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Interview: Russell Wong Talks Contract to Kill (Exclusive)

The war on terror not only needs fearless leaders, but also a dependable support team of agents who are willing to take any extreme effort necessary to stop their country’s brutal enemies. The courageous American protagonists in the new action film, ‘Contract to Kill,’ who are portrayed by Steven Seagal, Jemma Dallender and Russell Wong, are operatives who are hired to take out an elusive terrorist. The trio repeatedly puts themselves in danger in order to block an extremist group’s plot to bring harm into their country.

Lionsgate will release ‘Contract to Kill‘ in theaters and on VOD tomorrow. The drama was written, directed and produced by Keoni Waxman, who previously worked with Seagal on such action movies as ‘Killing Salazar,’ ‘Force of Execution’ and ‘Maximum Conviction.’

‘Contract to Kill’ follows John Harmon (Seagal), an CIA/DEA enforcer who’s investigating Arab terrorists who have been captured in Mexico. With his team, including seductive FBI agent, Zara Hayek (Jemma Dallender), and drone pilot operator, Matthew (Wong), he flies to Istanbul. When they arrive in the city, the trio uncovers a brutal plot: Islamic extremists plan to use Sonora drug-smuggling routes to bring deadly weapons, and leaders, into the U.S. To prevent an attack on America, John must turn the two savage forces against one another before his time-and his luck-run out.

Wong generously took the time recently to talk about playing Matthew in ‘Contract to Kill’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the actor discussed how he was drawn to star in the action film, because not only was he interested in returning to the genre after a 12 year absence, but also because he wanted to work with Seagal and stunt coordinator, Ron Balicki. Wong also expressed his appreciation of Waxman’s work as a filmmaker, as he structured the action very logically, and also skillfully infused the story with a lot of information.

ShockYa (SY): You play spy-drone pilot Matthew Sharp in the new action film, ‘Contract to Kill.’ What was it about the character of Matthew, as well as the overall script, that convinced you to take on the role?

Russell Wong (WR): Well, Steven Seagal is a big name in martial arts films. I’ve never worked with him before, and I wanted to, so I wanted to take the opportunity to do so. I also know Ron Balicki, who’s a very great stunt coordinator and fight choreographer, and he worked on the movie.

The opportunity came up for me to be in this project, and I hadn’t done action films for quite awhile before this one. So I thought this would be a good chance to get back into doing action movies again.

SY: What were your working relationships also like with your co-stars on the film, particularly Steven Seagal, who you just mentioned, and Jemma Dallender? Where you able to have any rehearsal time with them before, or while, you were filming?

RW: We had time to work on the fight choreography with Ron and Keoni. It was really great working with both of those guys. Jemma was also great to work with, and Steven’s such a professional at what he does. So overall, it was a pretty good experience to collaborate with everyone.

SY: Also speaking of Keoni, what was your experience of collaborating with him, as both the film’s writer and director, as you developed the character of Matthew within the film? What did you think of the script when you first read it?

RW: I really liked Keoni’s script-the structure of the action was very logical. You could deal he had a lot of information about the story. I had no knowledge of what my character was a part of, however. Working with Keoni was such a good experience, we have started talking about doing something else together in the future, so we’re developing a story.

Working with everyone on the crew in Romania was great-everyone knew what they were doing, and were very professional. I had a nice time shooting there.

SY: Speaking of shooting ‘Contract to Kill’ on location in Romania, how did that experience influence the way the movie was filmed? Do you enjoy going on location to shoot your movies?

RW: Once in awhile, I do like going overseas and traveling for work. But it is also nice to stay in town sometimes, and shoot at CBS, or another studio like that, which I recently did for another project. One of the luxuries of being an actor is that you get to travel to different parts of the world. I’ve been pretty lucky to have had those experiences. Romania’s nice, and I like the vibe of Europe.

SY: Did you do any additional research into the life of a drone pilot who works with American intelligence and surveillance services?

RW: I did do some research into some technical things. In terms of his background, there wasn’t very much from his background that was included in the script that I could draw from. So I created my own story for him. But other than that, we pretty much stuck to what was written in the script.

SY: What was the experience of shooting ‘Contract to Kill’ independently? Did that process influence the creativity at all on the set?

RW: When you make a lower budget or independent film, it feels a little bit more mellow. Sometimes on bigger budget films, there can be a lot of personalities, which can lead to more tension and pressure. But with ‘Contract to Kill,’ we had a mellow crew. Keoni has worked with Steven many times before, so he knows how to move things along. So we did our thing, and had a good time doing it.

SY: Since ‘Contract to Kill’ is such an action-driven film, what was the process of creating the physicality for the role of Matthew? Did you perform your own stunts?

RW: Yes, I do all of my own stunts. Ron Balicki’s father-in-law is Dan Inosanto, who’s a legendary martial artist and was also Bruce Lee’s protege. He has been doing martial arts his whole life, and does it ever day. He’s one of those people who’s a genius at what he does, so working with him was great. If I had any kind of idea that I wanted to try, he knew how to do it, and we would work it out. It was a blessing to work with someone like that.

SY: Now that you have returned to action films with ‘Contract to Kill,’ are you interested in starring in more genre films in the future?

RW: I’ve been away from action for about 12 years, so while I was making this film, I thought, I don’t know if I can do this anymore! (laughs) But I had ample time to prepare, because the shoot got pushed back a month. So I had an extra four weeks to work with my trainer, and get back into better shape. So I thought I could do most of the action pretty well, but my kicks weren’t so great. But overall, I’m optimistic that I can do something else in the genre later on.

SY: Besides ‘Contract to Kill,’ do you have any other projects lined up that you can discuss?

RW: I just did an episode of ‘Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.’ I played an FBI agent, and he was trained at Quantico. There was a little background about him, but the story shared more about his experiences. The episode’s story was focused more on the criminal at large

I’m going to be shooting another independent film in April, which is called ‘Thank You Thank You.’ It’s a Chinese-American story, which features a cook who comes from Chinatown and goes into Texas. There are a lot of different relationships there.

I’m also writing some things now. I went to NYU a couple of years ago, to take a writing course. I’m developing a love story, for an American actress and a Chinese actor. I’m also developing an action project that’s similar to ‘Taken,’ and it will take place both here in America and in Asia.

Watch the official trailer for ‘Contract to Kill’ below.

Contract to Kill

Written by: Karen Benardello

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As a life-long fan of entertainment, particularly films, television and music, and an endless passion for writing, Karen Benardello decided to combine the two for a career. She graduated from New York's LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic. While still attending college, Karen began writing for Shockya during the summer of 2007, when she began writing horror movie reviews. Since she began writing for Shockya, Karen has been promoted to the position of Senior Movies & Television Editor. Some of her duties in the position include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, producing posts on celebrity news and contributing reviews on albums and concerts. Some of her highlights include attending such festivals and conventions as the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, SXSW, Toronto After Dark, the Boston Film Festival and New York Comic-Con.

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