Secrets of the Mogwai’ and Scary Fairy Tales

May 20, 2023

The new animated series Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai jumps back in time to 1920s Shaghai to explore the origins of Sam Wing — played by Keye Luke in the original 1984 film — and how he first comes to meet Gizmo. In the series, 10-year-old Sam (Izaac Wang) is tasked by his grandfather (James Hong) with returning Gizmo (A.J. Locascio) to his home. He is joined on his quest by Elle (Gabrielle Nevaeh Green), as the two try to stay out of the clutches of the dastardly Riley Greene (Matthew Rhys).

In this one-on-one interview with Collider’s Arezou Amin, Ming-Na Wen, who plays Sam’s mom Fong, sat down to discuss what drew her to the project, and how much she feels connected to her character. She also talked about working with longtime friend B.D. Wong, who plays her husband Hon, the Chinese fairy tails she remembers from when she was a kid, and what she’d like to see in The Book of Boba Fett Season 2.

COLLIDER: So to kick things off with Gremlins, what is it that drew you to this project?

MING-NA WEN: Everything, I was a massive fan of the film, massive fan of Steven Spielberg, and just the fact that they’re taking a character that was very mysterious and not really delved into, the character of Mr Wing, and bringing him back to tell his backstory as a kid. Just brilliant.

I know when I was growing up a lot of media like this kind of kept the parents to the side, the kids never told their parents what was going on, but Sam’s parents played such a big role in this story, and I wonder, was that something that was really important to you in going into this backstory, that the parents are also such a part of it?

WEN: Yes, and you know, being a mom of two kids, I wanted to make sure that these two parents had a strong influence on Sam, even though Sam was already so independent. He loved his family, he loved family life, and the fact that they are not a traditional type of Chinese parents, especially in the 1920s back in Shanghai. Both Fong and Hon were a couple that worked together, that were equals, that respected each other. I think those are just all such positive role models for kids, and for families in general. That, and the fact that she is a massive, massive protector. She’s fearless when it comes to taking care of Sam.

Are there aspects of yourself that you kind of worked into the character as this was being developed, or did you already feel such a strong connection to her?

WEN: I felt such a strong connection to Fong. She’s a Chinese mom, she loves to try to have some control and when she doesn’t she panics, but at the same time, she is willing to allow Sam to become his own individual person. And those are all things that I want for my kids. I want to be able to set boundaries for them when they’re younger, but then the ultimate goal is that they’re happy when they’re adults, and pursue what they want.

Image via Max

No spoilers obviously, but what is something you would like to see from the way Wings in Season 2 going forward, just in a broader sense, I guess?

WEN: I think it would be great to find out more about Fong’s– If Grandpa, her dad, has these special powers, right? Then it’s gotta have been passed down. So, I think there’s a reason why she got into Chinese medicine. I think there’s a reason why she’s as smart as she is, and I would love to for Fong and Hon to have more scenes together, too, because I love BD [Wong], and it’s just always so great. We’ve had this chemistry all these years, and it would just be fun to continue to explore and play with these characters with BD Wong.

I know sometimes with animation you’re recording on your own, sometimes you’re recording together. Did you and BD get to record together at all?

WEN: No, no, no. We had to work separately because it was during COVID, that time. And he lives in New York and I live in LA. But I think we can hear each other at this point, you know, after two decades, over two decades. So there’s just this innate chemistry that we have with each other.

So, pivoting for just a second, I have to ask about Star Wars because I’m a huge fan of yours, I’m a huge fan of Fennec Shand. When I got to speak to Temuera Morrison last year, I asked him, in his head, what the continued adventures of Boba and Fennec would look like, so I want to ask you the same thing. If you got to continue that story, what does that look like to you?

WEN: I would like to see what they do with their– You know, he’s this Lord now of Tatooine, and he is managing to have some control, but he was trying to do it one way, and I’m not sure how effective it was. He was trying to have a greater honor system, and I would love to see that he turns back to a bit more like what Boba Fett was in also being able to maintain justice, or accomplish what he needs to accomplish on Tatooine. And then, ultimately, just to have a lot of fun battle scenes.

Image via Max

Bringing it back to Gremlins then, what is something you hope both fans of the original movie and now new fans will be able to take away from the show?

WEN: With Gremlins? Oh gosh. Just the fact that the original Gremlins had one particular storyline about the Chinese Mogwais. And now, with this Gremlins, in the Secrets of [the] Mogwai, you get to explore the Chinese culture more. You get to explore the Chinese history in Shanghai, in 1920s. You get to see other types of folklore and fairytale characters that I grew up with, and to be able to share that– and everything from even the Chinese medicines to the magic that I grew up with. It’s just sort of like a mix of our Harry Potter with Grimm’s Fairytales, and those were scary fairytales. We grew up with the same. I think it was a way to teach kids and scare them a bit.

But the great thing is, because we still have Joe Dante and Steven Spielberg behind it, it maintains that fresh, sort of energetic shock value that the original film had, and yet super family friendly. I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction.

You mentioned having grown up with these stories. Were any of your favorites touched on, or is that something maybe down the line?

WEN: Yeah, I don’t know what I can talk about, but definitely there were many, many characters like, “Oh! I saw those in the movie back when I was a kid with my mom!” And I’m like, “I don’t know why my mom took me to those scary movies,” but I don’t think she worried about it very much. I still remember to this day that scared me for a long time, there was this, like, ghost or something that came out of the toilet when I was younger! [Laughs]

Image via Max

Well, thank you so much. Congratulations on the show, it was lovely to speak with you.

WEN: I hope everyone enjoys it. It’s such a great animation.

I did! It was absolutely gorgeous, I binged the whole thing, I loved it so much.

WEN: Oh, good! Good! Yeah, fun characters, alot of humor. I got scared! I was scared at a few places. It was great.

Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai premieres on Max on May 23.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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