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B.d. Wong / Actor

June 14, 1998|Steve Hochman

Despite a wide range of acclaimed roles, from his Tony-winning lead in Broadway's "M. Butterfly" to the comic wedding assistant in the "Father of the Bride" films to the prison chaplain in HBO's series "Oz," B.D. Wong, 35, is still working to become known by the public and Hollywood. Ironically, his big break now is one in which only his voice is featured--he's Shang, the title character's love interest, in Disney's "Mulan."

BECOMING DISNEY: "You go into doing [Disney animation] having this incredible understanding of what it is, more than anything else you've ever done before. You have this image of entering immortality in a certain way. No matter what else happens, there will always be this thing that has so much life."

ANIMATED MIND-SET: "Doing [a Disney voice] is so foreign to anything you've learned in the craft of acting. It was never up to me how to play it, I had to try as best I could to conform to their ideas. I got advice from Nathan Lane, who had found [acting in "The Lion King"] very challenging."

IMAGE-CONSCIOUS: "My older brother took us to all the Disney movies when we were kids. They were incredible movies, but the one thing missing was there was never any representation of our root culture. We loved them, but were struggling with identity as Americans."

PROGRESS: "["Mulan"] is great for my nieces and nephews. Now they'll never lack faces on the screen that look like theirs."

PAST LANDMARK: "My mom and dad were born and raised in this country and were adults before 'Flower Drum Song' was made. They would criticize it, call it a 'chop suey movie,' but it was the first time Chinese people were really on the screen. They'd been raised on Charlie Chan and Hop Sing on 'Bonanza.' "

BIG BREAK: "This part in 'Mulan' is one of the more leading roles I've carried. I look forward to competing for those parts more. I've been waiting a few years, and it's happening now: consideration for bigger, less ethnically specific parts."

MIXED LEGACY: "I've lived in a wonderful but great shadow cast by 'M. Butterfly.' It was hard for people to understand who the human being was who played that part."

HOT PROJECT: "A friend, John Cameron Mitchell, has a one-man show off Broadway, a rock musical for one called 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch.' There's a complete feeding frenzy for the movie rights; every indie film company is wining and dining him."

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