GS: Like the Bulletproof Monk type guy?
RW: Something like that.
GS: What were you holding out for?
RW: I would have liked to have done something like The Bourne Identity. A little more sophisticated.
Among the bridesmaids at Russell Wong's wedding to Flora Cheong-leen were her daughter from an earlier marriage and his daughter from an early relationship.
GS: You didn't get invited to audition for those kinds of parts?
RW: Right. I don't know if that's the fault of my manager or agent. I don't want to put the blame on anybody.
GS: Are there other factor? Do you put any blame on the attitude of casting people or producers toward an Asian playing those roles?
RW: It's easy to play the race card, but it's business -- just supply and demand. Not a big demand for Chow Yun-Fats or Jet Lis. I mean there is for Jet Lis but only to do a certain type of movies.
GS: You have a name that's as Chinese as you can get while Keanu Reeves looks about as Asian as you do but his name is Caucasian. Do you think that might have been a big factor?
RW: I don't know. Maybe.
GS: How did you land the wifebeater part in Joy Luck Club?
RW: I auditioned for it. I had worked with Wayne Wang before in Eat a Bowl of Tea. We had a good working experience.
GS: Why that part?
RW: I auditioned for both the accountant role and the abusive husband, playboy.
GS: If you had landed the accountant role, that might have saved the movie from angering so many Asian males.
RW: I don't know if that would have made a difference. [The accountant] was still a prick.
GS: But you got so much positive feedback for being the wifebeater. At least the accountant wasn't a wifebeater, drunkard and a womanizer. Do you ever look back and think, “If they would have cast me in it, it would have been different.”
RW: No, I always look back and think, “I wish there were more scenes showing the character of the wifebeater, the abusive husband.”
GS: For some reason you get a lot more press when you play a bad guy than when you play a good guy.
RW: Everyone likes a bad guy. It seems like that.
GS: Do you enjoy playing bad guys?
RW: Yeah, they are fun. I think that with the anti-hero or the nemesis character you have a litle more latitude to be creative.
GS: Speaking with you, you seem like a mellow, laid-back, soft-spoken type of person. Yet some of your most memorable roles were playing nasty, coldblooded characters. Do you think maybe you're expressing some part of yourself that doesn't get expressed in your everyday life?
RW: I don't think we can always express all our feelings every day. I guess we can if we are creatively expressive, but I think with dark characters there's a certain... It's almost like, you would never in real life treat anyone that way. I wouldn't in any of my relationships. But when you're acting, because it's a safe environment, you can go as far off left field as you want, and the director will say, “That's kind of interesting. Let's see how it plays out.” It's drama. It's exaggerating a little bit or just letting your imagination go a little more.
GS: But you don't feel that those roles are tapping any vein of emotional energy lying fallow inside you, unspent?
RW: I don't think pent-up would be the word. A lot of actors or creative people have a resource of energy. When they're creating, it comes out. I would say as an Asian actor in America, sometimes the opportunities are less so you don't get to... [long pause]
GS: So you don't feel that those badboy roles were tappng anything inside of you in particular?
RW: Well they all come from me but as far as any... [long pause]
GS: We don't mean to get too psychoanalytical. It's just that you seem to be a remarkably nice, gentle person. We're just wondering if you're really making an effort to be that way, and that might not leave a lot of the darker, more aggressive feelings unexpressed for you to tap to play these kinds of roles.
RW: Yeah, I suppose some of the aggressiveness... If you're aggressive with everyone in your every day life, no one would want to do business with you. You'd drive everybody away.
GS: A lot of fans are puzzled that you haven't yet landed a leading man role in a big feature. It's baffling because you have the looks and the talent. You've done well with some pretty juicy roles. Why does Keanu Reeves get all these good leading-man roles and Russell Wong get secondary roles? Do you have any theories on that?
RW: It's a quirky business...