Russell Wong discusses "The Monkey King" and other works
May 11, 2000
(CNN)—"The Monkey King" is a mystical journey into a land of Chinese monsters and fables. It is the story the quest of one man, Nick Orton, to save the world from destruction. Scheduled to broadcast as a Hallmark presentation on NBC, the production boasts a screenplay by Tony award winning "M. Butterfly" playwright, David Henry Hwang and direction by Emmy-award winning Robert Halmi, Sr. of "Gulliver’s Travels" and "Merlin."
Appearing in "Take Down" and "Romeo Must Die, Russell Wong is one of Hollywood’s fastest rising Asian American stars. He also appeared in "The Joy Luck Club" and has recently completed "The Tracker" with Casper Van Dien.
Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Russell Wong, and welcome.
Russell Wong: Good evening.
Chat Moderator: How did you get started in acting?
Russell Wong: Actually, my mom has kind of influenced my career. She is an artist, singer, and also my brother has kind of influenced me as well. I started as a dancer, took martial arts and acting, all around the same time.
Question from Chad Malaysia: Good evening, Mr. Wong. What do you think of the tendency for Hollywood to typecast Asian actors and productions?
Russell Wong: Good evening. I think the tendency is to go with what is familiar to audiences. I try to create an interesting character from using the stereotype.
Question from Blurr: Russell, do you plan to direct a movie in the near future? If yes, what kind of movie?
Russell Wong: I don't know about the near future. But I would like to direct something about families, like about, maybe, a "Joy Luck Club," but the male side. Something like that.
Chat Moderator: What has been your favorite role?
Russell Wong: "The Joy Luck Club." I had fun doing "Romeo Must Die." I liked that. But I'm also having a great time doing "The Monkey King."
Chat Moderator: Please tell us a little bit about "The Monkey King."
Russell Wong: "The Monkey King" has all these spiritual powers. He has learned the 72 transformations.
He can somersault on clouds. So that's why I took the role. The somersaulting on clouds gets a little rough once in a while -- my knees.
There's four characters: Pigsy, Monkey King, Friar Sand, The Scholar From Above, and Gwan Ying. She is the Goddess of Mercy. They are all on a quest to save the Lost Manuscript and bring it back to the human world. The Lost Manuscript is called "Journey to the West."
Question from Blurr: Russell, who would you like to work with/ co-star in a movie?
Russell Wong: Hmm, Harrison Ford, maybe.
Question from Chad Malaysia: Russell, do you think "The Monkey King" has been allocated the budget and production it deserves a la "The Matrix?"
Russell Wong: Well, "The Monkey King" is a Hallmark-NBC production, produced by Robert Halmi. And he has produced a lot of great Television miniseries like "Cleopatra," "Merlin," and "Arabian Nights." And they do have good size budgets for these because so many people see them around the world.
Question from Is: Dear, Mr. Wong, does being an Asian sex symbol bother you or do you prefer to be seen only as a serious actor?
Russell Wong: No, it doesn't bother me. I appreciate the comment.
Question from Orbit: Hi, where do you see the future of Asian-American actors? How do you think the influx of Asian (HK) actors will influence the ability of Asian-American actors like yourself to break from traditional stereotypes and take on more mainstream roles?
Russell Wong: I think the influence of the Hong Kong actors, or Chinese actors, creates awareness. The future of Asian-American actors, however, I'm not sure.
I have been, you know, kind of struggling with this topic most of my career. I have had some good breaks here and there. But because it is a business, it is supply and demand. If you have a box office draw in Asia, maybe you will generate more work for yourself in America.
Question from Judy: Dear, Mr. Wong, who is your role model?
Russell Wong: Role model? There are different role models. Some of them are just like friends who lived their lives based on spiritual principles and their positive examples. They aren't really famous people. They are just "people people."
Question from When: When is "The Monkey" scheduled to be shown on TV?
Russell Wong: It is scheduled to be on TV after Chinese New Year, next year, January, February, around there.Chat Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us?
Russell Wong: Thank you for the interest. I hope you enjoy "The Monkey King."Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us.Russell Wong: Okay, thank you, bye.
Russell Wong joined the chat from CNN’s Hong Kong bureau by telephone. CNN.com provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of that chat.
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