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These days, if there’s a Marvel movie, there’s a decent chance Benedict Wong will make an appearance.
Playing the dedicated Sorcerer Supreme — also known as simply Wong — the actor has become a connecting thread across the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 4. After appearances in both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Wong also popped up in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and, most recently, Disney+ series She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
On last year’s red carpet for No Way Home, Wong revealed that Marvel head Kevin Feige emailed him saying that the franchise was “fast becoming the WCU,” or the Wong Cinematic Universe.
“I’ve got the email, I’m seriously considering getting it as a wallpaper,” Wong jokes to The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m just enjoying playing this role and where it takes me. In every single kind of project that they invite me to be involved in, it just pulls away another layer of the onion, you know? You get to find a little bit more about the eccentricities of the Sorcerer Supreme.”
Marvel fans on Twitter have embraced the idea of the Wong Cinematic Universe, and the Twitter attention has become so apparent that Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) even acknowledged it.
“God, everybody loves Wong,” Jen Walters says to the camera in episode four. “It’s like giving the show Twitter armor for a week.”
“I’m really heartened by it, you know?” Wong adds about the social media attention. “The Marvel fans have kind of warmed to me, and I’m grateful of that. I take my work very seriously in terms of acting, but I also really enjoy having a ball in this universe.”
In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, Wong, who joined Marvel with 2016’s Doctor Strange, talks the future of the WCU, welcoming newcomers into the franchise and the magic of VFX in She-Hulk episode four. Read on for the full interview.
It’s always a pleasant surprise for fans to see Wong pop up in so many different Marvel films, and most recently, you’ve been in two episodes of She-Hulk.
It’s such a vibe, isn’t it? The show itself is so refreshing. It’s absolutely amazing. I’ve just jumped in to watch, and I was just saying to my wife, “I hadn’t gotten to my episodes yet, but I was just loving this show.” That’s such a credit to these incredible women that led up a very respectful set, and there was so much creativity [there]. And then with Tatiana [Maslany] and Ginger Gonzaga [who plays Jen’s best friend, Nikki] — when I first came on the show, I knew already. The sparks were flying between the two of them. I had never really met Tatiana and Ginger, but I just saw this super fast, sort of, table tennis rally [between them].
Throughout Phase 4, it feels like your character Wong is a major connecting thread across the films and shows. You said last year that Kevin Feige called it the “Wong Cinematic Universe” in an email. Since, the WCU has really picked up steam on Twitter. What is your reaction to that kind of momentum for the character?
I’ve got the email, I’m seriously considering getting it as a wallpaper. No, I told the internet, and now it’s everywhere. But that’s really kind of him to say. For me, I’m just like an overexcited puppy when I get the call from him, you know? Like, “Hey, would you like to be in X?” And that comes from me, just personally, being such a Marvel fan. Growing up as a kid, reading Spider-Man comics, and then just finding myself in this world and finding a character called Wong. I’m just enjoying playing this role and where it takes me. In every single kind of project that they invite me to be involved in, it just pulls away another layer of the onion, you know? You get to find a little bit more about the eccentricities of the Sorcerer Supreme.
And when things do explode on Twitter, do you ever pay attention to that kind of reaction on social media?
Yeah, I mean, [they] send me stuff, and then you kind of just go into a bit of a nosy rabbit hole. I’m really heartened by it, you know? The Marvel fans have kind of warmed to me, and I’m grateful of that. I take my work very seriously in terms of acting, but I also really enjoy having a ball in this universe. I was watching episode four [of She-Hulk] today and just marveling at the work of the VFX team. Just a simple hand gesture of the movement there that I can play, and then what they can fill in. Or just a fling of an arm, and all of a sudden, something else appears. And that, to me, is just the realm of being the big kid that I’ve always been. I’ve just got the most incredible team around me to realize it all. It looks visually stunning, especially with all the goblins [in episode four].
For that scene, in particular, there must have been dozens of goblins that the VFX team added in postproduction. Since the goblins aren’t actually there to fight against during filming, do you just sort of wing it?
Yeah, exactly. Having no idea. They just give you, you know, “Here’s your smoke and mirrors.” And you’ve got a little stick, and you’re swinging it around, or you’re pretending to grab things and throw them into something. You’ve just no idea. You’re at their mercy, really, and they save you. They save you so much.
In She-Hulk episode four, we also meet Madisynn, played by Patty Guggenheim, who becomes unlikely friends with the Sorcerer Supreme. Through that, we get to see your character in a different setting, just chilling at home watching The Sopranos. Was that fun for you to explore a side of him that we haven’t seen before?
It is, isn’t it? It’s a window into Wong’s world. What happens when we’re not on these missions that we have to complete. Just seeing him have some sort of respite, watching him settling down with a biscotti in his mouth. And then out from the sky drops the incredible Patty Guggenheim, who is one of the breakouts in this episode and deserves all the flowers. She was one of the members of The Groundlings, and she was forever, always walking away with employee of the week when I was there. Her improvisation skills — you forget you’re supposed to be acting with her because you’re just busy marveling.
Tatiana is a newcomer in the MCU, as was Simu Liu in Shang-Chi and Xochitl Gomez in Doctor Strange. As a veteran of the franchise, is it your job to welcome them in?
Yeah. It’s funny, because I remember that with Simu. When they were filming, I think when they saw me arrive, they finally realized that they were in a Marvel film. I kind of put my wax seal of approval. I mean, obviously, what can I do but say, “Welcome to the MCU” — or sorry, the WCU, or whichever. And whatever learning curves and curveballs that I can add or any sort of advice, I’m always there. Especially with Xochitl as well, being just a very wide-eyed rabbit in the headlights. I think it’s kind of a duty really, being a member of a big ensemble company, to steady people and reassure them.
[For She-Hulk,] it’s high praise to Tatiana, as well. It’s tough, isn’t it? You go in, and you’re helming something, introducing a new superhero character. And what makes it so different than the others? I’ve really enjoyed seeing the vulnerability of it, the frustrations of it, and coming into the empowerment of it. I have no doubt She-Hulk will be one of the MVPs of the MCU.
There’s a movement among fans for a Wong series. Is that something you’re still hoping for, as well?
You know, a lot of people have said that. Yeah, I could certainly think of some ideas. But hey, it’s not for me to push that. If you ever see anyone, send the question over there. I mean, look, I love playing this role, and I think there’s so much more scope that we could go into with a series, yeah.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity. She-Hulk streams on Thursdays on Disney+.
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