Wendell & Wild Star James Hong Details Bringing His Complex Character to Life (Exclusive)

Having earned literally hundreds of screen credits since his career began in the 1950s, actor James Hong shows no signs of slowing down, this year seeing him star in the acclaimed film Everything everywhere all at once and Pixar turn red, as well as earning a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. To call his career illustrious would be an understatement. Also, currently in select theaters and then landing on Netflix is ​​his latest movie, Wendell and savagein which Hong lends his voice to Father Bests, a character who hopes to keep his boarding school for troubled teenagers open, despite a greedy corporation trying to buy him out. Wendell and savage debuts on Netflix on October 28.

From the deliciously wicked mind of Henry Selick and producer Jordan Peele, comes Wendell and savage, an animated tale about scheming demon brothers Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Peele) – who enlist the help of Kat Elliot – a tough teenager with a load of guilt – to summon them to the Land of the Living. But what Kat asks for in return leads to a brilliantly bizarre and comedic adventure like no other, an animated fantasy that defies the law of life and death, all told through the artisanal art of stop motion..

ComicBook.com caught up with Hong to talk about the new film, what attracted him to the project, and his thoughts on the supposed sequel. Big problem in little China by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

(Picture: Netflix)

ComicBook.com: You’ve played so many characters, worked with so many filmmakers, what are you looking for in new projects? Is it the filmmaker, is it the character, is it the story? Does it do something you’ve never done before? What really attracts you?

James Hong: Well, going back to what you said, the first feature film I did was with Clark Gable. I’m probably the only living character who ever worked with Clark Gable and Groucho Marx. It’s gone from that point to now and doing a wonderful animation like Wendell and savage and working with Henry and Jordan Peele. What can you say? It’s so rewarding in life to work with the best in the business. Not a guy there in the small, small, small, small budget, but to work with class players, people with a lot of imagination. In the sense that when I walk into this studio, I know I’m in for a treat. I know I work with the best in the industry.

I’m not saying that, you have to judge for yourself when you see, when they watch this film, it’s different. The animation is remarkable, this stop-motion. I don’t even know how they create it. I will have to attend their editing one day on their next film, I hope I’m into it. But to see how the stop-motion works, because it creates a different atmosphere. The film is simply not an animated film. This is another thing. It is a creation of all creators in the world of animation, musical score, [which is] exceptional, because it integrates the young public with this modern rap music with modern ambient music. I appreciate this part.

Everyone, the animation, the people who draw, the music, it creates this wonderful Wendell and savage. I’m so, so happy to be part of it. I hope they do a sequel and I’ll be there again, or a TV series. You do not think ? For your fans, that would be wonderful.

Absolutely. I can’t wait to see what your character would do in a sequel or TV series.

Why don’t you write you want a TV series about Father Bests and his school, how he gets involved with all of his students, and crazy deaths or whatever?

It is absolutely possible to see all the other types of characters that have gone through this school. For you, for your character, do you remember what your reaction was the first time you saw what your character was going to look like in the film?

Well, for starters, Kat Elliot, with these little ones, what do you call them, little ones [hair] buns? With this crazy teenager, great animation. I was led into the first part by Kat, and Wendell and Wild, who look alike in a way, don’t they? Then finally inside me, as you say, I was shocked to see what Father Bests looked like. It looked like me. I hope they will pay for it.

But anyway, it was a great experience to see me in this role because it comes to life. It shocks me in a way to see me come out of death and be what I am. I can do my best with James Hong when you give me this innovation, this character, you know?

Your character goes through a bit of a change from the first half of the movie to the second half of the movie, you might say. Was there a conscious choice on your part about how to differentiate Father Bests from the first half of the movie to the second half of the movie? Other than the script, the actual performance of the character’s voice?

Well, like you just said, the difference, as an actor, I have to see what the character goes through from the first part to the last part and give him that change, which you saw. I’m happy, because it’s never easy to go from one aspect to another, because you created this first part and then, somehow, you have to do the second part .

It’s like David Lo-Pan in Big problem in little China. It’s from that old man to that Mandarin Lo-Pan. It’s totally different. In a way, I was educated to do that by other movies where I change from character to character, or character stages. It takes a lot of study and, thank God, I have the talent and the training to do it. I love when a character has this change. It’s a big challenge.

Well you just mentioned it, I don’t know if you can even say I’m wearing a Big problem in little China shirt…i think we’re both big fans of Big problem in little China.

I would think so.

You seem to really like this character. I know “The Rock”, this Dwayne Johnson, I know he tried to have a new Big problem in little China happen.

Without Lo-Pan? How dare he.

That’s what I want to know. It’s such an amazing and unique film. Do you think they should leave it alone and let your original stand for what it is or would you maybe even like to come back yourself to pass the torch to a new generation?

Well, I think they should leave the classic alone. However, I’d like to reappear in the new and do something witty…Or like Star Wars where the characters come back and do some kind of reprieve, of course. Because, let’s face it, Lo-Pan is an integral part of that first one, so how can you forget about him?

I say. Why don’t you and me do the sequel Great difficulty and Lo-Pan functionality? You want?

Absolutely. Am I going to be one of the new storms or am I more of a Jack Burton character?

Well, you are going to be more than that. You are going to be the financier, the backer.

No, you can be exactly what you are: some kind of silly, silly character with a mustache.

A silly, silly character with a mustache? James, I’m not sure we could have any creative conflicts here.

Oh good? Well, you write the script then, okay? Please. You can write your own character however you feel.


Wendell and savage hits Netflix on October 28.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.

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