To Kwan, and to Capcom, these two versions of Chun Li are different people, with years of life experience between them, which offered an opportunity for Chun Li to grow and mature in her own way. As such, Kwan wanted to convey something new with the character that reflected her growth while also keeping the vital essence of who she is.
Prior to Street Fighter 6, Kwan is best known for her roles as Suki in Avatar: The Last Airbender and Sam Woo in the NBC sitcom California Dreams. Suki is a fighter who is part of the Kyoshi Warriors, a group founded by Avatar Kyoshi of the Earth Kingdom to protect her homeland, Kyoshi Island. In addition to her hand-to-hand fighting skills, Suki is also adept at using weapons such as war fans and katanas. Coincidentally, there are quite a few similarities between Chun Li and Suki.
Both characters exhibit an air of maturity and also specialize in hand-to-hand combat. And since Chun Li has had to deal with one of Street Fighter’s main antagonists, M. Bison, for many years, Kwan thinks the character has a more rogue personality compared to Suki. Chun Li is highly disciplined and is often the voice of reason in groups. Despite her grounded behavior, she sometimes acts rashly if criminals insult her pride as a cop, which can cause her to abandon her better judgment—especially when facing off against Bison, the man who murdered her father.
Starting with Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Chun Li starts to show a kinder, mentoring side when she meets Li-Fen for the first time. In Street Fighter 6, however, Chun Li assumes the role of teacher and settles down a bit.
On the other hand, and in another role completely, Kwan says that Suki still had a lot of growing up to do in the Avatar series, since she was young and still going through her own journey. Both characters are interesting because they’re allowed to change over time, as people do in real life.
Kwan brings that same diversity of perspective to the roles she plays. She notes that she’s been able to work in TV shows, film, animation, and video games, playing a wide variety of characters. “Being an actor, this long in the business, you have ebb and flow,” she continues. “I’ve been so fortunate to be able to cross all different genres. Not everybody’s able to do that.”
At 2022’s San Diego Comic-Con, Capcom brought Kwan to the massive onsite Street Fighter 6 booth and gave her a tour where she could see people playing the game in real life. Chills went down her spine. She says it was surreal seeing people playing as Chun Li and hearing her own voice.
Even after all these years, Kwan says she’s still trying to find the original contract for that old Chun Li voice sample, because the character ended up being so popular. As an actor, she says that she needs to remind herself that there are always ups and downs in the entertainment industry. She had no idea that an audition decades ago would come back around like this.
Chun Li is by all accounts a badass, strong, and determined brawler, and Kwan says she gets emotional knowing people look up to her. “Just seeing her in Street Fighter 6, even just the little snippets, there’s a sort of calm before the storm with her, that she’s able to hold it and just really follow through,” says Kwan. “She has enough grit and power not to back down, which is pretty impressive, and that’s something I admire too.”