The Untold Truth Of Benedict Wong

From "The Martian" to "Annihilation" to "Black Mirror," it might seem like British actor Benedict Wong has popped up in just about any recent science fiction project you can think of. He doesn't just appear in the one genre, but he's made a name for himself as a dependable supporting actor in any movie or television show where he shows up. 

Of course, Wong may be best known for acting alongside the other great Benedict (Cumberbatch) in "Doctor Strange," playing the aptly named character Wong. With more Marvel Cinematic Universe appearances lined up and his star continuing to rise, let's take a look at the full career of this talented thespian who's turned in great performances in multiple genres. From science fiction to horror to comedy to Shakespeare, Wong can always be counted on to be a compelling presence. Here are some things you might not know about Benedict Wong.

He didn't initially think he would be in Shang-Chi

While casting the Asian actor in Marvel's first film with an Asian superhero might seem like a no brainer, that wasn't always the plan. As Benedict Wong told SyFy, "When "Shang-Chi" was happening, I was so pleased that it was happening but I was a little kind of crestfallen I wasn't a part of it. And then the call came. And I was like, 'Yes!'" 

Needless to say, he's excited to be working with a great cast that includes several "Crazy Rich Asians" alumni, including Awkafina, Michelle Yeoh, and Ronny Chieng. "You know, I'm super thrilled. And then to be sat at a table of Asian excellence, it was amazing," Wong enthused. "And I'm a big fan of all of those artists. Tony Leung is a massive idol of mine. So it's been constant surprises, that's what [the character Wong] gives me." 

Benedict Wong is a longtime Spider-Man fan

Not everyone who acts in a Marvel movie is necessarily familiar with the source material, but Benedict Wong has been a big fan of comic books ever since he was young. As he said in an interview with Baby Savers, "I used to collect a lot of Marvel comics. I was always a Spider-Man fan. I would always be at a comic book store in Manchester, reading stories till I got chucked out."

Despite his knowledge of comic books, the actor Wong told Variety that was unfamiliar with the character of Wong before he got the role. However, he was able to finally come face to face with his childhood hero with a cameo in "Spider-Man: No Way Home." And his exhaustion with Dr. Strange was beloved by fans before the film even opened. He also got to work with Sam Raimi, the director of the original "Spider-Man" trilogy, in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." 

Despite being in Sunshine and Prometheus, he's not a fan of horror movies

Marvel fans are excited that "Evil Dead" and "Spider-Man" director Sam Raimi's "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" will be the MCU's first horror film. Curiously, even though he's been in a few horror films, Benedict Wong isn't the biggest enthusiast of the genre. As he told The Hollywood Reporter, "I'm not a fan of horror, per se. I'm not really into getting shocked very quickly." 

That doesn't mean that he's not intrigued at the potential, though. "So it'll be really fascinating how that will work for me. Obviously, I'll be in the mechanism of making it, so I should be fine. But, yeah, we'll see how we go with it." We hope he won't be too scared to watch his own film. He probably just sees his previous films as more science fiction than horror, so maybe it will help that this is a comic book film. 

He got his first acting job at 22 to get his father off of his back

Not all of us know what we want to do when we're 21, but Benedict Wong did. The problem was that he only had three years to turn his dream of acting into a reality. He explained his immigrant father's wishes to Independent: "My dad wanted me to quickly get a job. But I found a loophole when I thought, 'Oh, my brothers didn't get proper jobs till they were 24,' so I thought, 'Just give me these three years and then if it goes a bit t**s-up, I'll do whatever you say by being 'the obedient Chinese son.'

"He was like a solemn Victorian dad, not saying anything. My mum was like, 'Let him do what he wants.'" Lucky for Wong, he was able to land his first acting gig a year later and got to continue doing what he wanted.

He got an early start in voice acting

Wong's first big break was a role as a cook in "Kai Mei Sauce," a 1993 BBC Radio play about a secret recipe. Many years later, he got back into voice acting in 2019, providing the voice of skekVar the General on Netflix's "The Dark Crystal" prequel series "Age of Resistance." That same year, he also voiced a bulldog named Bull in the Disney remake of "Lady and the Tramp."

At the time, he dismissed the idea that being in "Doctor Strange" got him the Disney job when The Hollywood Reporter suggested that. "I don't think so," the actor responded. "I think they just came to me independently with that. If that was the case, I'm due for some more Disney jobs." Turns out he was due for one, as he would go on to lend his voice to Disney's 2021 animated feature "Raya and the Last Dragon."

He almost quit acting due to stereotyping

While Wong was able to get work in bit roles on television, playing "Chinese Man" on "Last of the Summer Wine" and "Chinese Interpreter" in "Hearts and Minds," they weren't very fulfilling for him. He recalled one bad audition for The Guardian: "I was waiting for about an hour and 40 minutes and no one came out to say sorry." It was for a small role as an undocumented immigrant, and it turned out to be his breaking point. "I left there feeling really emotional. I called my agent and said: 'That's it, I'm done, I've had enough.'" 

His agent suggested one last script, and he thought it was going to be yet another stereotype. "I said, 'What's the part?' [He said], 'It's an illegal immigrant.' I went, 'No! F**k that! I'm not doing that again!'" However, he changed his mind after reading the script for "Dirty Pretty Things," which featured a more nuanced portrayal of undocumented immigrant Guo Yi. It wound up getting him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the 2003 British Independent Film Awards. It also paired him with his future "Doctor Strange" co-star, Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Benedict Wong is a part of a GoFundMe for Stop Asian Hate

Wong doesn't just advocate on behalf of himself. He's also part of a British initiative supported by stars such as Henry Golding and Gemma Chan to help victims of hate crimes in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. As fellow Marvel star Chan explained, "Like many others, I worry for family members every time they leave the house or use public transport. My mum has worked for the NHS [National Health Service] for most of her life — she and my dad have been followed and subjected to a number of verbal assaults since the beginning of the pandemic."

Wong promotes the cause on his Instagram, citing a great Bruce Lee quote in which Lee responded to an interviewer asking him if he thought of himself as more Chinese or North American: "You know what I want to think of myself? As a human being ... under the sky, under the heavens there is but one family. It just so happens we look different." If you want to join Wong in supporting the initiative, you can do so via GoFundMe.

He frequently works with Matt Berry

Fans of FX's "What We Do in the Shadows" were delighted to see Wong pop up in the Season 2 premiere, "Resurrection," as a very bad necromancer who revives Haley Joel Osment's character, only to accidentally turn him into a zombie. That wasn't the first time Wong shared the screen with "Shadows" fan favorite Matt Berry, though, as fans of "The IT Crowd" may also remember Wong from the Season 4 episode "The Final Countdown," in which he played a game show winner named Prime with access to a secret club and groupies. And before that, Wong and Berry both appeared together in the science fiction film "Moon." 

As "Moon" director Duncan Jones told Polygon, "Yeah, Matt Berry — and Benedict Wong, next to him, the two of them, they were buddies of mine. Back in London, where we were making the film, it's quite a small, tight community in film, and there was this notorious drinking spot where we all used to hang out. I asked if they would come and do the cameo, and they [were] way more established than I was, and it would be really fun to have a cameo with these two guys that I knew." Considering the fact that Jones is not only a noteworthy filmmaker but David Bowie's son, he was probably being modest there.

He got his start in comedy on the British sitcom 15 Storeys High

While Americans might be familiar with Benedicts Wong's comedic work on "The IT Crowd" and "What We Do in the Shadows," his first comedic role was in the cult show "15 Storeys High," which chronicles the lives of two roommates living in a high-rise. The BBC series ran from 2002 to 2004, but as Wong explained to The Guardian, he's glad that audiences are "still buzzing off it and they're still finding it funny. It's great that it feels like it's still got a shelf life."

We'll have to take his word for it, though, as unlike its fellow British import "The IT Crowd," it's not currently available on any streaming service in the U.S. The Guardian recommends that you buy the DVD box set, though, saying in a separate review that it's "an artistically shot kitchen-sink sitcom that managed to be gutwrenchingly funny and brilliantly imaginative." 

Benedict Wong is close friends with Chiwetel Ejiofor

Matt Berry isn't the only colleague that Wong has remained friends with. Working on 2002's "Dirty Pretty Things" wasn't just a turning point for Wong's career; it was also the beginning of a great friendship with co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor. As Ejiofor told the "I'm So Obsessed" podcast: "When I did "Dirty Pretty Things," I did it with Benedict Wong and it was the first film I was able to be the lead in and it was really awesome film in terms of my relationship with cinema. I met this really brilliant actor, Benedict Wong, and we had this fantastic time together working on that film, so we became very, very close friends."

