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Ep9 – BD Wong (M. Butterfly – 1988)

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Unknown Speaker 0:00
Hi, I'm BD Wong, and you're listening to and the Tony goes to

Unknown Speaker 0:18
special guests. Have you ever dreamed of winning a Tony Award? Did you ever practice your Tony acceptance speech in the bathroom mirror? Did you grow up watching the Tony Awards every year? Do you have a collection of Tony award shows on VHS tape that you refuse to throw out? But then this is the podcast for you. Every week I interview your favorite Tony Award winners. And together we go down memory lane as my guest share intimate and never before share details about their Tony experience. By the end of every episode, you're going to feel like you just went to Tony. Welcome to and the Tony goes to. I'm your host, Ilana Levine. welcome today's Tony women, BD Wong.

Unknown Speaker 1:07
And the winner is BD Wong.

Unknown Speaker 1:12
I would like to thank the brother and sister song and dance team which have recently moved into my body and are now living there for coming to the Eugene O'Neill theater and getting along and I would I celebrate this beautiful thing with everyone who witnesses me tonight. I thank New York City for embracing my joy of performing.

Unknown Speaker 1:41
I

Unknown Speaker 1:42
I'm sorry, wow.

Unknown Speaker 1:46
I thank the acceptance of risk that you have in it symbolizes for me the acceptance of the risk of everyone involved with a beautiful thing that is called m butterfly. I thank the support of all of my wonderful, wonderful friends the best in the world. There are too many to name McDaniel, I got the asterisk. I also think the most important teacher and friend and a beautiful man into whose eyes I look every night of the Eugene O'Neill theater and see two kinds of love the love of a poor diluted white devil for his butterfly and the love for a seasoned professional, brilliant Actor for his young

Unknown Speaker 2:36
protege.

Unknown Speaker 2:38
I also think from the bottom of my heart, William and Roberta Wong in 1886 14th Avenue, San Francisco.

Unknown Speaker 2:46
Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 2:50
Hi, Didi Wang.

Unknown Speaker 2:51
Hello Alon Olivia.

Unknown Speaker 2:54
So as you may be aware, you just want to Tony, I did. It feels like a second seconds ago. One of my favorite all time things as someone who has listened to many, many Tony speeches religiously ending with the address of your parents home, maybe what is sweetest, most personal moments ever. It tells such a story.

Unknown Speaker 3:22
Yeah, I don't know what I was actually thinking. Of course, this was way before social media and even stalkers and things, you know, was like not even a, I don't know, I was very naive about it. I don't know what I was actually thinking. I was just but but I will say that my memory is that my brain was overwhelmed with just all of these different kinds of thoughts and worries of covering everything or taking a moment or I don't know what and, and so that came out of my mouth. And you know, people had funny things to say about it. And it was what it was, but it did speak to my my tether to my parents, you know, I felt very indebted to them. And I felt very proud of of the all of everything that we went through in my relationship with them to get me to the point where I was actually a professional actor. And so that felt somehow the ultimate way in some way I don't know how what it was. I don't know what it was exactly. I'm not sure why I thought to do it that way. I can't remember. Was that

Unknown Speaker 4:35
a preconceived notion or did that happen spontaneously in the moment?

Unknown Speaker 4:42
I don't I cannot tell you I doubt nothing was pre conceived and and and i think that it was probably just thinking, Oh, yes, this is where they're from, and this is who they are and then that address came out of my mouth.

Unknown Speaker 4:58
I think that's what happened. I love that. And and I wonder did people show up at their door? Wanting to congratulate them? Or I think my mom got some letters.

