BD Wong on Coming Out in Hollywood and the Power in Being Yourself

30 min
The one and only BD Wong!

This week, we are joined by a brilliant actor who’s been in—pardon my French—a sh*t ton of movies, television shows and theater productions. Jurassic Park, ever heard of it? Law and Order: SVU, hello! Mulan, Oz, Mr. Robot, M Butterfly and A.C.T.'s The Great Leap. The list goes on. Put some respect on his name: it’s BD Wong! 

Interview Highlights

On the power of starring on a popular show like Law & Order: SVU:

"The most gratifying kind of fan interaction that you can have is 'I decided to be a forensic psychiatrist because I saw you in the show when I was very young, and I didn't know there was such a career opportunity.' ...That's why it's very important for television writers and television producers to be responsible about their content because it's reaching young people at a very impressionable time. When you realize that [television] actually influences people, it's an eye-opening kind of thing, which I love. I like understanding that something that we're doing isn't just reduced to its popularity but there's a little bit more to it."

On how he felt about the Law & Order: SVU writers revealing his character, Dr. George Huang, was gay right before he left the show:

"I had no idea throughout the time that I was doing the show for ten and a half years, so it felt a little cheap to me. I was also kind of torn because, you know, it's positive... But it did feel a little convenient or kind of lazy or, you know, kind of not particularly the best way that you want to come out as a character. It wasn't like Ellen coming out. It wasn't a great thing that was really impactful and funny or human or whatever; it was just kind of a minor point made."

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On how he came to accept his Asian-American and gay identities:

"I was watching television and I was going to movies, and there were no Asian people, and the gay people that were characterized weren't really particularly positive. So there was a kind of a double insult to me. It made me not want to be those things. I was kind of in denial about it. And this is a kind of denial that a lot of ethnic kids, specifically I think Asian American kids and some gay kids, have where they avoid the issue of the truth of them. And when you avoid that, it causes only problems for you and it takes you a long time to kind of untangle.

The thing that you think is going to kill you is actually the thing that enlivens you and drives you and pushes you forward. It's really actually an amazingly great feeling to be yourself. What a concept, right? And I think more people definitely know that now than they did before, although it's still a struggle for lots of people."

On how Crazy Rich Asians has or hasn't changed the Hollywood landscape:

"I think feeling positive about something that sometimes feels very despairing is a really good thing, like to take a break from the despair for a second. Let's just celebrate this thing for a minute.

I was around when The Joy Luck Club came out, and there was no social media; people were less kind of rah-rah passionate about it. But Asian American people, to their credit, got really into this movie and that was really heartwarming and empowering because I've always said, in my career, to Asian American audiences, 'You've got to spend your money on Asian American content. I really want you to do that. Put your money where your mouth is.'

You know, [Crazy Rich Asians] is not erasing any kind of anti-Asian sentiment or anything that keeps Asian people down in the media, but it has shifted the needle in a noticeable way. I was invited to be a member of the Motion Picture Academy right before Crazy Rich Asians came out, and it's because there's a trend of wanting to be inclusive and diverse, particularly in these bodies which purport to be representing everyone. Now they do represent more people."

On moments when he realizes he lives a special kind of life:

"Not to pat myself on the back, because it's not meant to be that at all, but I feel that all the time. For example, I did this movie, Bird Box. And as luck would have it, it became this big thing, and my interaction with someone like Sandra Bullock becomes this kind of thing that still surprises me. I'm still like, wow, this person even knowing me or liking me... I feel this all the time... I spent three months in Argentina with Brad Pitt (in separate rooms). Things like that happen all the time and it's wonderful. And I'm very aware that I'm very lucky."

On his first gay crush:

"Batman and Robin. I was four-years-old. I remember watching the TV and feeling warm. It wasn't just either of them up physically or anything like that; it was their dynamic relationship. It was a male duo relationship that you didn't really see that much of at the time. And so the bond of that has always stayed with me. I mean, I'm sure I'm not the only person who felt this way. And then there were tights!"

Listen to hear all about it:

BD Wong on Coming Out in Hollywood and the Power in Being Yourself

BD Wong on Coming Out in Hollywood and the Power in Being Yourself

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