The Brothers Sun

On connections and bonds behind the scenes


Interview: Laura Sirikul @lsirik

Photos: Henry Wu @hello.henry

Fashion: Hannah Kerri @hannahkerrri

Grooming: Nicole Chew @chewchewtrain using Chanel Beauty and Oribe Haircare (Sam + team touch up), Aika Flores @by.aikaflores for Exclusive Artists using 111Skin and Oribe Haircare (Justin)

Makeup: Allan Avendaño @allanface (Highdee), Kirin Bhatty @kirinstagram (Madison)

Hair: Rena Calhoun @rena.calhoun (Highdee), Darine Sengseevong @machinedarine (Madison)

Video Production: The Dry Clean @thedryclean

EP: Choeey @choeey_

Producer: Eugene Han @eugenedhan

Cam op: Steven Lee @stevenleecreative

Video Edit: Hoang Nguyễn @go.hobo

Location: Kato Restaurant @katorestaurant

The room buzzes with energy as the cast of Netflix’s The Brothers Sun gathers: Justin Chien as the enigmatic Charles Sun, Sam Song Li portraying the endearing Bruce Sun, Madison Hu as the determined Grace, and Highdee Kuan in the role of the ambitious Alexis. Their laughter and easy banter paint a picture of deep, genuine connection. The camaraderie and shared smiles among the cast reflect the series' heart—the complex dynamics of family and community, set within the intriguing world of a Taiwanese triad. Their spirited interactions, enriched with inside jokes, highlight the bonds formed both on and off the set.

Joining Timid Magazine, each cast member offers a unique perspective on their role, sharing insights into the emotional depth and cultural layers that make The Brothers Sun special. Their stories encompass memorable audition experiences and the nuanced development of their characters. This conversation offers an engaging and enlightening glimpse into the creation of a series that artfully combines action, drama, and humor while delving into themes of family, loyalty, and the immigrant experience.

Timid Magazine: I would love to know how you came across this specific project. What were you most excited about?

Justin Chien: It came about in a traditional way. I didn't really know anyone else on the project. I saw an email in my inbox that began a seven or eight-week audition process. I was doing all my callbacks in Taiwan at six in the morning. Then the final round was a mix and match with Sam and other actors. Luckily, it worked out for both of us.

What drew me to this was the theme of the project and the background, both of which resonated deeply with me. The theme is family, which is of huge importance in the series, and I'm very close to my family. The background of the story spans Taipei and LA, places I grew up in, so it was really special for me.

Sam Song Li: I first heard about this on social media and there was a massive casting call for it on Cape USA and various Asian American entertainment media outlets. I saw the casting breakdown and knew my reps are super on top for submitting me for projects. I remember thinking, "Okay, this Bruce guy is a naive college student raised by a single mom who wants to do improv comedy," and I thought he sounded a lot like me. So, I said to my reps, “I know you already submitted me for this, but please please I think I have a good chance here.”

Highdee Kuan: My process was pretty similar to Justin's where it was through my agent and reps. I read the line about Alexis being super driven and addicted to spicy hot Cheetos, and I thought, “Okay, this girl, I know!” I remember reading the pilot and it was one of those experiences where you read something so good, you don’t know what you have to do, but you need to be a part of it. I remember taping within two hours of getting the sides. Normally, I give it a few days to sink in, but I felt a connection. After sending in my audition, I did the traditional callback. Then they canceled my producer session, and I thought it was over, that I didn’t get the job, that they didn't want to see me.

Madison Hu: I also came to this project through an audition. I was filming in New Orleans at the time. I didn’t have a lot of information about my character except that she was charismatic and values funny people. I hope I’m charismatic, but I do value funny people. So...I got half of that. I did my audition and callback a week later. My manager told me the producers just wanted to talk, and I was like, 'What do you mean?'

JC: They said the same thing to me!

MH: It was so cryptic! I was at a bus station when they told me, “You got it!”

JC: They did the same to me.

