Friday, October 31, 2014

Russel Wong's state of 'Grace'

(Published Oct. 17, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“The tagline is ‘The Shining meets Fatal Attraction,’” Chinese-American actor Russell Wong said in a recent teleconference, describing the original HBO miniseries “Grace.”

The actor, 51, was born in New York and grew up in California. He appeared in episodes of the late-1980s teen cop-drama show “21 Jump Street” and the action-drama series “The Equalizer.” He played the lead in the 1995 series “Vanishing Son.”

Wong’s 1990s film credits include “The Joy Luck Club,” “Romeo Must Die” and “The Prophecy II.”
He also appeared in last year’s HBO original series “Serangoon Road.”

“I’m good friends with (actress) Joan Chen; I played her husband,” he said. “It was a good working environment. It was a good rapport; I like the Asian content in English.”

Wong plays Roy Chan in “Grace,” a four-part horror series that starts airing tonight (10 p.m. on HBO/HBO HD).
“My character is a family man. He basically makes a bad decision and it spirals out of control and impacts his family. Everything falls apart,” Wong said.

The miniseries was shot in Singapore early this year. The actor described working in Asia as similar to conditions he was accustomed to in the United States.

“I’ve been working back and forth between the States and [Asia]—Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong—over the last 26 years.

Basically there’s not a whole lot of difference. I wouldn’t say there’s anything that particularly stands out in my mind—‘this is the way they do it here.’ Of course, on certain projects, the budgets are different. That can always affect how work gets done. With ‘Grace,’ we had a very efficient crew; things went very smoothly.”

As an Asian-American actor, however, Wong said working in the United States has its share of challenges: “In the States, because of the demographic—the Asian population is maybe under 10 percent—there [aren’t many] roles written for Asians. So we have people doing independent films where we write our own stories. [Because] sometimes, the roles can be very difficult—martial artist or the Asian gangster, that kind of thing… After a certain time, it becomes repetitive and you want to find interesting material [that’s] a little more cutting-edge. In that regard, it can be challenging.”

Wong, who appeared as a dancer in music videos back in the 1980s, currently enjoys working out, attending martial arts and dance classes, and hiking. “I like to keep in shape,” he said, “And I do some writing. I’m working on a script now.”

Wong admitted that, while he was not a “big horror fan,” he enjoyed the Japanese flick “Ringu” (“The Ring”).

“People said, ‘you’ve got to watch this movie,’” he recalled. “At some point, I said, ‘This is so well-done; it’s actually scaring me!’ People like that feeling.”

He explained that “Grace” had that distinctly Asian element: “In Asian horror, there’s a belief of ancestry, and ghosts are in that realm. They hang on to this life and all the [relationships], which makes it interesting. The cultural things and customs also make it interesting. In ‘Grace,’ (costar) Pamelyn Chee’s character taps into it a little bit… And she’s also a jilted lover.”

The spooky, serious qualities of the series, however, did not reflect the mood behind the scenes.

“It was fun! Everyone was very professional… but we were relaxed,” Wong said.

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