BD Wong takes break from drama in ‘Queens’

Rick's Reviews

BD Wong is taking a break from drama with “Awkwafina is Nora From Queens.” (Photo courtesy of Comedy Central)

BD Wong has built up an impressive career through roles on some of television’s darkest and most dramatic TV shows. He initially gained attention through HBO’s “Oz” as prison priest Father Ray. That was just the start as he went on to appear in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “The X-Files,” “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” and “Mr. Robot.”

One of his most sinister roles was playing Hugo Strange in the FOX series “Gotham.” The brilliance of the character was only surpassed by his obsession to do evil.

Credit after credit shows his dramatic acting lineage but if you look closely, Wong has occasionally made the move into comedy including the ABC series “All-American Girl” with Margaret Cho.

You definitely have to look closely to spot Wong’s latest foray into the world of humor, Comedy Central’s “Awkwafina is Nora From Queens.” It’s not that he has a small part as he plays Awkwafina’s father. It’s just that Wong looks extremely different including sporting long locks.

“It was the right role at the right time for me,” Wong says. ‘I have been doing a lot of heavy stuff which I also love doing. But, it was really refreshing.

“The chemistry I felt with the other actors – including the star of the show – I wish you could bottle it. Doing the show has been really, really fun.”

What has Wong so happy can be seen as season two of the series launches at 10 p.m. Aug. 18 on Comedy Central.

The series comes from creator and writer Awkwafina (“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”) and wasinspired by her real-life growing up in Queens, NY. She is being raised by her Dad (Wong) and Grandma (Lori Tan Chinn) alongside her cousin (Bowen Yang). Nora Lin leans on her family as she navigates life and young adulthood in outer borough-NYC.

Wong has been involved with enough projects to know that a project works best when the entire cast is strong. He immediately found the cast of the Comedy Central series to be strong from top to bottom.

“We discovered – the four of us – sitting at a dinner table in a Chinese restaurant that the potential was there and it would be fun if it keeps happening,” Wong says. “It was kind of cool to experience something that you hoped it would be and it turns out to be that way.”

He has particularly strong praise for Awkwafina. He not only thinks she is a whirlwind when it comes to comedy but also believes that she is a very legitimate actor.

The first season ranks as the top-rated new comedy of 2020 with viewers 18-49. It wasn’t just viewers who embraced it as the show was nominated for a Writers Guild of America award.

As far as Wong is concerned, one of the great pluses of working on the series was that he got the opportunity to use parts of his acting arsenal that he hasn’t been able to use in a long time. This comedy is one of the rare times when Wong has been able to play “an ordinary guy.”

The chance to play such a different role was something Wong wanted to do but didn’t purposely go out and try to find such a job.

“My career usually takes care of itself in that there is always something that balances something else out,” Wong says. “I don’t really control it that much. I try to control it by making good choices but often roles just juxtapose each other.

“That makes for a very interesting working life. I feel very lucky about that.”

The diversity of roles he has played is widespread. The San Francisco native has appeared in more than 20 feature films and is the only actor ever to receive all five major New York Theater awards for a single role – his Broadway debut performance in “M. Butterfly.”

Wong will make his television directorial debut with an episode of “Awkwafina is Nora from Queens” to broadcast in the second season.

It’s not just TV, film and theater where Wong has found releases for his artistic skills. He published his first book, Following Foo: the electronic adventures of the Chestnut Man (Harper Entertainment), a memoir about the extremely premature birth of his son, in 2003.

Kicking off the second season of “Awkwafina is Nora From Queens” will be these episodes:

Never Too Old,” Aug. 18: After a starry-eyed look at her future, Nora trains a new CBD store employee, Grandma’s newly diagnosed perfect bill of health leads to a face-off, and Daniel catches Nora by surprise.

Stop! Nora Time,” Aug. 18: After getting an MRI during an earthquake, Nora time travels to the iPod-filled world of 2003 where she sets out to warn her younger self about the mistakes she’s going to make. 

Charlie’s Angels.” Aug. 25: When Nora and Melanie reunite with a high school friend, they realize New York City isn’t what it used to be, and Grandma braces herself for a visit from her rich cousin Rosalind.

 Edmund’s Back.” Sept. 1: Despite many setbacks and creepy auditions, Nora stands by Edmund’s newfound acting career, and Wally panics after discovering that Brenda’s online dating profile is still active.

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