The former Real World cast member has come a long way from the young girl who quit Tae Kwon Do two weeks in after breaking her finger. In Samurai Girl, based on the books by Carrie Asai, Chung stars as Heaven Kogo, the sheltered, adopted daughter of one of Japan’s wealthiest and most powerful families.
When Heaven’s arranged marriage ceremony is ambushed by ninjas, her brother Hiko is killed in front of her eyes. With his dying breath, he warns her that yakuza — the Japanese mafia — has infiltrated their family and that she can only trust his friend, Jake Stanton (Brendan Fehr), who is then tasked with teaching her the samurai skills necessary to hold her own against the combined ninja and yakuza forces.
"Samurai Girl is all about using the katana, the samurai sword, so we had a lot of training with that," Chung, 25, tells Zap2it. "I’m very athletic, and I’m not afraid whatsoever to learn. The stunt people are there to do the fight choreography. They check it out. They make sure it’s safe. If you can do it, you can give it a shot. Most actors will pass. I’m all about it."
In the scenes in which Jake instructs Heaven, both Chung and Fehr decided to do their own fighting.
"We found that our chemistry together is much better than with a stunt person," she reveals. "We went full force, we’re not afraid of it. We chopped up each other’s fingers, even with an aluminum sword, but it was worth it. It was so much fun.
"My legs were beat up for two months, almost three," she adds. "I had a sprained ankle. Yeah, you get hurt, but that’s a great feeling because that’s when you know it’s going to look so good on TV."
Besides fighting ninjas and her mentor, Heaven gets the chance to take on a woman scorned, Jake’s ex-girlfriend played by Dancing With the Stars contestant and wrestler Stacy Keibler. The two women go mano a mano in two creative and action-packed fight scenes.
"There’s lots of weapons. We use lots of elements in our environment to fight with, so it’s very interesting to watch," explains Chung. "Let’s say we’re in a loft, and there’s chairs and lamps and tables. Think of all of those elements incorporated into the fight. Think of Kill Bill 2 with Vivica A. Fox and Uma Thurman."
Although Chung is confident in her on-screen fighting abilities with Keibler, there’s one area in which she doesn’t measure up … literally. Known for her 42-inch legs, Keibler kicks Chung in the gams department.
"Oh yeah, and they don’t even come close. I’m like three feet short," Chung jokes. "Literally, she’s got a foot on me with her legs. For my kicks, they brought the camera in closer. For her kicks, they did wider shots."
The actress is on a roll with her martial arts projects. Chung, who also landed the role of ChiChi in the big-screen adaptation of the Dragonball anime, compares the two characters’ fighting styles.
"ChiChi fighting is a lot more badass. She fights like a guy," Chung says. "She’s really rough and rugged, and she doesn’t have any weapons. She’s known for her powerful kicks and her — the great thing about ChiChi is that she looks like the girl next door, but she fights like a UFC fighter. It’s awesome.
"Heaven, who is very sheltered, learns the samurai way and is quick on her feet," adds Chung. "She’s very swift, so the fighting is a lot more different. I would consider Heaven to be a lot more smooth and quick.
"They both have magical powers. They both can kick ass. One has a sword, one doesn’t." Chung muses. "I would have to say it’s a tie."
Samurai Girl lays down the hurt three nights in a row beginning Friday, Sept. 5 on ABC Family.
Check out Zap2it’s Samurai Girl photogallery.