Unknown Speaker 5:08
Yeah. Yeah. That's about it. And that's thankfully right. Because you know, anything could happen in a situation like that. And and especially nowadays you think, Oh my gosh, what would you you know, but it was it was great. And so that Yeah, I don't I don't I wish I could tell you exactly what I was thinking. But maybe the fact that I don't know what I was thinking is useful,

Unknown Speaker 5:31
is telling. Yes, exactly. You, you won this Tony in 1988, for a Broadway show, which was your first and butterfly. And, you know, there, there are so many incredible things surrounding the story of you and the show. One thing that was very sort of newsworthy at the time, but maybe less known to some of your newer fans, is that before that show, had they seen you in something and opened up the program, it would not have said be deewan it would have said your your birth certificate name. And I wonder government name? Yeah, your government name? Yeah. I wonder well, were you did you grow up being called BD by anybody?

Unknown Speaker 6:22
So actually, no, I was never called BD when I was a kid. My dad had been called BD when he was a kid. And my brother's my two brothers. And I and my dad all have the same initials. And when Stuart austro, who, you know, asked me was producer of m butterfly, asked me if I would take the gender out of my name. I said, Okay, great. And he wanted to just put B Wong in the program, which I thought seemed really dumb. I said, it doesn't feel like a name. And it just feels kind of lame. It just feels like you're covering something up or something like that. So I recall that my dad's nickname was BD, and I just used it. And I really had fully intended to just go back to my government name, which Brad Bradley is my name, and I was in equity and registered in equity and sag as Brad. And, and so I was perfectly fine going back to that. But then, after the play opened, it just kind of it just became my name. And and so I just stuck with it. That's the short version of the story. There's a lot of permutations of me going to the DMV and all that stuff. But but

Unknown Speaker 7:27
but that's always fun. Can you tell us the story of going to the DMV?

Unknown Speaker 7:32
Well, I'll just tell you really quickly that in I don't know, in the within the last 20 years that I took the periods out of my name that we're in the m butterfly program, it said B period D period, while and that was my name for a while. And then I decided that it was really, for a lot of reasons I didn't want I didn't want to have two names anymore. So I wanted to commit to one name. So I, I encouraged people to call me BD. And I stuck with it. And then I decided, well, that means I have to really change all my credit cards on my my driver's license. So I went to the DMV, and the DMV would not allow me to have my name with periods in it. And it was it came out. Literally it came out b comma D period was my name. And I said I'm not NASA, that cannot be my name. I cannot say that on my driver's license, that that's just horrible. It just sounds terrible, with a comma in the middle of my name. So I just said, Oh, it's great. It looks great without periods Actually, I like it without periods. So I just kept it. But it was the DMV being really weird about it, like being impossible about it, like not allowing me to even put periods in the search field when you were typing, you know that kind of right.

Unknown Speaker 8:45
Yeah, yeah. So that's the name was born as we know it today. Yes, thank you. So I want to talk about how this life changing role came to you. And if you could talk a little bit about how the show and butterfly for you as a really young actor, with not many New York credits yet, ended up finding yourself front and center and winning every award possible for this show.

