A business degree can lead many places, but for Wesley Wong, it led him to the big screen.
“My parents have always told me it’s important to find the passion in my life,” says Wong, the son of accomplished Chinese actors Angie Chiu and Melvin Wong. This parental advice came back to him while a senior at the University of Southern California studying business administration: his finance internships had failed to ignite a lasting passion. “During my senior year, my dad sat me down,” Wong continues. “He was saying throughout all his years in the film industry as an actor or producer, that he was the happiest. He told me if I do have an interest in film maybe I should give it a shot.”
After getting a master’s degree in acting at the Beijing Film Academy, Wong began picking up roles in Asian productions; now, he’s made his break into Hollywood with a supporting part in sci-fi blockbuster “Pacific Rim Uprising” alongside John Boyega and Scott Eastwood. After his management company was approached by the production about casting an English-speaking Chinese actor, Wong sent in an audition tape and then bought a ticket to Australia to meet with the director, Steven DeKnight.
“It was very close to shooting so they didn’t have time, so they wanted to do a Skype or FaceTime meeting, but I thought it would be better if I had a face to face interaction with Steven,” says Wong. “I wanted to show him that I was really sincere and that I really wanted the role.”
The film, which takes place along the Pacific Coast, is notable for its inclusion of Asian actors in prominent roles. “Pacific Rim,” released in 2013, was a success in the Chinese market, grossing more than $100 million and the nation continues to be marked as an area for growth. (Alibaba recently picked up a stake in Wanda’s film unit, which owns Legendary Entertainment and is responsible for financing the film.)
After wrapping promotion for “Pacific Rim,” Wong will head back to China to begin shooting a period TV drama, but is eyeing several projects that would bring him back to screens Stateside, where he feels equally at home.
“I grew up speaking English and Cantonese. So acting in English actually helps me a lot because it feels more natural for me instead of having to memorize lines in Mandarin,” he says.
You never know where business will take you.