Left to Right: jacket-ASOS, pants-THEORY, white sweater & pants-ADEAM, top-MARBL, grey dress-ASOS, top & pants-MONFRERE
tan suit-VIGGO LONDON, top-SCOTCH & SODA, green suit-VIGGO LONDON, shirt-ASOS
TM: This was your initiation and getting ready for the role. It’s a story about the Triad, but the story goes much deeper for all the characters—Charles, an aspiring baker who is in charge of the Jade Dragons at the moment; Bruce, an improv actor who has to follow his mother’s dreams; Alexis, a determined DA who wants to advance with each case; and, Grace, who has a thing for Bruce, but there’s something deeper going on inside her. How was it for you to explore these aspects of your characters?

SSL: I related to it incredibly easily. At the start, something was so surreal about the entire experience. I love telling the story of the first time we shot at [character] TK's apartment. It encapsulates my entire experience with the project and how I relate to it. We showed up on set on location in the 626, in San Gabriel. The first time we showed up at TK’s apartment, played by the fabulous Joon Lee, I saw the apartment in front of me and my jaw dropped because I walked by those apartments every day going to elementary school. That moment became so surreal to me because of how intimate this whole location, the setting, the atmosphere in The Brothers Sun, and the city that I am so familiar with were. As someone who grew up in the 626, and with a single mom, I wanted to pursue acting but my mom wasn’t supportive of that. She loves me so much and didn’t want me to struggle. She wanted me to get a more traditional job and find stability in my life. So a lot of the things Bruce is feeling, I directly felt throughout my life, and it allowed me to be natural in the way I approached this character. It gave me a lot of confidence that a lot of choices I was making were the right ones because I knew in my heart that was the reality of my life.

TM: Did you explore these aspects of your characters, and how was it for you?

HK: The most fascinating aspect for me was doing a lot of research before a project. With Alexis, there was so much to her career-wise. Being an assistant district attorney, we got to talk to people working at the LA district attorney's office and hearing from them was fascinating. It was interesting to learn about the crime in San Gabriel Valley versus the West Side. Then I got into a spiral thinking about what a day in Alexis' life would be like, reviewing cases, and what that does to your psyche because you’re truly dealing with the worst in people. Like, what does that inundation do to you? That was such a fascinating push and pull to play with, and being given the opportunity to explore these different roles that my day-to-day life doesn’t capture.

MH: Similar to Sam, I walked into TK’s house because I was rehearsing behind it. They asked me if I wanted to go in and look, and I was like, “Sure!” I go in and smell my childhood. Down to the little knick-knacks in the house. It felt so familiar!

With Grace and what has happened to her, I wrote a letter to Bruce from Grace's perspective explaining everything. It was a bit of a stream of consciousness about how you would think and talk about it. I’m in college right now and part of my college improv group. That aspect of Grace is very near and dear to my heart. I was excited to explore and dive deeper into it.

TM: Justin, you do martial arts, but now you get to be the baker for the role. Did you explore that aspect?

JC: I love Charles tremendously. I started with my own personal life and experiences first. It forced me to examine and remember core memories I have as Justin, like the first heart-to-heart I had with my dad. My dad is a traditional Asian man. His parents never told him they loved him. One of my favorite memories is when we used to live in Hong Kong and played badminton in the parking lot without a net. I remember rallying with him, which to this day is still one of my happiest memories. It was a huge privilege in creating this character. A weird thing was that every day I spent with Charles made me more grateful for the life I had. Charles had aspirations to become a baker; I got to chase my aspirations. I live the life that my character would want, and the fact that I have that drives home my gratitude deeper.

Martial arts I love, I’ve been doing for the past 10-15 years. Baking is something I have to work on for the show. So I made two things: a chocolate fondant cake and a Japanese style cheesecake. The cheesecake had a good flavor, though I think the top cracked a bit and I wish it had been a little more jiggly. But it was a good first attempt! What was really eye-opening for me is realizing I'm more of a chef than a baker. Baking means so much to Charles as a character because it's one of the few moments in his life where he can follow a recipe precisely, down to the milligram, time, and humidity. It is one of the few moments where there’s a semblance of peace and normalcy where the rest of his life was quite chaotic.