Unknown Speaker 9:17
Yes, okay. Well, I was living in Los Angeles, I had, I had come to New York, fresh out of like dropping out of college. I was I was very unhappy in my program at college. And I was not learning anything. And I felt very, very stagnant. And I said, I'm just going to go to New York and I, I saved some money and I I eventually just got on a plane and went to New York and I started working, I got my cards and stuff like that. But then eventually I got my first job, which was a tour of a show and then ended up in LA. And I was in LA and then I decided, oh, well here we are now. I'm going to stay here after the show closed, The show ran for about six months. And I stayed there and I started working, I was working, it was doing these small parts and TV shows and in little movies and stuff. And then I got this call from the agent about this play that I had no concept of. And he said, Do you want to fly yourself to New York to read for a Broadway play? And I said, not really, because I was making a living, and I don't know what this thing is. And that would, that would be me spending $300, or whatever it was to fly to New York, or New York for something that doesn't make any sense. You know, because the odds are, whatever. So I said, Well, I suppose I shouldn't say such a thing unless I read the play. And so on Friday, I asked him to get me the play. And then on Monday, the play came in a FedEx envelope. And I read it, like 20 pages of the play. And as the eyes was ripping pages out of the script, you know, reading from page to page, it was just like, an amazing validating experience to read the words of an author who spoke a language that I really understood. And I had, coincidentally, I was studying with Donald hot and my acting teacher in a Hollywood basement studio, like, you know, like a $10 class kind of class. But he was a great teacher. And one of the things he went he was studied with all the actors, studio, bleep people. And he was saying, you know, this is what you are, you're a messenger. And the messenger is the person who breathes life into the author's words and commits to the ideas that the author is trying to convey. And I thought that sounded wonderful. And I said, Well, I'm willing to do that, but I don't really know what that means. And so coincidentally, I read this play, and I thought, Oh, I see what this means now to, to commit to make the the to commit your, your, your soul to be be the messenger of this person's words and their their thoughts and their ideas. And, and that's what helped me to get the part, Donald's and I worked on the part, Donald worked on the part with me for months until the audition was maybe a couple of months until the audition. And I borrowed money from my mom and dad like $99, to get on some cheapy airline, to go to New York to to have this opportunity. And I told them that we were never going to see the money back. And then I wasn't really going to get it. But they were kind of you know, well known people working on it. The director was a famous British director and all of that. And I said, I want to have the experience, I think the experience would be a good one to have. So I went to New York, and I auditioned for the plane and you know, through the whole process of the of the auditions and the callbacks and reading with other actors, and they gave me the part. I never thought I would get the part. But I did say that it felt to me like a life changing part. And I always said, Well, this is this person is going to really, I mean, if this person who gets this part does what they're supposed to do, then they'll it will be really wonderful for them is what I thought. And then I kind of regretted saying that as soon as I got the part. And why the

Unknown Speaker 13:13
pressure of that?

Unknown Speaker 13:15
Yeah, I thought oh, Don't jinx it. You know, you shouldn't say that, that, you know, it was okay to say it when it wasn't the part wasn't mine. It's okay to say that. You thought Oh,

Unknown Speaker 13:27
it's the plan. Exactly. Exactly. JOHN lisco. That's the part 100 talk about john Lithgow. Was he was he cast from the beginning? Or was he someone who came on later?

Unknown Speaker 13:41
No, this is really a good story, because I've never really told this story before. I got cast first. And then I was called by john Dexter and Stuart austro. A few months later, there was a delay in their production, they decided to kind of go later than they were going to go. And so there was a long delay. And they said, Okay, we're ready to cast the leading guy now. And we want you to come to New York and read with them. And so I did so. And the three men were john Lythgoe, Edward Herman, and Brian Dennehy. And it's a really long story, which I probably shouldn't get into, because john Dexter was really not nice to me. And it's a it's a rather traumatic story. But the point is that I read with all three of them. And I secretly fell in love with john Lithgow and I didn't want to say so because I didn't want to them to. I didn't want to tip it or, or be, you know, in the way of it. I think they did ask me my opinion at what David David was, of course, they're the playwright David Wong. And it was really clear that he was he was the guy for the park. I mean, it just, he just just came to life in the partner in a way that was so moving and theatrical and right for the production and he was so He looms so large literally. And, and, and so it was there was just something wonderful about it. And, and then they gave it to him. And, and that began a kind of relationship with him that he was not bargaining for because I was so green. And he, he really, he really taught me at a very early age, what it meant to be the leader of a company, and what it meant to take charge and what it meant to be responsible and sensitive and, and mindful of people's feelings and, and of their experience. And, and it was, it was, it was probably the best part of the experience for me is my relationship with him. He, he really took care of me and and i really i gotta tell you, I really tested his patience, I was really inexperienced, and I, I had a lot of bad habits. And I had a lot of things that I had good instincts, you know, as an actor and all that stuff. And I was good in the part, I guess. But I you know, that that all kind of goes away when you're working with somebody that doesn't really know exactly what they're doing. Mm hmm. And, and he was wonderful. I mean, I, I can't say enough about it, he was constantly thinking of ways to bring it out of me that in a way that wasn't intimidating, or in a way that was wasn't demanding of him, that I could give him what he needed and all of that stuff.

Unknown Speaker 16:31
He was great. When you say that the director was unpleasant during the audition process. Was that true? Were you were you battling with that? or trying to handle that throughout the entire rehearsal process? Or did things find a meeting place, once john came into the mix, that felt safer for you, or were you always having to work in a space where you didn't feel supported?

Unknown Speaker 16:58
This is really interesting, because this was in 1988, and this or even 87, as it started. And it was before the concept of sex harassment. It was before me too, it was before all of these things. And there were there was a lot of game playing going on, that I really don't want to get into. But I don't have to get into the point is that I would absolutely respond to this whole situation in a very different way in 2020, right now, and I was there was already I mean, when I got the part I was warned by people about, about his relationship with young actors and and what that was like. And then it was really interesting the way it played out, because at first I saw no evidence of it. And I thought, Oh, well, this isn't what they said at all. And then it turned at a certain point, there was always a little in indications of it here and there. But I was very naive to it. And and I wasn't I didn't know what to look for. And I and and so these things can kind of, you know, when people when a person is kind of manipulative in a certain way. And with a particularly with a young person, and this is why, you know, advocates for children are, you know, it's such an important thing to understand that a young person, and I wasn't a child, but I was a young person with a very limited experience. And so I'm coming from it to it from a very vulnerable place. And he's the kind of what's the word, a figure, that's a thority figure, and leveraging his authority on me. Right. And, and, you know, like, what is the first thing you or what is one of the major things you're thinking when you get your first Broadway show don't get fired? Right. And, and so, I did deal with that throughout the entire process right up into 12 minutes before the house opened on opening night. And it was in retrospect, I was I'm actually very proud of myself, because I was very focused, and I was very, I kept it together. But it was in when I think back really a nuisance and really kind of insidious and. And so that was that was unfortunate. And, and, and that was one part that john Lithgow stayed out of, because he was not really privy to it. He didn't know he didn't really know what was going on. Right. And, um, but it was it was it was a very interesting education. And it also gives me a real perspective for people that speak up now and that have, that there's a real advocacy for, for the rights of a younger person in a relationship to an older person in a particularly effective theatrical context, because in you know, in our world, we touch each other we do this we do that it's it's it, we there's a lot more leeway than in another office kind of environment. That's right. And, and so there was that going on too,

Unknown Speaker 20:16
right? Was this the first time you had played a woman?

Unknown Speaker 20:21
Oh, no. I had played well, first of all, there was a, there was a legacy of me playing women or, or being in drag throughout my entire, almost my entire acting identity. And it started when my drama teacher did Charlie's and as my senior play as the senior play, and she picked the play so that I would play that part. And there was I was really successful in that part. It was my first like, real leading part in a comedy. And I had a blast doing it. And I understood the why sound seemed to not have a problem with the stigma of, of being dressed in drag. And that was a big part of it. And then there were other things that happened like I got cat Oh, well, then I got cast in law college, I was in the singing ensemble of a college and the singers in the original Broadway production of Lukasz were in one number the lokasi number in drag they weren't cazale as you as we know them, you know, the main core of course, right? Of course in CATIA. foleys is in drag all the time. And then there were the I was like a fisherman, but then in the luggage number when they wanted more people I was in looking and dragging that. And so I was in heels and, and in dresses to show girl and all of that stuff. And I I was really comfortable with it. I mean, I was really good at it. And then when I Oh, before that I was in. This was so amazing. I was in on the Lower East Side, there used to be this theater called Oh, was it It's named after a French theatrical, avant garde theater theater person. And it was called the Bowery lane theatre. It's now a clothing store. And it was the Bowery theatre, and it was called the company was called something was French. Okay, it was a it was a pretty well known company down in that area where La MaMa and all those companies are right, and they were doing this production of a play called epicene the silent woman. And epicene is a cup. It's like a restoration play. And it's about a man who marries this woman who won't speak. And then it turns out that the woman is a man. And I got cast in that part. And I remember that I had to leave to do something else, I got a job somewhere. And I had to give the part up, I never got to do the part. I was all excited about it. And there were costumes made and everything. And then I had to find somebody to replace me. And they were really mad at me. And the person that replaced me was Alec mapa, who, who covered the part on Broadway when I did in butterfly, and then who took the tour and went to LA with me, who I knew was a guy who I grew up with in San Francisco. So I said, Oh, Alec, you you should do this and come to audition for this guy. And Alec came and got at the scene, and then did epicene while I was going off and doing something else I forget what it was. And so that was one thing. And then so there was a college and epicene, and there was there was just thick things that came up every once in a while those were the main ones. And so I was comfortable with it. And I was I had no stigma about it at all, at a time when there was much more stigma than there is now. Yeah, not that that's such a, that's such a, that's such a thing to brag about. But it was, it was a little more challenging at that time to kind of calm yourself about, about your ability to access a different side of you or a side of you, as well.

