"For someone to achieve something like that, for him to become a detective in the 1800s - in a world that is predominantly ruled by the white man - there’s got to be something different about him. So, we took inspiration from that, which is why Shing is such a complex and morally ambiguous character," Yoson reveals.
"He’s not the typical… He’s not a good guy, but he’s not a bad guy, either. He does what he thinks is best for himself and I believe that is, unfortunately, a very human quality. It was very fun to be able to bring that humanness to New Gold Mountain."
Yoson stars alongside actors Alyssa Sutherland (Vikings), Christopher James Baker (True Detective), Dan Spielman (The Code), Mabel Li (The Tailings), Leonie Whyman (Redfern Now), Sam Wang (Runaway Millionaires), Rhys Muldoon (Informer 3838), Alison Bell (The Letdown) and more. In fact, he’s joined in New Gold Mountain by more than 65 actors in speaking roles, making it one of the largest and most diverse casts to ever be assembled on the Australian screen.
"As soon as we stepped on set together and shot our first scenes, we felt like we were making something very special," he says of the revisionist western.
Shing’s outlook on the world revolves around survival, having seen his poor parents be killed when he was just a boy. His core goal in life is to escape the same fate. Travelling to Australia with his brother, Sun (Sam Wang), he worked his way up within the Chinese Brotherhood-led mining operation at Ballarat.
And while viewers watch the tensions play out through the eyes of Shing and the men around camp, they’re also introduced to a host of complex women along the way.
There’s Belle Roberts (Alyssa), who runs a local newspaper, Cheung Lei (Mabel), who has arrived to investigate the Chinese camp’s finances, and Hattie (Leonie), a young Indigenous tracker who finds herself an unlikely ally to Shing. Not to mention, the many other characters whose stories shed light on the history of this 'forgotten' period.
When we ask how it felt to lead such a significant story, Yoson has one word to sum it up.
"Woah," he says with a smile. "That’s how I felt, initially. I was very excited to play someone like Shing, who’s taken inspiration from a historical figure. I just thought it was very interesting.
"And what makes this show really different is that it’s predominantly told from a Chinese perspective, which has never been done before. I think half the dialogue of the whole show is spoken in Cantonese, which is cool."
When it comes to living out his Clint Eastwood-level, wild west movie fantasies, Yoson admits slipping into the costume was a dream come true.
"I think everyone wants to be a cowboy, right? And I got to be a Chinese cowboy!" Yoson says. "What Cappi Ireland has done with the costumes, the moment you put the outfit on and stepped on to set, it just felt like I was really in the 1800s – especially with my cowboy hat.
"There’s something about it, and me being the head man, that is just such a cool vibe and it really slipped me into the character of Shing."
It's not the first time the actor has experienced the thrill of dressing up big for a period piece, with roles in New Zealand drama The Luminaries and, of course, his part in Mulan.
His role as the romantic lead in the latter cemented his place as a teen crush for Disney fans around the world. Yoson's character Chen Honghui even managed to live up to the hype of the animated, yet iconic, Li Shang. When we ask if he's come to terms with his 'heartthrob' status just yet, he has a chuckle before responding.
"Oh my goodness, well, thank you. It still feels weird to be called a heartthrob," he says. "For anyone that knows me, I’m just me. I’m just Yoson. And to my friends, I’m not really a heartthrob. But I’m very flattered by it."
Recently joking about the attention on Instagram, he wrote that there would be 'multiple shirtless scenes' in the new western drama.
"But, as I also say on my Instagram, please keep your expectations low – just for the shirtless scenes! For the show, keep them high," he tell us.
Expectations of the show should certainly be kept high, with the gripping drama bound to keep viewers on the edges of their seats until the final moments.
"There are a lot of twists and turns and I mean, all I can say is expect the unexpected," Yoson tells us. "Because you think it’s going to go one way and it doesn’t.
"And you know, we can’t have that unexpectedness in any sort of story, without the humanness of our characters. That’s what I love about the world that they've created, the whole team that have written our scripts. There’s a lot of depth and multi-dimensionality to all of our characters."
With friction, drama and previously untold stories of the role Chinese immigrants played in 1800s Australia, the story isn't just captivating. It's deeply important.
"First and foremost, I want everyone to be entertained, because it’s a very entertaining show," Yoson says. "But the second aspect is that I hope this show spreads awareness and a level of education, that the Chinese have been in Australia since the 1800s. We’ve been here – we’re not just recent immigrants from the 80s or 90s, like some people seem to think.
"The very early foundation of Australia and New Zealand, the Chinese played a really big role in that. And I feel that needs to be recognised."
New Gold Mountain airs over two big weeks, premiering Wednesday 13 October at 9.30pm and continuing on Thursday 14 October, Wednesday 20 October, and Thursday 21 October at 9.30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand.