It took 22 years, but BD Wong finally got to play the version of Dr. Henry Wu he envisioned while auditioning for “Jurassic Park.”
Wong's role was the sole character from Steven Spielberg's 1993 film that writer/director Colin Trevorrow revived for "Jurassic World," with the specific intent of giving Wu something closer to the prominence he has in author Michael Crichton’s novel. What’s more (SPOILER ALERT!), the dinosaur geneticist of ambiguous morality is set up to potentially play an even more essential role in the sequels.
With "Jurassic World" making its debut today on Blu-ray, Wong sat down with SPINOFF for a surprisingly emotional look as his experiences on Isla Nublar over the course of two decades.
Spinoff Online: The role of Dr. Henry Wu in the original "Jurassic Park," which you got to reprise for "Jurassic World": What did it mean to you then, and what does it mean to you now?
BD Wong: That's a good question. I enjoyed being chosen to play this part that I perceived at the time to be a really big part. Because when we auditioned for the movie, we auditioned scenes from the book, and so all indications would be that you were going to have a really hefty part. The part plays rather large in the original novel. And so imagine my surprise when I was booked for like two days or one day on a movie. And I was really confused by it.
And then I discovered, "Oh – because at that time, it was all of these movies, there's very little allowed of reading – they don't let you read the script until really, really late in the process." So being a little bit in the dark as to where the character was going, and then discovering it and then doing the movie, I realized, it wasn't as satisfying as I thought it would have been.
So cut to two decades later – plus, I've been doing this [a while] – and Colin has reacquainted the character or readdressed certain parts of the character that were in the book and kind of brought it back to that. And that makes me feel a little bit more like a three-dimensional guy and someone that's more invested in the story arc overall, which is really, of course, what you're always wanting as an actor.
Colin has suggested this is a trilogy, and your character is left in a very juicy place. Do you see him emerging as an even bigger force in the sequel?
Sure – I mean, I guess there's no harm in saying that! You never know what's going to happen in that helicopter. It could just crash or something like that, and then that's it, the end of it, and they don't pick up with someone else. But yeah, I could see that. I would think that would be really fun. It would be fun to have a great death. Might as well go for it: Ask for a great death if you're going to be the villain! And I don't see why not. I have no other knowledge other than that, but I can't see why not.
Any actor would be thrilled to have a role in an iconic movie like "Jurassic Park." You've been in a number of iconic movies and television shows – "Father of the Bride" films, "Mulan," "And the Band Played On," "Oz," "Law & Order: SVU" and now "Mr. Robot." What has it meant to you now to look back at the scope of your career at this point?
It's a very interesting notion, because I never think of that. And I never thought of that. Just you saying that, that I even think that that's even true…And I think, "Well, that's true, what you're saying." So therefore, I guess I haven't been appreciating it properly [laughs] because I think of myself as just kind of going from job to job and doing the best that I can. And then, "Oh, yeah, that thing was successful," or "That thing was this or that." And there are plenty of non-successes for every success, as you know.
And yet, where we are now, looking back, I think, oh, yes. I've been lucky and happy to be participating in things that have resonated. And I do appreciate and love that. I think it's great. And this movie is no different because I really like the way the character went, where the character has lived and left.
Give me your very favorite memory about making the original "Jurassic" movie.
I remember that at the end of the baby raptor that was in Sam O'Neill's hand were a series of cables that ran down his arm, that you didn't see from the camera, that ran behind the set to what were probably 10 or 12 terrified art students operating puppets – like, puppeteer interns, each articulating one particular digit and all working together to make the thing seem like a living thing. Fascinating, amazing.
And the diligence that Steven Spielberg put into their movement was fascinating. He was extremely fastidious. He was not letting them get away with anything that seemed false. Did it over and over again until he got the movement he wanted. And they seemed terrified, which was, of course, logical. And they were all in black turtlenecks. And it was really fascinating to see that, and see this master storyteller dealing with that scene. And then now knowing how that all turned out, making a scene that people will remember forever.
And the same question for "Jurassic World"?
I remember exactly the answer to that question ... I'm going to cry for some reason. It was the moment when we were in between scenes and Colin came up to me and he says, "You know what? I have an idea for what I think you should say. I think you should say, 'All of this is because of me.'" And I said, "Are you kidding me?! You want me to say 'All of this is because of me?'"
And I remember feeling this, like, rush of connecting to the original character and feeling so, like, left out of the party and feeling like, "Shoot – nobody cares about what he was in the book, and that is the kind of thing he would have said in the book. And you're really helping me make this into a real person. And also, now, I feel really important all of a sudden." And I said the line. And then I said, "He's never going to use it." And guess what? He used it.