In the middle of our chat with Benedict Wong on the set of the upcoming SYFY comic adaptation Deadly Class last fall, he pulled co-star Liam James over to introduce us. The camaraderie between the two was so obvious that it would've been pointless to ask how the cast gets along on set.
Wong: I want to be his manager, of this kid.
James: You have a manager?
James: Cool, I guess. Can you introduce me?
Wong: I can get you one; I'm your manager, kid.
Wong (Doctor Strange, Avengers: Infinity War) is not only playing the role of Dean and leader on the show, but in a cast of many newcomers, he's also the veteran on set.
"I'm the veteran now, obviously," he said. "And part of me, I'm going, 'How did I become the veteran?' But then, I'm just seeing all of them, and they're great together, they're really talented, they're kind, and they're just passionate about what they're doing.”
As friendly as the set seems, the characters are inherently at odds in the world of Kings Dominion, a school for teen assassins in the 1980s. Wong plays Lin, the rough and serious Dean who is a mix between a father figure and evil step-mother. He's a firm leader who simultaneously helps the kids and teaches them how to kill. When Wong explained the dynamic at the school, it seems… uhhhh, toxic? Are they a family? Are they competing against each other?
"Family yeah, very much competitive,” explained Wong. "But he just flips on a dime, Lin. So you don't really know who he actually is. He could be consoling someone else, and then have him killed by someone else.”
Raise your hand if you're ready to enroll at Kings Dominion! We're gonna calmly return that application unfinished, thank you. But Lin isn't working in a vacuum. There are reasons for how he runs the school, said Wong.
"He's not going to pussyfoot around. If you're training someone to be a killer, you're not going to... am I going to kill him with kindness? We're not f*cking around. That's basically it," he explained. "That's as punk rock as we're going to go with this. And that comes from... if he's the Dean and that's happening at the top, there's something further, much deeper, above him that's why he has to do that, and why he is that person. And whether he is that person or not — which we will find out further down the line.”
The school is meant to teach the teens the skills they need as assassins, but leaders sometimes need to lead by example. Lin doesn't just sit behind a desk and dictate demands. He gets his share of action too, said Wong.
"I think what you'll see is he'll grab anything and everything for survival. Look around you and see what's the closest thing that could kill you. I'll grab anything, like this chair, or anything. What's the little section of what can I do to disarm? And that's the way he is. I think we have the school that sort of teaches these kids this.”
Wong mentioned he’d heard a reporter once call the show a “coming of rage” story, which he says is a fitting description.
"You've got these kids that are going through their teenage year, but they're also killers as well," he said. "So when they're sort of stamping around each other, with Lin and this omnipresent that you're not allowed to kill each other, it kind of makes some sort of palpable drama I think.”
Much like a parent, the teens don't always understand Lin or his reasons for how he runs Kings Dominion. It's a hard job keeping teenage assassins in line and there's more under the surface of why the school exists than it first seems.
"But, there is reasoning behind all of this, and I think we'll just sort of gently peel the onion," said Wong. "As it unfurls it starts to make you cry. So that's what I'm looking forward to.”
Deadly Class premieres January 16 on SYFY.