No (Future) Spoilers, Just Feelings with Mantis and Wong

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In Avengers: Infinity War, the mad titan Thanos snaps his fingers and—spoiler alert!—half the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) disintegrates into dust. Around the world, a collective jaw dropped in shock and sadness. And while Benedict Wong and Pom Klementieff will not divulge the fates of their characters—Wong, Doctor Strange’s trusty comrade, and Mantis, the resident empath for the Guardians of the Galaxy, respectively—they did join Dragon Con Saturday afternoon in the Hyatt to dish how it feels to be a member of the exclusive MCU club and the emotional high it has been to see all the franchises coalesce after ten years of labor and love, saying even they geek out over the other heroes.

Klementieff, who is a Simpsons fan, started acting because as a kid she loved to create characters, read, and watch movies. She loved Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and found the cast welcoming when she joined in Vol. 2. The first scene she ever filmed in the MCU is her favorite—the scene where Mantis touches Drax and feels what he feels. “It was a beautiful scene to shoot,” she said.

Chris Pratt, she said, is not only a great improv artist, but very much Star Lord. The Chris Pratt that you see is the Chris Pratt, while Karen Gillian is nothing like Nebula. Klementieff also loves the Drax/Mantis dynamic as much as the fans do, calling actor Dave Bautista generous. “He’s very sweet. He’s a gentlemen,” she said, continuing that “It was hard to not laugh when he says I’m disgusting.”

She also shut down any possibilities of a romantic connection between the two: “Anyone who thinks that they’re going to be in a relationship, NO!” She described them as buddies, adding later—when asked who Mantis would date or want to kiss—“I don’t think Mantis is sexual,” and eventually comparing the character to a child.

Wong interjected that mystic-art-master Wong would kiss “all of them, all of them,” as the MCU is full of amazing actresses that happen to be stunning. Wong also talked about his early years in the industry, joking that he shed some tears before talking seriously about it being a struggle and a lot of work, especially with so little Asian representation in the ‘70s (other than Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and John Woo) as a guide.

“I used to watch a lot of Spielberg movies,” Wong said, adding that he loved the magic of them, and that, for him, Spiderman was an influence, as he read the comics as a kid. He wouldn’t turn down a tuna melt with that superhero.

For Klementieff, who is mixed race and considers herself French, seeing Halle Berry, who is also mixed, in the X-Men franchise was amazing. Also, she loves Will Smith, for no other reason than he’s just awesome.

But, both actors agreed that Hollywood and the industry is diversifying for the better, saying that—with the success of films like Black Panther, where African Americans finally “got the mic”—it pays. Wong said it’s a matter of pushing producers, since they are the gate keepers. He said actors need to keep asking them, “What are you doing?” and consider becoming writers to tell, and show, their truth, and, of course, “pass the mic around.”

Wong talked about updating Wong, who was initially Doctor Strange’s butler, calling the original iteration as “too servile.”

“I just made [producer] Kevin Feige a cup of tea and he said, ‘no he’s not the guy for that,’” Wong joked.

As for actually filming, Wong enjoyed having magic powers for the first time and working with Benedict Cumberbatch, who he lovingly referred to as “Cumberbund.” He also described the difficulty of filming a scene in New York with extras running round in a simulated wind storm—calling it frenzied, with the main actors looking like salmon swimming upstream. In fact, he slid and fell.

For Klementieff, filming the scene where Mantis lands on Thanos’s shoulders to subdue him was a challenge. It required multiple takes and methods. She had to sit on Josh Brolin’s shoulders and a stunt double’s shoulders while wearing a harness. “It was really hard,” she said. “I had land and grrrr,” adding a hearty growl. She also talked about the stress of filming a scene where she bounces in the background. It was three days of jumping around in a harness, which left her bruised, all for mere seconds of footage.

When asked about how much of the dialogue is scripted or improvised—as there is a lot of funny banter—Klementieff heartily shouted, “Kick names, take ass!” to great applause.

Both said it’s not always fun and games, but that the Russo brothers—who directed Infinity War—allow actors space to play and keep it live and organic, which Wong said adds a nice sheen to things. He said, “I was just kinda enjoying Benedict and RDJ,” (as in Robert Downey, Jr.) and watching them improvise.

Klementieff then talked about portraying a single character for multiple directors. When working on Avengers, she said, “I would call James Gunn,” to discuss whether or not she was staying true to the character he wrote and that they brought to life together.

As for chemistry on and off-set, both said that it was good, but that the actors are just people who have lives and family and, like everyone else in the world, stare at their phones during down time. Between takes, they also chat and eat a lot. Lunches were often fun, as RDJ enjoys hosting group meals for whatever cast he’s working with, something Wong called “Camp Downey.” Klementieff said the Russo brothers would also do “pizza Friday,” with all sorts of delicious pies made special by them. The box even came emblazoned with their faces.

Wong was not amused to hear this, as he never had a “pizza Friday” experience when filming.

But that script. And that snap. They were asked multiple times about what they knew and when they knew it. Klementieff said she insisted on reading the full script, so she was given a password protected iPad and allowed to read it for one day. Afterward, she was told it was a fake script. Wong said sometimes he was told to show up and there was no script.

Later, Klementieff said that Joe Russo “kinda told me” about the snap heard round the world, and that he acknowledged people (i.e., fans and audiences) would be pissed, but she thought it was an amazing end.

Wong deadpanned, “He told you that over pizza, didn’t he?”

While they remained mum on what’s next, they did so with a great sense of humor. Wong said, “Wong and Mantis are going to make a movie together—‘Asians, Assemble!’” Yet, they acknowledged that there may be “unfinished business” to attend to and that “as long as they’ll have us” they’re game to continue in the MCU.

Wong, who is a master of accents, treated the audience to several, and Klementieff talked about creating Mantis’s voice. “I’m trying to sound American,” she said. “I just try to enjoy every word I’m saying.”

When asked about their favorite villain in the MCU, or any comic, Klementieff thought Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger was awesome, while Wong loves the Green Goblin and Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio’s version specifically) and mentioned that he wouldn’t mind crossing over to the MCU’s TV world to hang with the Daredevil or the Punisher. Klementieff would hang with Luke Cage, saying she’d just seen Mike Colter in passing.

As for their legacy, neither knows what that will be or whether they will even join another franchise. Klementieff said she just wants to do a revenge picture with lots of action and “kill everyone.”

“Oh,” she interjected suddenly, “and I want to do a movie with horses.”

Wong then told the audience that Klementieff can sing well, so she should perhaps do a musical with horses where Wong can be her sidekick.

“Yeah,” she shouted, “let’s do it!”

Sold: “Asians, Assemble! The musical.” Anyone? Anyone?

About the author

Kelly McCorkendale is a dog-lover, avid quilter, and occasional creative writer who loves the color orange and boycotts cable (except Game of Thrones because, well, what if winter is coming!?). After college, she realized poets weren’t in demand, so she shipped off to Madagascar with Peace Corps. Since then, she’s found a niche working on health systems in Africa but has a long-list of life tasks yet to be fulfilled--such as perform blackmail, learn a trade, and become a competitive eater. She has an MA in International Education, believes rice is the elixir of life, and, in high school, won the best supporting actress honor for the state of Missouri. She may also recite poetry (her first love) when imbibing in alcohol.

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