Russell Wong: A fortunate long journey
Andreas D. Arditya
The Jakarta Post
Next year, the career of veteran actor Russell Wong will enter its third decade ' a time span he refers to as a fortunate experience.
'I can't believe it's been that long. I feel pretty lucky. It's been a very good time. I've been with some very good people in the industry doing very good projects,' Wong told The Jakarta Post.
For the Indonesian audience, Wong's most memorable work includes his appearance on the TV drama series, 21 Jump Street, and as Jet Li's counter-character in Romeo Must Die in 2000.
'When I was younger, I wanted to do more martial arts movies. I then got to work with Jet Li a number of times ' I couldn't have asked for much more,' he said before pausing. 'Well, I could ask for more, but I feel really lucky.'
The 51-year-old has starred in countless TV programs and dozens of feature films throughout his career. He made his debut in the Hong Kong film industry in the mid 1980's and then found his big break in Hollywood in 1994, when he was cast in the leading role in TV movie Vanishing Son.
The show was quite popular and he made a considerable impression on the US audience, resulting in People magazine naming him one of the 50 'Beautiful People' in 1995.
His major roles in Hollywood include Prophecy II (in which he played with Christopher Walken), The Tracker (with Casper Van Dien) and Twisted (with Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson, and Andy Garcia).
The actor, whose mixed heritage include Chinese, Dutch and French backgrounds, has also guest starred in a number of popular TV shows such as CSI, Just Legal, Commander in Chief, Numb3rs, Nikita, Hawaii Five-0 and most recently, HBO Asia's Serangoon Road.
Indonesian fans, as well as those throughout Southeast Asia, will see him again playing a lead role in the upcoming horror mini-series GRACE, in which he plays a family man with a dark secret that threatens the lives of his loved ones.
GRACE is the third original production by HBO Asia and the first wholly conceived and developed by the company. The mini-series relies on the psychology of fear, blending aspects of Asian supernatural mythology and tradition with a Western approach and modern social context.
'This project is my first pure horror project. Prophecy II was a horror thriller, but it had a more cultist aspect. GRACE was very interesting to me, especially after seeing the process of it,' he said.
Wong is leading an all-Asian ensemble cast, which includes Teresa Daley, Constance Song, Pamelyn Chee, Jean Toh, Vivienne Tseng, George Young, Nora Samosir, and Shane Mardjuki, as well as veterans Lim Kay Tong and Lim Yu Beng.
'Seeing the Asian supernatural element woven into its visuals and the performance from my co-cast, who understood the genre and whole element, was really fascinating,' he said.
The four-part series premiers on HBO on Oct. 17 at 10 p.m.
Wong has built his career out of a natural attraction to the arts. His mother Connie Van Yserloo was an artist who was into musical theater and loved playing music. He was also influenced by his older siblings.
'When I was 8-years-old, I saw one of my older brothers in a high school play. It kind of had an impact on me. I then did some high school musicals as well,' he said.
After graduating from high school in north California, he went to Santa Monica College and started to take classes in dancing, acting and singing in the early 1980s.
'My first mime teacher Don Mcleod was the famous gorilla in that travel luggage commercial and his teacher was the famed Marcel Marceau. I took acting classes in LA with Ned Mandarino,' he said.
Even after all these years, Wong admitted he still had stage frights.
'The confidence comes and goes, depending on the project and material. It has been a long trip; I went up and down,' he says.
'I usually get the frights on the first day of shooting, but after a while I start settling in and feeling OK. I stand up and get back on the horse.'
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