Needless to say, Ejiofor was excited about working together again on "Doctor Strange," starring as Mordo alongside Wong as Wong. "We were actually talking about 'Wong for Wong,'" Ejiofor recalled. "We were talking one over lunch about it about how Benedict came to be Wong and I would say, because I have that specific history and those really great parts we've been able to play together, I'm really excited about that relationship." 

He learned to ride horses for Marco Polo

On Netflix's "Marco Polo," Benedict Wong plays the famous Mongolian conqueror Kublai Khan. Needless to say, this means he had to do a lot of horseback riding — a new skill that he had to learn for the show. As he told The Evening Standard, "I hadn't ridden before. The closest thing was the donkeys at Blackpool." In the same interview, he also revealed that he gained weight for the role. "Just from looking at the pictures of Kublai Khan, this is what he looks like," he explained. "It's just what you do. Vanity goes out the window." 

Wong's dedication to the role shows he's nothing if not professional. And dedicating himself to both "Marco Polo" and "Doctor Strange" turned out to be exhausting. "I flew back to London, dumped my bags, and an hour later I was picked up by Marvel and into costume fittings, then shooting the next day," he told Vulture. "Really surreal, I was kind of battle worn. I remember I was shooting with Benedict and Chiwetel, and Benedict was doing this really elaborate, one-minute spell, and I was there suffering from jet lag!" Sounds like he was due for some vacation time. 

Benedict Wong defended his Doctor Strange co-star Xochitl Gomez

"The Baby-Sitters Club" actor Xochitl Gomez got her big screen break when she was cast in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." Unfortunately, not everyone was happy with the addition of her character America Chavez. The character's queer identity and a short scene where she mentions having two moms has even got the film in trouble with censors in Saudi Arabia.

Gomez tried to brush off the undeserved hatred, telling AsiaOne, "Yes, my name may be circled within hate and stuff but it's okay." But her co-star Wong refused to accept it as normal, adding that "It's not okay ... There's a real level of shame for all those trolls that are cowards not to actually put their face on ... It's sad that fans in that country won't get to see this as yet. But all we are doing is radiating representation, voicing the voiceless. And that's all that we can do; represent people so that they can be seen." Wong takes particular umbrage with the fact that Gomez is still just a teenager who doesn't deserve that kind of hate ,and we commend him for speaking up. 

He doesn't have an agent

Anyone who's seen "Entourage" or "Call my Agent!" knows just how important agents are to getting work for the clients that they represent. Of course, struggling actors can't always afford to give up 10% of their salary, so not everyone has them. It makes sense then that Benedict Wong didn't have an agent early in his career, but it comes as a surprise that someone as established as he is now would still forgo one.

Wong explained the situation to Variety, "I like to say I'm with Wong and Only Management ... I was just feeling stagnant, and there came a point where I felt I needed to reboot and start to represent how I saw myself. I changed that by doing a lot of theater, doing the things I really wanted to do. And I'm really pleased with how it's turned out. I do have a lawyer ... who I was connected with via Chiwetel Ejiofor when we did 'Doctor Strange.'" Contracts for franchise movies are undeniably complicated, so Wong might need a lawyer to make sense of them, though he gets along fine without an agent.

Benedict Wong rarely gets to use his natural British accent

Some actors are so good at using accents that people can be surprised to find out how they speak in real life. For "Nine Days," Wong actually got to use his real accent and he was happy to do so. He revealed to We Got This Covered that playing characters from other parts of the world was a necessity for him, saying, "I tend to play a lot of different characters who are either East Asian or some kind of American ... It was really difficult trying to get gigs in Manchester back in the day, so I had to be other people, kind of play different roles until called upon."

In an interview with The National, he also said that he had to move out of his hometown for work, lamenting that "the real heartbreak was that I couldn't get employed in Manchester. It genuinely broke my heart to have to leave Manchester, which I love, and go to London because there was no work for me in Manchester. That shouldn't be the case, and it has to change." It's sad that Wong couldn't remain where he wanted to, but at least he was able to have a fruitful career afterwards.