this won’t be the last time you play in the world of Mortal Kombat.

Hu: I hope not!