The Chinese-speaking Ukrainian martial artist fighting hate crime by teaching Asian-Americans self-defence, and his efforts to unite disparate cultures
- Victor Migalchan’s ease in speaking Chinese – he trained in martial arts on trips to China – is part of his affinity with Chinese culture, he says
- ‘I’m a Western person, but Chinese inside,’ says the Ukrainian-born, Los Angeles-based actor, who’s just had a drama series launch on Amazon Prime
In his first scene in My American Family, Victor Migalchan launches into fluent Chinese while on the phone in a car.
Migalchan was speaking in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, soon after the premiere of his series, which landed on March 25 on Amazon Prime. He stars as Alexander Romanovich, a man who arrives in that city from China on a homestay programme that pairs him with a Mexican-American family.
They were expecting a young Chinese person with limited English skills. What they get instead is a multilingual adult of Eastern European descent, who wears suits and has secrets of his own. The project – which also stars actor and restaurateur Danny Trejo – was a labour of love for Migalchan, who wants to help fuse different cultures together in entertainment.
It’s not just in entertainment where Migalchan is aiming to do this, though. The actor – who has practised martial arts since the age of four – has also started to offer free self-defence classes to anyone who wants them.
“More and more people are signing up,” he said. “We are seeing 30 to 35 people per class every time we train. They’re afraid. They say they want to have a little bit of skill for self-protection.”
“I come from the traditional school of Chinese martial arts. These are practical skills, used for protection. It’s an authentic practice. Modern martial arts as a practice is very different. To me, it’s like a show.”
Now that the first season of My American Family is out, Migalchan is turning his focus to his other projects. One of them is Dragon Chef, a cooking show where chefs from different countries cook authentic Chinese dishes, leading to what Migalchan hopes will be the learning of valuable lessons.
That notion of learning, and of making heartfelt connections, is something that runs through everything Migalchan dabbles in. Despite the shortcomings in My American Family – breaches in logic, stilted dialogue, stereotypical characters – the focus on wholesome family connections shines through. The teenagers on the show might roll their eyes at their parents, but there’s no back talk or profanity.
“I’m a Western person, but Chinese inside,” he said. “I’ve learned the language. I understand Confucius. I bring the authenticity of this culture to other people so they can learn. If they don’t like it, or don’t want it, that’s fine. But at least I can offer it.”