Left to right: dress-LADY PIPA, boots-FRANCO SARTO, jacket & jeans-MONFRERE, top-NILI TOP, dress-LAMARA LONDON, heels-KURT GEIGER, suit-MIKOSAKABE, shoes-VAGABOND
TM: It's about time we see badass Asian women as leaders. What would you say is the most empowering thing you had to do and most empowering thing about your character?

HK: Alexis is someone who is unwavering about her sense of self. She has an intrinsic understanding of where her place in the world is and how she operates. That quiet confidence  she exudes and the ability to stay true to her beliefs regardless of circumstances. That felt refreshing to me because that's not how I operate in my day-to-day life. In general it’s so freeing to play someone who is so much more intelligently capable in life. She is aspirational to me in many ways. I sometimes ask myself when I’m in a pickle, "What would Alexis do?"

MH: With Grace and the women in this show, it’s that they are representative of different strengths and capabilities. Grace has this ambition and unwavering moral compass, making her a hard-headed, complex, charismatic, and ambitious person, yet at the same time dealing with complex emotions. Representing her character and storyline, that was awesome and so exciting.

SSL: I don’t know about you, but even in our relationship dynamics, when we flirt with one another, you approach me a lot.

MH: [laughs] I think Grace has a lot of self-determination. With Alexis too, separate from our relationships with the guys, which is also fulfilling, we also have our own stories and the way we navigate the world.

HK: The other women in the show aren't just cookie-cutter, like good or bad, strong or weak. Everyone is so complex, dynamic, and nuanced. They are all morally ambiguous. Humans don’t exist in the black and white. It's so refreshing to play someone who has these layers that you can pull back. It’s not just one facet.

TM: It shows how impressive and powerful both characters are. So…Justin and Sam, playing brothers who are very different, yet they share the same values when it comes to their love for their mother. Did these characters make you reflect on your own lives and relationships?

JC: The bonding experience was so quick. One thing is the amount of time and proximity we spent together, but probably one of the main things is that we have a similar sense of humor.

TM: It shows how impressive and powerful both characters are. So, Justin and Sam, playing brothers who are very different, yet they share the same values when it comes to their love for their mother. Did these characters make you reflect on your own lives and relationships?

JC: The bonding experience was so quick. One thing is the amount of time and proximity we spent together, but probably one of the main things is that we have a similar sense of humor.

SSL: We do. I have a story I want to share so bad, but I know we can't.

JC: We had very brotherly bonding moments. We kept it real when we needed to but were always there for each other. I think ultimately I have a bro for life. It was a lot of fun! It made the longer and difficult days easier knowing he was there. I think part of the arc that we had where initially, Charles is resentful, frustrated, and annoyed by Bruce, but as they bond and develop respect and love for each other, Charles goes from resentment to seeing that Bruce has the life he cannot have but wants to protect and preserve.

SSL: I feel like we had to pull back a bit because we got along so well.

JC: We're professionals!

SSL: We have a similar sense of humor and so on top of making that connection. We hung out really quickly. There’s a story about how apparently our showrunner didn't want us to hang out, but we met up before filming. But we didn't know that and we can act like we didn’t know each other. The first time we had our chemistry test, I didn't know him at all. Staying in that moment and feeling that way was building that relationship and when we did connect that was the easy part.

TM: How would you best describe the series in one word?

HK: Killer

Everyone: Oh, that’s good!

SSL: Bloody good times. That's three words, but with a dash, so it counts as one.

MH: I have to say “killer” too!

JC: Heartfelt.


The Brothers Sun premieres January 4th on Netflix.

Disclaimer: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

dress-ODDMUSE, shirt-ASOS