Unknown Speaker 23:52
So I mean, whether whether you should be proud of it or not. I think that many actors at the beginning of the career, their careers are very concerned with being typecast or being seen in one way. So, so the idea that you just took on these things you loved without self consciousness or without concern for what that means for future casting, which we know having having known your story now, because we are looking back at this, the wide array of roles that you have done is extraordinary. And

Unknown Speaker 24:26
yes, I thanks. And I think that it's part of myself identification as a character actor. I never really wanted to look down on any part. And any the part that was actually if you really want to know the part that was furthest from me was the part that was the most interesting and continues to be so and now. It's just now that I'm getting older that I'm enjoying playing someone that's closer to myself that talks like me and that walks like me or that has my sense of humor and And that's new to me kind of I mean, I really have for many years, like, aside from my being online order, which was rather bland, the rest of it is all kind of character work. And and I think it's because I gravitate towards this a sense of of, I was gonna say stretching, but it really it's like being something that you're not or trying to explore performance styles and aspects of your performance that are as different from your own natural default setting as possible.

Unknown Speaker 25:33
Yeah. Were there parts? First of all, were you familiar? I mean, for those of you who are listening, and butterfly is sort of fictional history. I mean, it's based on a real thing that happened between this Chinese spy played by you. And it's a memory play. So so the context is john Lithgow or whoever plays the role is in a Paris prison. And it was present day at the time you were doing the play? Yes. Back over a 20 year relationship with with

Unknown Speaker 26:09
a this person this person who retired? Yeah, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt. Sorry.

Unknown Speaker 26:16
I'm losing the phrases are called Peking Opera. Am I remembering Yes.

Unknown Speaker 26:20
Using opera star or or performer? Yes. And, and, and and idolizing her and kind of putting her on a pedestal as this kind of ideal kind of feminine mystique kind of Eastern kind of fantasy? And because of that stereotypes

Unknown Speaker 26:39
a little bit on stereotypes,

Unknown Speaker 26:41
yes. And because of that he's unable to see it clouds His judgment as to the actual truth of the person that he's actually in this relationship with. That's kind of the germ of the play, I guess. Now, when

Unknown Speaker 26:53
you talked earlier about, you know, I can say my parents address at the time because social media wasn't sort of hadn't taken over my life as we know it. Yeah. The the even the movie, the crying game had not come out yet. When you were doing this show? Oh, yeah. And you were you were a newcomer and your name did just add in the program? Were you aware of the moment? What was that like for for time, where many audience members could actually come into a show not knowing what the I'm gonna call it a gimmick, even though that's not the right word for it, but the surprise?

Unknown Speaker 27:29
Yeah, I mean, it was there was a hook there was a hook to it, it and and the hook really got people at that time, it would not really me, I think we kind of see, there was a perfectly nice revival that just opened and closed last year or a year or two ago. And, and, and I think we see a lot of things we learned from time going by is that, you know, plays play differently in different time periods. And, and, and the sophistication of the audience at this point, does not really allow there to be any great revelation. Also, David really kind of retooled to play in the revelation is not really as big a part of

Unknown Speaker 28:09
understanding.

