According to IMDB, Hongkong actor Anthony Wong has made over than 200 movies and TV shows, a few of them award winners, some cult classics and a couple of unwatchable ones. The good, the bad and the ugly — he’s got everything covered.
That said, it’s difficult to fathom how the makers of the eight-part Hongkong-set British drama White Dragon cast the 57-year-old actor without knowing his impressive CV. At least that’s the story Wong fed us. Was he taking the piss or just yanking our chain? Maybe it was a bit of both. Hard to say when it was a phoner done using a crappy conference call service.
Anyway, back to White Dragon. On his first English-language TV drama, now streaming on Fox+, Wong plays an ex-cop whose wife dies under suspicious circumstances. Oh, it gets better: turns out she’s been leading a double life — she’s married to another man (Life on Mars’ John Simm)! The two men then set out to solve their missus’ mysterious death.
Speaking in Cantonese-accented Mandarin, Wong is a straight talker who kept his replies short, sweet and dry. We quivered each time we ask him to repeat his answer (again, screw that crappy conference call service!) because each time his voice seemed to raise a notch, a little annoyed perhaps. The man sure knew how to keep us on edge.
8 DAYS: How did you get involved with White Dragon?
ANTHONY WONG: The producers got in touch with me through a casting company here in Hongkong. Then I met up with the director [Paul Andrew Williams]. We chatted for half an hour and I got the role of David Chen.
Did he choose you because he’d seen you in an earlier movie?
I don’t think he had any idea who I was.
Did you suggest to him any of your previous movies?
No. I think he did it on his own.
David is an ex-cop on the show. You’ve played cops before. Do you still need to research for the part?
No. I didn't need to. Everything about the character is in the script. While filming, the director is king — he controls everything. I did what I was told by him.
On the first day of shooting, the director had already made a lot of changes to the script. So even if I were fully prepared, it was pointless because the script had by then undergone a lot of changes.
What are the differences between the Hongkong depicted on the show and the Hongkong in real life? Did you suggest any changes to reflect the reality?
I didn’t say anything to the producers. That’s not my responsibility. Which ever way they chose to depict Hongkong was their call. My job is to act and give them my best performance. I think they were interested in Hongkong from a Westerner’s perspective. Their version of Hongkong felt like something from the 1970s.
Did you know anything about your co-star, John Simm, prior to filming?
I don’t know anything about him. We interacted during filming, that was it. He probably didn’t know who I was either before filming.
What about Katie Leung? She’s from the Harry Potter movies…
I know she was from Harry Potter but I have no impression of her. Maybe she was young back then.
She plays your daughter. What did you two do to make the relationship believable?
I didn’t have to do much. I don’t have a daughter; I only have [three] sons. But I think it’s the same approach when you’re a father. I don’t need to work extra hard to figure out that relationship.
Did you help out with her Cantonese?
Among the Chinese-British actors on the show, her Cantonese is the best. She doesn’t need my help.
Your character says he isn’t a talker. Everything about him is internalised. Is that by design?
This was what the director wanted Sometimes, I had some expressions but he wanted me to tone them down. The director used to be an actor. I suspect he is a frustrated actor and that’s why he became a director instead. I think his dream is to be an actor and my job is to fulfil his acting ambition. I’m his proxy. My performance is the director’s performance.
White Dragon is your first English-language TV drama. You’ve only acted in two Hollywood movies: 2006’s The Painted Veil and 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. It's been a while...
Well, no one called me. Hopefully I'll get more opportunities in the future. Do I have a director I’d love to collaborate with? I’d be lucky if they consider me for anything.
The interview has been edited and condensed.
White Dragon airs Thur, Fox (Singtel TV Ch 301 & StarHub Ch 505), 9pm. It’s also streaming on Fox+.
Photos: Fox, IMDB