Your new movie Garthwaite: A
Film by Ben Kurns - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you
tell us about your character in it?
Film by Ben Kurns is a film about the greatest US president that
Americans have never heard of. The story of a well-off miscreant turned
secret society member (briefly) holding the most powerful office in the
My character, Lewis Lovelace, is a truth-seeker, some might call him a conspiracy
theorist. But he fancies himself the most trustworthy source of
information regarding the life and controversies of Rufus Garthwaite. He
hosts a podcast called Sect Respect, where he
discusses secret societies, failed assassinations, and tap water
From what I know, you pretty much created your character from
scratch - so what were your inspirations for Lewis Lovelace, and how
much TJ Wong can we find in him?
Lewis came about in
roughly twenty minutes of me typing out every crazy name for a hazing
ritual I could think of, and when John [J.G.
Murphy interview - click here] and Nolan [Nolan
Pugh interview - click here] (our esteemed writers)
told me this guy was a podcaster, I immediately thought of
flat-earthers, true crime/occult podcasters, and talkshow hosts. Just
the strangest personalities spreading the most bizarre, crackpot
theories about obscure subjects. Personally, I think the part of myself
most obvious in Lewis (other than the patchy facial hair) is the fact
that this guy cares at all about details as miniscule as hazing rituals
in one fraternity. I often find myself going down multiple rabbit holes
of research just out of curiosity, and coming out with piles of mostly
useless knowledge without having even answered my original question.
Since your character's so fixated on secret societies, did
you do any research in the subject before filming, or is that even a topic
that interests you personally?
My research amounted to
maybe a single Google search on secret societies linked to college
fraternities, which led me to one result about Skull and Bones. Other
than that, I was convinced the more I simply made up off the top of my
head, the crazier this guy would sound. In real life, I don't really
care for secret societies. They feel like clubs with too many rules
amounting to tax evasion and an excuse to drink.
In your performance, what did you draw upon to bring your character
I knew a couple guys in
high school and college that used to rant about "facts" they
"discovered". It was usually unsourced claims from the
internet, but the sort of matter-of-fact tone they had when spouting
actual nonsense was something I tried to embody.
Since you improvised most of your lines in Garthwaite: A
Film by Ben Kurns, how intimidating and/or liberating was this for you
as an actor?
part of it was more of listing out random hazing ritual names before
filming. I'm not a good improv actor at all, so the list was my
framework that I then built off of when we started rolling. Improv
always intimidates me, I don't think that'll ever change. At least when
it comes to comedic improv.
How did you get involved with the project
in the first place, and what drew you to it?
Nolan asked me to do it.
He and John have graciously kept me in their creative circle for most of
their projects for years so I was more than happy to jump in again. I
love that they keep me busy.
about Garthwaite: A
Film by Ben Kurns's directors J.G. Murphy and Nolan Pugh, and what was your collaboration
I knew them from the acting school we all went to; John in particular helped me nurture my
interests in cinematography, and I've worked closely with Nolan reading
his scripts and workshopping other ideas. I'll often find myself helping
them out behind camera, running sound or switching lenses and the like,
and they get me good footage to use, so it's a win-win for me. For Garthwaite: A
Film by Ben Kurns,
they gave us a lot of freedom to go nuts. We only had Rufus Garthwaite's biography
to keep the key details consistent (or willfully divergent), but other
than that they let everyone go as far as they wanted.
What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and
the on-set atmosphere?
It was relatively brief. We were still in the latter months of the
pandemic, so it was just me and my roommate (who played Marcus Tilley in
the film), and John showing up to our apartment with a car full of
equipment. We unpacked, set everything up, rolled through a couple long
improv takes, with John giving some direction to steer us around key story
beats, and we were done in about 3-4 hours. John said, "Alright,
this'll be out in a year or two" (something to that effect), and
left. All-in-all, very chill, fairly unusual as far as sets go.
Any future projects you'd like to
I believe TMK (Nolan's and John's production company) have some projects
in the planning phase, though I'm not aware of the specifics. Some
mutual friends and I are building a sketch channel on YouTube, Pickle
Pals Productions. The guys there have also worked with John and Nolan
before. A very tight circle from the same acting school.
What got you into acting in the first place, and
did you receive any formal training on the subject?
I took theatre in high school out of middling interest, but come senior
year I genuinely didn't know what else I wanted to do. I saw a flyer for
an acting college in Los Angeles and (after much debating with my
family) flew down in 2018. For better or worse, the training I received
was mostly relevant to theatre. What film training I did get ironically
got me more interested in cinematography and the filmmaking craft than
film acting. But nowadays, I'm looking to get more training in film
acting specifically to shore up my skillset.
through your filmography, you seem to be as comfortable behind the camera
as in front of it - so which side of the camera do you actually prefer?
I think I have a long way to go before I get truly comfortable in front
of a camera. Behind a camera I have so much creative control without
having to look my best or whatnot. It's also exciting to me when I see
something I've filmed that looks halfway decent, in a "every frame
a painting" sort of way. I can't really put it into words. I love
capturing a good picture.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Garthwaite: A
Film by Ben Kurns?
I had helped John and Nolan film a sketch anthology - Look Ma, No
Helmet - as an actor and crew member (it was actually where
they had their first Ben Kurns idea, I believe). Also, since college,
I've just been the guy who has a camera, so in a school full of actors,
I was often asked to help film content, reels, shorts, etc.
How would you describe yourself
as an actor, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?
I don't think I'm a particularly skilled actor, at least in film. Really
my strongest technique is being able to memorize a script, which
obviously wasn't as relevant for Garthwaite: A
Film by Ben Kurns. I
think more than any internal character work, I try to imagine what a
script and/or director is trying to convey, and I'll play my part as an
element of the story.
(and indeed actresses) who inspire you?
If I could have the sort of career Alan Tudyk or Florence Pugh have, I
could die happy.
I'm a bit of a sci-fi nut. Interstellar, The
Martian, Arrival, Dune,
Blade Runner 2049, Her, Treasure Planet; but also movies like
Bullet Train, Shaun of the
Dead, Kingsman, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, etc. I'm actually
notorious among friends for not having seen many movies, mostly because
I rewatch the same ones over and over again.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
God, I hate the 1968 Planet of the Apes. Yes, I know it's considered a
landmark achievement in cinema, AND a sci-fi staple. But, coupled
with my roommate's obsession with apes in general, the pacing bores me
to tears and I could continue my existence without ever seeing it again.
website, social media, whatever else?
I really only use Instagram to keep up with friends.
But you can follow
me @tj_wong_ if you wish!
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
I detest when actors in a close-up bounce their eyes back and forth
between their scene partner's eyes. Michael Caine taught it best: Pick
the eye closest to camera, and (for God's sake) stay there.
for the interview!