Unknown Speaker 28:10
Yeah, understanding.

Unknown Speaker 28:12
Yeah, also that, that it's our hope that it wouldn't be something that someone would want to hide or be shocked by that we live in a time where we would

Unknown Speaker 28:24
the opposite, yes, yeah. The the stigma, the stigma of it fed into the, the the audience's fascination and to the audience's delight in discovering this. And that is a precious kind of thing that happened at that time, that would not happen now. And that's really fun to think back on because that was what made the play fun to do. You could feel the audience. And you could feel the audience kind of catching on, you know, what's the craziest thing, a lot of because it's written right in the play is written into play in the first few lines of the play what the play is about, and people just didn't really hear it. They were very much like the character that is telling them the story, they kind of didn't, or they just took me at face value. And and as the play develops, and the play unfolds, they realize more and more gravity, what he's actually talking about. And then there is this kind of theatrical moment where I unmask myself. And it it, it caused it, it caused a fair amount of what's the word?

Unknown Speaker 29:41
I'm sure there was an audible reaction.

Unknown Speaker 29:44
There was an audible right there was an audible reaction. Well, the one thing that happened was that really basically very quickly, I took my makeup off in front of the audience, and I took my makeup off, and it took four minutes to take my makeup off in this really ritualized, stylized, choreographed kind of thing, but it It was me just sitting at a makeup table, first taking my makeup off, and then dressing my undressing and re dressing myself as a man. And the way the director chose to do this particular moment is he called it an intermission. And I said at the end of it at the end of the scene prior, so yeah, I'm gonna change now you know, you guys go do have a cigarette and do whatever you're going to do, but and I'll meet you back here later. And they all knew that I was going to change, and the house lights came on. And then I sat there for four minutes. And nobody ever, ever, ever moved. They just sat there for four minutes, staring at me taking my makeup off, like some people who didn't know at that point, didn't know what they were even looking at until like three minutes and 45 seconds into it. And then there were these stories of people just like losing their shit. And it was great where people would bring, you know, their unwitting husband or something in

Unknown Speaker 31:01
the bathroom.

Unknown Speaker 31:01
Yes, and you exactly. And then you hear stories of I always constantly heard stories and still hear stories of people who said someone was sitting behind me, and you would not believe the reaction that they had, you know, they just kind of freaked out. So that is something that just could not would not happen. And that that isn't really even a testament to my own performance. It really isn't. It's a testament much more to the time that we lived in, when a man in full non drag drag, if you know what I mean. It was not drag queen drag. It was kind of a different. That was the other thing that was really different. It was not drag queen drag, it was woman drag. And that kind of drag was not something you saw that much. And you just accept it at face value. A guy that was was presenting themselves that way? And

Unknown Speaker 31:57
if you're in America,

Unknown Speaker 31:59
yes, and it proved Yes. Especially especially right. And it proved kind of the core value idea of the play, which is that you can see whatever you want, if you if you want to see it. And that's what most people did when they came and saw it and didn't know what it was going on. They just accepted me at face value.

Unknown Speaker 32:18
And you started winning every award. So by the time you got to the Tonys. What was your sense, going in that night to the award ceremony. And I know you I know you are someone who loved all things theater and watch the Tonys. And so it must have been fantastical all of it. But how did you feel that night? It wasn't bad.

