If you love a) TV b) women kicking ass c) amazing clothes, you are likely already crushing on Shannon Dang. The Pasadena native stars as Althea in Kung Fu, the addictive CW drama that follows a cast of AAPI powerhouses as they fight crime, find spiritual guidance, and—in Shannon’s case—wear amazing pastel suits from Balmain. (Sigh.)
But though Shannon is glossy and manicured onscreen, she’s a nature lover IRL with a special connection to the ocean. Here’s how she balances living in nature with living in Hollywood, all while balancing on nude Valentino heels. (Again: Sigh.)
Can you tell me about a time in the past when you felt really connected to nature? When you were like, “Wow, this is something special and bigger than I am?”When I was little, I had really bad eczema. Going into the ocean was painful for me [because] my skin would burn from the sea salt. I was almost afraid of the water, even though I lived in California, so we’d go to the beach all the time. I would just stay on the sand. As I got older, and my eczema improved, I realized, “Wait, the ocean isn’t so bad, it’s amazing!” And I found this new love for being in the ocean.
How did you change your feelings?I remember snorkeling for the first time on a family trip to Hawaii. I think that’s what did it. The water was so warm and clear, and my hair was wet… I remember floating around and thinking, “How have I been missing this all these years?” I saw so many fish and a whole other world underwater. “I felt so little in this huge ocean and it was such peaceful experience.” I felt like I was in The Little Mermaid. I loved that movie as a kid, but ironically, it wasn’t until I got older where I felt like I finally got to be like Ariel and live out my mermaid dreams.
Kung Fu has so many stunts! Do you have any favorite outdoor workouts or training routines?Yes, and being outdoors while I work out is part of my therapy and my lifestyle. I used to not be a big fan of cardio. And then when my partner lived out in Malibu, I’d visit and then almost felt like it was a waste to go into a gym because the beach was right there. You know, I actually hated running until I started running on the beach.
So running outdoors changed your view on cardio?Yes! Running outdoors makes time fly by so much faster. I’ll look down and realize, “Whoa, I already ran three miles!” That’s a lot for me HA. Being out in nature makes things so much better, especially my workouts. I love hiking, too. I’m one of those people who goes on vacation and wants to hike, swim, run—anything as long as it keeps me active and outdoors! It’s good for my mental health, too.
When did you first feel the link between mental health and the outdoors?
Always… but especially during the pandemic, when everyone was cooped up inside. I spent so much time being sedentary indoors, it was like going outside for a walk became such a treat. That mindset has carried over into my post pandemic lifestyle of making sure I go outside and move more. I’m very mindful and know that fresh air and movement immediately help my mood.
Do you get any outdoor time when you’re filming Kung Fu or are you in a studio all day?We shoot in Vancouver, and I am such a California Girl. I'll admit that at first, the weather change was rough. It’s such a beautiful place, but I wasn’t used to rain. So I ended up moving close to the Seawall and it’s made the biggest difference in my time there! Vancouver is so pretty, green, walkable, and I love taking advantage of it when I’m not shooting.
On Kung Fu, Althea is a total fashion star—like, blogs keep track of her outfits!I know; it’s amazing. We’re so excited that people love her style so much, it’s so fun! I live vicariously through Althea’s wardrobe—every fitting we do, I’m like, “Okay, how do I steal this outfit without them noticing?”
Can you share some elements of her wardrobe that are more sustainable?Our costume department does a great job finding vintage designer pieces. They also shop locally as much as possible, and something I think is really amazing is how they repurpose or remix Althea’s pieces. She wears things again, like a true fashionista. I love that. And actually, playing her has changed how I shop.
Oooh, how?I realized I don’t need as many clothes! I was like, “You can be more mindful about what you buy, and what you wear. I don’t need all this “stuff” sometimes, as long as you have some great pieces that make you feel good when you wear them. And if they last a long time, even better for the environment!” Have you seen pieces by For Days? They’re so involved with recycled fabric and recycled clothing, and their quality is great and so comfy! (omitted) I also love finding cool thrift pieces and vintage accessories. Shout out to companies like Rent the Runway! I’m always looking for more mindful ways of adding to my style without constantly shopping.
What’s a vegan swap you think is better than the original?I'm lactose sensitive and couldn’t have a lot of dairy growing up. Which explains why now I LOVE vegan ice cream. Shout out to Halo Top and Cool Haus. I’m obsessed. They’re made with milk alternatives and I can’t even tell. I actually don't even like “real” ice cream anymore because I’ve gotten so used to vegan.
Please tell us a favorite animal fact.Okay, I did a school project on the cheetah. To this day, my favorite animal is the cheetah and I love cheetah patterned anything. Unfortunately, they’re going towards extinction, which is not a favorite fact about them. But what is really cool is that female cheetahs are actually more solo than many other animals. They mate, they take their cubs, and they leave, because they prefer to be independent. So for thousands of years, these female animals have been independent, strong, and have providing for their families and living on their own terms in the wild.
Our motto is “let good grow wild.” What does that mean to you?
What comes to mind is the planting of seeds. Those seeds could be or anything from goodness to mindfulness to the seeds found in nature. You can plant seeds of goodness in your own life and see how it grows. If you keep planting and cultivating what you care about, pretty soon, you have a forest of goodness and kindness. I think that's really lovely—plant seeds for good and see how good grows in your life.