Netflix's 'Wu Assassins': Lawrence Kao sees his character Tommy as more than just a drug addict or gang member
Actor Lawrence Kao says he was impressed by the depth and layering of the character Tommy, allowing him to delve deeper and bring out the element of humanity.
We live in a post-"Crazy Rich Asians" world, a world that does not seem shocked by seeing an all-Asian cast on screen, and thank everything good for that because Netflix is premiering 'Wu Assassins' on August 8. Iko Uwais' Kai Jin is at the center of this magical action-filled world. We see various shades of Asia, exhibiting characteristics that do not risk stereotyping any particular culture while facing their own unique set of problems.
One such character is that of Tommy Wah, portrayed by Lawrence Kao, who is introduced to us as the inept brother of a successful young businesswoman. He is a drug addict whose circumstances forbid him from kicking the habit for good, no matter how badly he wants to do it. You feel for him, because of the sensitivity and depth with which Kao portrays the character.
"I didn't view Tommy as a type of character. I just looked at him as a human being, and I feel like everybody is not just black and white. We're so layered and so complex, and I feel like by making this character vulnerable, we see the humanity in him. And so, that strays me away from playing this character like a gang member or a drug addict. I didn't want to give this character titles. I wanted to pull out the humanity in Tommy," Kao tells MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), adding how there are so many things about Tommy that make him insecure and [relatable in many ways]. "Usually, when you see a character like that on-screen, you have a negative idea of who that person is, but I wanted to make him vulnerable," he states.
In Tommy's case, unlike most addicts, he turns to heroin not to "feel something", rather to not feel anything. "He hates his life so much and the things that he's gone through, that he wants to actually feel nothing. You know, he wants to feel numb and not feel anything at all," elaborated Kao, adding how it was important for him that the struggle of someone who is an addict is accurately represented on screen. He states, "It's not even just getting rid of the drug and not doing the drug. It has to come and stem from something. You just need to fix within you, you know, there are problems and deeper rooted issues that we all need to solve first for us to let go of the specific addictions in our life and I wanted to show that in Tommy."
He also teases that there is a backstory about Tommy that makes him so layered. "Tommy carries a huge burden; something that has happened in the past, and people view him in a specific way. When people think of you as this character that always messes up, you start to tend to believe that. And so it's hard to escape that and because of something that has happened, he continues to spiral downhill," says Kao, who hopes that Tommy's journey would redeem him and help him make amends for his mistakes in the past, giving him a better understanding of things that have happened.
While Tommy's story alone is quite enticing, the selling point of 'Wu Assassins' is possibly the breathtaking action, which Tommy may or may not be a part of, according to Kao. "Iko and his whole stunt team are just extraordinary to watch," says Kao, further gushing about the action on the show. "When you watch action [scenes] on a screen you don't feel the effects and how crazy it is, but when you're actually there and you get to watch these people move around and exercise their physical agility, it's amazing to watch in person. So being on set and experiencing that energy and seeing the whole stunt team and all the martial artists get down, it was just fascinating. It's an art in itself and I definitely admire it and it's cool to see people do the martial arts choreography and have it coincide with storytelling. I think that's really important."
'Wu Assassins' premieres on Netflix on Thursday, August 8.