Unknown Speaker 32:47
It was a version of fantastical that is maybe surprising. First of all, it's a little bit like when I said I read the script and I said oh this person is gonna like really clean up, you know? Yes. And then then here we were, and I was like, Okay, well, I didn't really, you know, I didn't want to live under the, the notion that I felt that way. You know, I said that at one time. And I thought no, this you that cannot be where you're coming from when you when we when you go into this experience. And and I also This was the beginning or the the turning point for me of, of appreciating the Tonys in a way that I appreciated them before as an audience member as a fan. And as if a person fantasizing to be an actor, and all of those wonderful things. And I I still feel the giddiness of excitement of the Tony Awards and, and all of that. But when I start really got down to thinking about it, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the notion that we would actually pick five people a year, and then pick one person to be the best one of those five people. It makes no sense to me, it continues to make no sense to me. I find it really uncomfortable. And I think this is one of the reasons why I don't really think about it that much. You know, as soon as as soon as the Tonys were over I sent the Tony to my mom, it's on her mantle, I don't want to look at it. I didn't want to think about the the legacy of it I you know, I attached Tony Award winning to my name and my bio, my agents make me do it. And I am happy to do it because it's a fact. But at the same time, it's fills me with a kind of conflict about why we're doing what we're doing and what the point of it really is. And it can cloud one's agenda. When one is making choices in a in a in a performance. And it can cloud one's agenda when one is choosing what kind of work one wants to do or not. And and I don't want to be clouded by that. And so I'm constantly turning it over in my head. What do I Really think about it, what do I What is my appreciation for it? It has opened doors for me, it has created an identity for me that, like I said, is attached to me now that I cannot deny. And at the same time it is what it is, I guess I guess I try to keep it in a certain perspective. And I encourage other people to try to keep it in perspective about what it is that it really is, it is a celebration of the theater that night is undeniably a celebration of the theater when and in its in its in a medium that deserves and needs it. You know, we've every year we go to people watch it. Do people understand what the theater is, you know, will CBS continue to, to air it because it's you know, it's a never know, but nobody ever watches it. And every year we we pat ourselves on the back and we we turn to each other and we say that was good, right? I mean, that showed Well, we look we came off well, didn't we? Hmm. And and we want that. And we need that. And that's that's where it's valuable to me. That's where it's kind of good. Because at home who say you know, they want to be actors, and they see someone that looks like them. I'm all for that. That's like my thing. I want to answer your question walking in the door. I thought, Well, you know what, I did what I wanted to do, I went through that rehearsal process. I think that I did the work that I wanted to do. Like, I think I was asking myself, did you do this for anybody but yourself. And I really could say at the end that I that I did, because I had a challenge did the direct my relationship with the director was was really interesting and conflict. It was never, it was never impossible or trauma. It was a little traumatic. But it was it wasn't. It wasn't really. It was a situation in which I had to kind of think to myself, okay, where's Where am I? Am I going? Am I in danger of losing what it is that I want to do because of the way that I'm having to negotiate the rehearsal process. And I at the end of the day, and this was when I say 12 minutes to opening night, and I was having this kind of I can't go on kind of feeling and it's dramatic way on opening night, I kind of was able to say no, no, no, no, you have done what you wanted to do. And that was what you wanted. And the people that are in the audience now.

Unknown Speaker 37:21
My mom and my dad and All in the Family and stuff. They were the ones who actually were the the supposedly the recipients of the energy that I was putting into it. And I was glad that I could say that at the end that I okay, no, you know what, dude, I never did this for you. I never doing this for you. And so that is kind of what walking into the Tonys was like, for me, my brother, my older brother, Brian, who was never able to come to the show was my date to the Tonys. And I, he sat by my side and, and he was a very leveling for the most part, a very leveling and very, very open to the all the things that I wanted to bring to it, you know, we're not going to get all excited, we're not going to hope that I win, we're just going to enjoy the evening. And we're going to enjoy seeing all the famous people and being at the rehearsal and doing all of this stuff. And, and I was able to do that and I am happy that I was able to do that and not get kind of caught up in it. And I feel like a lot I feel like, in my day to day life, I'm always trying to remind myself of that, like, okay, let's let's just enjoy the party part. And let's not like get all carried away with with the trappings of of the swag and suitcases full of things that you don't need, that you get, you know, in the, in the red carpet room and, and all of that stuff, that's really easy to do. And, and so that's how I felt well going into it. I was very I said I was very whatever happens happens and in fact I was very it's okay to not when it's really okay. And it's okay to and I so I didn't hope to win or I didn't kind of Stoke that flame. And and I ended up having a good time. And I ended up winning and and and and i think that I would like to say that if I hadn't, I would have been okay. And that would have been nice and that it would have been a fun evening. And there are lots of memories I have of it. And of the people who were a part of it around me that night that I can never forget.

