Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 Star Terry Hu Talks Playing A-Spen and Being Disney's First Non-Binary Character

Today, July 15, marks the highly anticipated release of Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 on Disney+—and this time, the movie trilogy is adding aliens to the mix of zombies and werewolves at Seabrook High School.

In the new film, actor Terry Hu plays the leader of those aliens, named A-Spen. Like Terry, A-Spen is queer and non-binary, and as the aliens allow themselves to feel their true feelings for the first time, the character learns a lot about themself in the process of the invasion of the school. Ahead of today's drop, we got the chance to chat with Terry all about their unusual path to acting, their favorite moments from filming Z-O-M-B-I-E-S and what it means to be Disney's first live-action non-binary character. Keep reading to discover what they shared with us.

Sweety High: When did you discover your passion for performing? Was there any specific moment that made you realize it was the path for you?

Terry Hu: I actually went to UCLA and majored in neuroscience. I was ready to go to physical therapy school. After graduating, I got into schools, and I was about to go to either UCSF or Duke, but then I decided to defer. I thought, you know what? Let me just give acting one real chance. One real shot.

When I was a kid, my mom had put my brothers into acting school to help them build confidence. I was like, "I want to come, too!" So I did, and I really liked it. Being there made me realize I enjoyed it and that I had a knack for it.

There was a moment, I forget what movie it was, but I remember the feeling, that I was crying a lot. It felt like catharsis. For some reason I want to say it was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button—that's one of my favorite movies—but I don't know for sure. It sounds so cheesy, but I really remember wanting to affect.

I'd gone to an open casting call for a commercial agency earlier that year, in 2018, and the same year I won the ABC Digital Talent Competition. I finally felt brave enough to let go of my idea of a traditional career.

At this point in my career, I've done some short films and dramas. Z-O-M-B-I-E-S is so wonderful. It's deep but lighthearted. I've gotten to experience a range, but ultimately what I want, no matter what, is to affect. There wasn't really one specific a-ha moment, but I feel like with acting, the universe knew more than me about what was going to happen.

Genuinely, I was going to go to school, become a physical therapist, open up a clinic, and I planned to just do theatre on the side—which is fine! I could do community theatre. But I'm on a completely different path now—but I feel like maybe I was always meant to be on this path.

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SH: Which each of the Z-O-M-B-I-E-S movies, they've really been upping the ante. It started with zombies at the school, and then the sequel had werewolves—can you tell us a little bit about how things get changed up in Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3?

TH: Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 picks up about where Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2 left off. Zed and Addison are entering their senior year, and everyone is focused on college. Where's Addison going, where's Zed going, and are they going to stay together?

Before they can really even tackle that question, these outsiders, these newcomers, these aliens come in and really shake things up. The audience will see that the aliens are there for a reason that Seabrook doesn't actually know about. We get to see how they come in and wreak some havoc and go on their own individual journeys. The aliens are all very distinct.

The other thing is that on their home planet, the aliens all suppress their emotions so that they can stay in harmony, but when they get to Seabrook, they decide to disengage their emotional suppressors, so we get to see how emotion affects each of them.


SH: Where does your character, A-Spen, come into the story?

TH: A-Spen is queer and non-binary, and I am as well. I love that—it's very authentic casting. They're very excitable and curious. I always say they're childlike, but not childish. They're a leader when they need to be, and they're the alien who's able to keep the rest of the aliens on track for the real reason they're in Seabrook. But, when they disengage their emotional suppressors, A-Spen goes through the journey of discovering what love is, and we get to see how that plays out. No spoilers!


SH: What does it mean to you to get to be Disney's first non-binary lead character?

TH: I do want to shout out that there's a non-binary character (and actor) that was in an animated Disney show called The Owl House, but I do believe that A-Spen is the first non-binary lead in a live-action piece of this size. I keep saying this, but it's extremely surreal. It feels unreal, but it is real. That's the best type.

I filmed this about a year ago, and there are waves of feeling like, whoa. I'm so excited for it to come out because I can't wait to see the fan response, but a lot of fans have been reaching out so far, and when I hear from them that I really comprehend that this is bigger than me. When it's just me, I'm really grateful, and I'm so happy to be here, and I love that there's authentic casting. But I don't walk around every day thinking, "I'm making history!" But when fans are saying, "This is so incredible, this is the first time I've seen this," I really realize this is for them. This is for the community. I feel extremely honored, and on a personal level, I was really excited to film and to do the work, but on a community level, I know this does mean a lot. Disney even made a doll for A-Spen, the first non-binary doll, kind of like a Barbie doll. This kid commented and they were like, "I'm going to save up for this. This means so much to me and I'm going to protect them with my life " It's so sweet! It's a huge privilege, honestly, and I'm so grateful to be in this position.

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SH: It's great to have such a prominent non-binary character in a film, to not only show kids they're not alone, but maybe even just the idea that non-binary identities exist.

TH: Exactly! It's really cool. I grew up watching Disney, but I'm queer, I'm non-binary. I admittedly didn't see much representation—even Asian representation. Now, to have this queer, Asian, non-binary lead is huge. I didn't even know that non-binary was a thing until a few years ago. The new generation is so incredible. For them to even know what non-binary is astounds me.

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SH: What was your most memorable moment from the set?

TH: The cast made it so easy! The existing cast was so welcoming. I talk about this all the time, but since we were still in quarantine in Canada when we were filming, we always stuck together—though I think we would have stuck together either way. There was this park right next to the apartments where we were staying called Love Park, and we would go there all the time to play Spikeball, with the little net and everything. We got obsessed! There was one time we got back from a night shoot at like 4 am, and we were like, "Let's just play Night Spike." We'd been talking about it because we got these glow-in-the-dark balls, and then it started pouring. And we were just out there playing. We got so muddy, and it just felt freeing. We were all so silly and goofy and just wanted to hang out and play games, and Spikeball was such a joining force for us.


SH: What part of the film are you most excited for audiences to see in the movie?

TH: I actually just got goosebumps! I feel like the thing that sticks out the most is the music. It's the easiest thing for people to be affected by—the music is just so incredible. They did such a good job with this. I think it's going to get stuck in your head.

But Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 really is taking the best parts of Z-O-M-B-I-E-S and Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2, all of the themes, and expanding on them. I think we take a lot of hard themes and talk about them, and address them in simple but powerful ways. When I watched the preview of it and I heard the music, I was like, this makes you feel that summer feeling, that bigger-than-yourself feeling. I'm also a pretty musical person, so I think that's why it really sticks for me.

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SH: Is there anything at all you can tease about your upcoming role in a popular Netflix series?

TH: I am going to be in a Netflix show, and I can say it's one of the top comedies on Netflix and I am super excited for everyone to see it. It'll be coming out later in the summer—I just can't speak much about it right now! What I will say is that it was such a different vibe from Z-O-M-B-I-E-S, but I was really glad it was my next project. It was such an iconic show to work on.


SH: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

TH: Just that I want to say to the fans that we made this for you. We love you guys, and everyone who's watching and supporting, and we hope you get something out of it. If nothing else, I hope all the songs get stuck in your head!


Love finding more about your favorite roles? Click HERE to read our interview with Martie Blair, who played young Eleven on Stranger Things.