Asian Pacific Arts: What about opportunities abroad? Have…you pursued working in Asia?
Russell Wong: Yeah, I’ve been working on my Mandarin; I have to have a command of the language. I think a lot of people are working there — John Woo and Ang Lee are casting. I’ve been in Hollywood 22 years; I’ve had a couple good breaks with TV and martial arts things. And martial arts movies are fun – I like to do them, I’m athletic, I can do it – but story wise it’s a bit stereotypical and limiting in a lot of ways. And outside of that it’s pretty quiet. I get a couple guest spots on TV here and there.
But that’s why I really liked doing [Undoing]. It was really fun and interesting. There’s more sense of freedom because you’re not trying to fit into what the studio wants. As an independent, you have more artistic expression. But going back to your question, there’re a lot of people going to Asia. There’re lots of resources and raw material in China as far as stories and content are concerned, so I’m probably going to explore that this next year. [In] Hollywood, there’re not many Asians. I just can’t wait around anymore.
APA: Russell, you’ve been in the game longer. How has your career outlook changed? Have you had to make adjustments?
RW: Yeah this is a game of adjustments, that’s for sure. I wanted to do the martial arts thing for a while and I got to a level. I got to work with Jet Li which is where I wanted to be. But I didn’t have the resources or I didn’t use my resources well enough to do what Sung did and make my own movie. That’s what I should have done. But I did the TV thing – Black Sash. It might have been a better decision to make an independent action film. It’s just a matter of doing it.
APA: Have there been opportunities you’ve passed up and regretted?
RW: Yep. [laughs] I passed up the TV series, because I was run down. Doing action 8 days for an episode, 2 action sequences a week – it takes a toll on you. That’s why I like film. It’s a 22 day shoot; it’s less of a grind than 5 months. That’s why I like this role in Undoing. Where else am I going to get a chance to do a character like this?
APA: Sung, you mentioned earlier about Asian Americans wanting their own Johnny Depp character, and to me, that means some sort of cool sex icon. In a way, Russell’s been filling in that void for the last 15 years. What do you think it’s going to take for an Asian American man to attain that level?
Sung Kang [producer/co-star, Undoing]: I think yeah, Russ has been filling that void. Even with Joy Luck Club – it’s that animalistic sexuality. It’s in-your-face sexuality. But I think that definition needs to broaden a little bit. The more dimensions you put into a character, sexuality eventually comes out. Harrison Ford is a very sexy man. But compared to Johnny Depp, does he hit the 15-16 year old demographic? I don’t think so. But his sexuality is very different, it’s a different definition.
And a definition that I’m so digging—Russell Wong is this week’s Racialicious Crush! Check out my (and the R’s Senior Editor Tami Winfrey Harris’) appreciation of him—and on his birthday, no less!—on the R today.
Dreamboat. I loved Vanishing Son.