Unknown Speaker 39:29
Well, I usually and this conversation with three questions. You've already answered two of them. I ask who did you bring? And you brought your brother? Did you were any were you allowed to bring any other guests that evening?

Unknown Speaker 39:47
No, I don't think I was I don't remember if I you know, first of all I was I was at a stage in my life where I didn't ask you know, it's like oh, this is this is like

Unknown Speaker 39:55
oh, I get one ticket.

Unknown Speaker 39:56
Oh yeah, right up to whatever I wasn't nowadays. I'd say you know, actually I need 10 Thank you add it back to me. But But no, it was that it was him but then you know was such a wonderful crew and and I had a wonderful dress or who I is very dear to my heart and, and and you know in on that night for a role like that in the track that I had for the Tonys that night you know how to perform scenes which you don't do anymore. And then and then I was all dolled up to perform the scene and then I had to kind of like, do a quick you know, well you know all about the Tony quick change but they took the Tony Quick Change to go get myself in the seat.

Unknown Speaker 40:35
And what did you wear on that night?

Unknown Speaker 40:39
I wore john Dunn who assisted Eiko ishioka the costume designer on m butterfly, magnificent costume designer, gone too soon. JOHN Dunn who was her American assistant and it really helped her through that whole process. Designed me a tux jacket that was a long coat with which was made of silk and leather. And had a like leather yoke on it and Bob Cole bath the the shop in the New York costume shop built it and it had purple lining, and I wore cowboy boots and I wore leather pants I think. I think I wear leather pants and and a white kind of Seinfeld the poet's shirt kind of thing. And

Unknown Speaker 41:27
Hyde Park George Washington. Exactly. Yes. By

Unknown Speaker 41:31
Hamilton.

Unknown Speaker 41:32
In that gray. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 41:36
Yeah. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 41:38
The last question is, where is your Tony? So you were saying at the time you send it to your to Roberta Wang? Oh, yeah, it's still live in her home? Oh, yeah.

Unknown Speaker 41:47
Yeah, it's on her mantel and a little Lucite box she bought to put it in, so it doesn't get dust on it. And it's

Unknown Speaker 41:55
from time to time.

Unknown Speaker 41:57
Yeah, I hardly remember that. It's there. But I can visit it from time to time. A theater at one time wanted to borrow it for a benefit and that was a big kind of a thing and I shipped it to them and they shipped it back to her right and, and, and it's on them you know what, you know, it's like, it's classic. It's It's a classic. My mother anyone's mother kind of situation. It's on the mantel with pictures of my son and her other grandkids and their graduation pictures and you know people's wedding pictures and stuff like that.

Unknown Speaker 42:28
BD Wong. I cannot thank you enough for being on this podcast today. I know how I feel about you. And then thank you for sharing so much of yourself today with clarity and generosity and love. And the Tony goes to is produced by Alan Seales for the Broadway Podcast Network. The music and lyrics for the theme song are written by Georgia for Noosa theme song Orchestration by Alexander Sage million episodes are edited by Derek Gunther. Thank you to parody bill for the graphics. And please don't forget to go to the iTunes Show page and rate and review the show. Thanks for listening excerpt from the Tony Awards used with permission of Tony Awards productions

When BD Wong asked his parents to lend him money to fly to New York for an audition for M. Butterfly he told them he was certain he would not get the job but he could not pass up the opportunity to meet the creative team. Well we know how that story went! Having no Broadway credits he was the first actor cast in the play and was actually involved in the casting process for his co star. All these years later the now very famous actor shares intimate truths about the difficulties he had in the production but also the glorious on stage relationship that developed with the great John Lithgow. Welcome Tony Award winner BD Wong!

Hosted by Ilana Levine, Produced by Alan Seales, part of the Broadway Podcast Network.

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