From teacher to headmaster!
As Doctor Strange and Avengers: Infinity War’s stoic sorcerer Wong, Benedict Wong was already busy with one comic world in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he couldn’t say no when Infinity War directors Anthony and Joseph Russo invited him to join Syfy’s Deadly Class, a faithful adaptation of Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s punk graphic novel executive-produced by the brothers.
“I’ve worked with the brothers before, and they’ve obviously got a high pedigree. On that alone, I just said, yes,” Wong tells EW. “I had a look at the source material, and I just started delving in. I just entered into [executive producer/co-showrunner] Rick Remender’s world and definitely came across something I felt hasn’t really been seen before, this kind of muffled voice of the subculture that has now gotten a chance to shout down the mic.”
Set against an ’80s counterculture backdrop, Deadly Class follows the students at Kings Dominion, a dangerous underground school for assassins mostly populated by the scions of the world’s top crime families and organizations. Wong plays the academy’s enigmatic headmaster, Master Lin, who recruits a homeless boy named Marcus (Benjamin Wadsworth) to attend. Like Wong’s MCU character, Master Lin takes his job as an instructor very seriously.
“He’s very firm with his students,” Wong says. “He expects a very high standard of them, and he needs to get them to this elite level, and he’s kind of not suffering any fools at all and expects the best of everyone to make the grade.”
Taking on this role gave the English actor a chance to work a talented young cast that includes To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before star and former X-person Lana Condor and The Way, Way Back’s Liam James, and watching them move through the show’s rebellious setting, with which Wong was very familiar, was part of what attracted him to the project.
“I certainly grew up during that time,” says Wong, who was brought up in Salford, England, not too far from Manchester, the birthplace of rock bands like the Smiths. “It was nice to see it now and all of a sudden I’m the veteran of the piece. Then now we’ve got this amazing ensemble of young talent, and they’re really special. I’m sort of flying on their coattails a little bit, and just enjoying seeing their vigor and their passion — getting their heads down and getting really stuck in with the work. It’s a joy to watch.”
Although Deadly Class is a show about killers, Wong thinks viewers will be able to relate because it’s ultimately a coming-of-age story, one that’s very much concerned with the students’ attempts to find themselves.
“When we’re growing up as outsiders in school, it is a battle of survival, isn’t it? We’re all looking for a place of where exactly do we belong, and maybe people are not using knives and swords, [but] people are using their words, aren’t they, in a really barbed way?” he says. “This adds this other dimension that pupils are learning how to be an assassin, but the rules are that they’re not allowed to kill each other as well. It’s kind of quite palpable, really. It’s really not about the killing, but about the growing up of it all.”
Deadly Class premieres Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 10 p.m. on Syfy.