Gemini Man, the action-packed latest film by master director, Ang Lee, hits theaters today. One of the biggest highlights of the film is a great welcome comedic performance by one of our favorite sorcerers/assassins/Stark Wedding guests, Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange, Deadly Class, Avengers: Endgame). In the film, Wong plays Baron, Will Smith’s trusty eyes in the sky, and fellow soldier/best friend. Recently, The Nerds of Color were granted the incredible opportunity to sit down for a brief, intimate chat with Mr. Wong, to discuss the making of the film, as well as technological advancements in filmmaking, and the state of Asian actors in Hollywood today. Here’s what he had to say:
The Nerds of Color: Thank you so much for doing this. How’s the press tour been for Gemini?
Benedict Wong: It’s been great! I’m just on the LA leg of it, really. I’m still residing in and taking a few meetings, but it’s a lot of fun.
How’d you get involved with Gemini Man? Were you initially approached by Ang, or Jerry, or Will? And how did your origins with the project come about?
Well, I got a call that Ang wanted to speak to me. And, as is the way these days, I was able to meet him on an iPad. We had a bit of a chat. He had this idea [for me] to play Baron. And after our chat, they brought me over to Savannah, GA within a week. So I packed everything all up and the adventure began, really. We started filming in Savannah, GA, then moved on to Cartagena, Colombia. After that we went to Budapest. So it was a real whirlwind and quite the adventure.
It definitely sounds like it. The looks of the sights in the movie are just gorgeous. I also wanted to ask — Will said he filmed his scenes twice; once as Henry, and once as Junior. Since you and Mary Elizabeth had to interact with both characters, was it like that for you guys too? Did you have to film twice? What was that like?
Well I mean, for example, we’d be filming in a farm in Glennville. We’d shoot the scene as normal, and we’d have Will’s body double playing Junior. And you know, maybe a few months later, we’d be in a studio in Budapest, with these planned out markings. And it takes me back to being on a rehearsal stage… and what we’d then do was look at the footage of what we shot in Glennville. And the WETA team, who was involved with creating the digital young Will would have us mimic our movements and replay the scene, as Will would then flip roles and play Junior… It’s incredible what Ang is pioneering… It is immersive and it feels like you’re there.
Since you were so close to the technology, and to Ang as a filmmaker, I wanted to ask — Ang has this magical ability to not only utilize the most cutting edge technology, but never lets the tech overshadow the characters and the story. What do you think is his secret to doing that?
I can’t really say to be honest. What I do know, having worked with many amazing directors, is that it changes. The devil is in the details. He’s quite the quiet conductor for me, and he orchestrates everything for me. He guides you through the scenes.
I’d be remiss as a writer for The Nerds of Color if I didn’t ask — as an Asian actor, you’ve stolen dozens of scenes from actors like Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr, and now, Will Smith. Yet in the history of the industry, we’ve seen some of the most talented Asian actors, like yourself, and even going back to Bruce Lee as Kato in The Green Hornet, sometimes relegated to the role of sidekick. How do you think Hollywood can progress to start seeing Asian actors as primary lead characters versus the sidekick roles? Do you think we’re progressing? And how do you think we can go further?
Yeah I think we are progressing. For me, what I tend to look for in the supporting roles are roles worth playing. I just enjoy telling good stories and being a part of them. And for me it’s a long game, you know? At times I do take the lead, like in Deadly Class or Marco Polo. And we’ll see where we go with Doctor Strange 2. But you know, I’m looking forward to seeing Simu as Shang Chi in Marvel — the first Asian superhero lead, which is monumental. So things are going to be changing.
As long as we have phenomenal actors like Mr. Wong, I am confident the changes will come sooner than we think!
See Benedict Wong crush it as Baron when Gemini Man hits theaters today!