With the exception of being a stalker who violently beats girls who steal her boyfriend, actress Ellen Wong is not so different from Knives Chau, the character she plays in Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which hits theaters today. With a background in martial arts, weaponry and acrobatics, Wong was well prepared for a role of this nature—which marks her feature film debut.
Though she began her industry dues-paying behind the scenes, watching auditions and reading scripts at a local television station in Toronto, Wong’s regular television appearances—including roles on “This Is Wonderland,” “Runaway” and “Unnatural History,” as well as a recent stint alongside Natalie Portman on the “superwomen” panel at this year’s Comic-Con—Wong seems poised for a bright future of on-screen ass-kicking.
Dennis Ivarsson (MM): What drove your interest in acting?
Ellen Wong (EW): (laughs) When I went to see Titanic with my parents as a girl, I was so moved by Kate Winslet’s performance, and Leonardo DiCaprio. She inspired me to be an actress. That was the moment that I knew what I wanted to do. That’s kind of how it all got started… From there I went out and started auditioning and worked on the other side of the industry as well, doing P.A. work.
MM: Who are some of the moviemakers and actors who inspire you in your own career?
EW: Winslet was the driving force. She’s the one actress who made me feel like that is what I wanted to be doing. On top of that, I also enjoy watching other actresses like Michelle Yeoh; she’s awesome and still kicks ass and does strong roles. I also like Angelina Jolie.
MM: You’ve done a lot of work in television but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is your first film role. What were the major differences while prepping for your role as Knives Chau compared to the TV roles you’ve played previously?
EW: I think with film you have a lot more time to work on your character. Especially with Scott Pilgrim, it was based on a comic series. Edgar Wright was an amazing storyteller. He spent a lot of time going over the characters and made sure things were right… It was interesting because we had such a huge cast. We met up together a lot even before we were shooting. The actors really helped as well.
MM: How did your background in martial arts training factor into you landing this role? What influence did this have on your physical acting on set?
EW: I was training in Tae Kwon Do before auditioning. During the audition, I remember being asked to be a secret badass ninja. (laughs) It was neat to incorporate that as well because I love martial arts and to be able to put two loves of mine together. It was a unique way of showing it, because doing it in real life mixed with acting was fun.
MM: Working with mostly young actors like Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman, how did they help you acclimate to the daily responsibilities put in front of you?
EW: I need to thank that cast. They were all helpful—everybody.
MM: Edgar Wright has worked with up-and-coming actors throughout his career. What made him a particularly great first film director for you?
EW: I think the thing with Edgar Wright is that he is such a passionate storyteller. He has a clear vision of exactly what he wants to do. At the same time, he’s still very open to doing new ideas. So I think the mix of what he already has in his head and chooses to share, combined with what other people bring forth becomes a very collaborative process.
MM: What is the most important thing you learned on the set of Scott Pilgrim that you will carry with you into future works?
EW: I think it’s to have fun on set. At the beginning of shooting everyone is going nuts, but I’ve found that once you take things slow and have fun with your character, that’s more natural.
MM: What do you hope the future brings for you in terms of your film career? Who are the directors and/or actors with whom you’d most like to work and why?
EW: I think that right now it’s more of just time and coming across the talent. I love acting and sharing that experience.
MM: What’s up next for you?
EW: I definitely want to continue acting because it’s in my heart. I want to get my stories out there and share them.