Timothy Fernandez Olivia Liang
Just ahead of Kung Fu's season three, Olivia Liang (who plays Nicky Shen) teased that her character would be entering a dark period. Now, following its debut in October, the actress is opening up about channeling that dark space for the first time — and how she separates it from her day-to-day life.
"I'm so protective of her because I have to be. I have to believe that my character is doing her best and trying to put her best foot forward even when she messes up, but I do have a little bit of separation," Liang, 29, tells PEOPLE.
She continues, "This season, especially when Nicky goes to that darker place, I have to be Nicky and justify why I would go to a dark place. Then, I have to kind of unwind that when I come back into Olivia so that I'm not justifying bad behavior."
After a day of filming one of the "darker" scenes, Liang says it can be difficult to shake off the heaviness.
"I'm sure you've heard other actors say before, but your body doesn't really know the difference when you're acting. If you're in a scene where your character's having a panic attack and then your body is starting to have that panicked response, it doesn't know that you're in a scene."
She adds, "It's very important to separate, take some self care, do something that you as the human being, not the character, loves to do — just to get back into your own body."
One of her outlets includes watching reality TV, which Liang says is her guilty pleasure.
"Girl, watching Bachelor in Paradise with my favorite takeout from one of these local Vancouver spots, and then just a chill night in," she says of her ideal night.
Aside from her solo nights with reality TV, the actress says she's found comfort in her castmates.
"I feel so, so, so lucky that we like each other because I know that's not always the case — and I really feel like I won the lottery," she says. "I just feel lucky that I can look to them as a support system, and they really are my friends. I would choose to be their friends when this show eventually comes to an end. I don't ever want to lose touch with any of them."
To her delight, she also says she's surprised by her relationship with her parental figures on the show.
"I never thought that I would have a friend who is decades older than me and that I would really be able to be myself [around] — and not solely feel like she's an elder or a maternal figure, but she's a friend," she says of Tan Kheng Hua, who plays her mother on the show.
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"I think that's the cool thing about being an actor is that your coworkers can come from any stage of life, and if you connect with them as a human being, then you [become friends]. The chemistry was instant."
Now, more than halfway through the season, Liang only hopes that fans stay invested for what's to come.
"I just want people to tune in and see what happens, because they're not going to be able to guess what goes down," she says.
Kung Fu airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on The CW.