05/09/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT
I got to kick ass!" says Ming-Na Wen, laughing about her upcoming film. Her action role in Hong Kong '97 reveals a different side of the 25-year-old actress from the one she showed as the introspective June in last year's five-hankie hit The Joy Luck Club. And it's unlike her 1988-90 stint as an Amerasian teen on As the World Turns. With her lustrous dark tresses and infectious élan, says Dustin Nguyen, her costar in Vanishing Sun (a syndicated miniseries due in June), "she always looks different. She can be stunningly beautiful or very nonthreatening and plain."
The Carnegie Mellon University grad may have developed a dual nature by having been born in China and raised in Pittsburgh, where she latched onto a preoccupation with her body image, in part because her parents owned a Chinese restaurant and the family ate well. "I always had this fat image of myself," she says. Since she moved to L.A. last fall, she tries to follow a fat-and salt-free diet. But, she sighs, "I love food." She has, as well, a passion for a "very special person," whom she won't name. "People are at their most beautiful when they are in love," Wen says. "It attracts people because they want that energy."