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Russel Wong and Isaiah Washington (Romeo Must Die)
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AsianConnections Jim Ferguson Interviews
Romeo Must Die Co-stars Russell Wong
and Isaiah Washington
Jim Ferguson:  Russell and Isaiah. Congratulations on "Romeo Must Die."  Good job! Once it starts, from the beginning to the end you're glued right there. You don't lose it. Will you both agree that it does follow to a certain extent, Shakespeare's basic plot of "Romeo and Juliet?" The two families?

Isaiah Washington: Oh yes, definitely.

Russell Wong: In that sense, yeah. Both families at war.

Jim Ferguson:  Of the Asian and black families.

Russell Wong: Perceived to be against each other.

Jim Ferguson:  But there are other subplots. Usually, in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," it was the uncles that did all the dirty work. So your characters, Mak and Kai....

Isaiah Washington:   Sort of taken from "Othello" and "Julius Caesar" and kind of borrowed from some other wonderful pieces. If you noticed that. (Laughter)

Jim Ferguson:  I think it's important that we see Jet Li, an Asian in a romantic lead, would you agree Russell?

Russell Wong: I would agree. I think it's a good opportunity for him. A good opportunity for a lot of Asian American actors and performers.

Jim Ferguson:  I love the football scene. The scene in the part with Jet.  Was that fun?

Isaiah Washington: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun. And Jet is a lot of fun. He was very very open. Still is.  Very very generous. You know, I had a good time with him last night with Mr. Chow at the party, that Joel Silver put together for everyone. And all the people from the soundtrack were there. And he's going to be a very formidable star.  He's going to move into the system pretty easy.

Jim Ferguson:  I like the film in the sense that it was kind of a clash between two cultures.  What's this hip hop Oakland stuff, Isaiah?

Isaiah Washington: Oh, it's very powerful.  Hip hop is a multi-billion dollar industry. I mean, the guys that are hip hop artists were wearing jewellery that was probably my weekly salary on this movie. (Laughter) You know, so it's worth a lot, it's very powerful and very dynamic.  So it's definitely a huge marketing tool which Joel Silver was smart enough and innovative enough to realize, "let's get the studio to put some powerhouse talents behind this and make this kind of movie, and bring both these elements together called hip hop culture and action and music, mix it up, and throw it up on the screen and see what happens." And I think we are all going to know what's going to happen.

Jim Ferguson:  Oh yeah.  And Aaliyah is just beautiful.  I couldn't believe it was her film debut.  You have one great fight scene. There's a couple, but I mean, a lot of choreography involved in that, Russell, is it a lot of rehearsal and hard work?

Russell Wong: Yeah, it is a lot of rehearsal.  I started out in martial arts about 17 years ago, on and off over the last 17 years, and had met the fight choreographer, Corey Yuen in Hong Kong.  So kind of planted the seed back then, and was always looking forward to working with the Hong Kong martial arts directors and Jet Li.  It was always kind of like on my wish list and it kind of finally manifested.  I've been working on other things in dance and acting and martial arts, and the opportunity sort of presented itself, and so I put a lot of time and a lot of rehearsal into the fight scenes.

Jim Ferguson:  You looked pretty cool with the sun glasses.

Isaiah Washington: Oh, he was always cool.  He was always cool. (Laughter)

Russell Wong: Kai, Kai is cool.  You know? The hair didn't move.  (Laughter)

Isaiah Washington: I had for the first time, actually I saw the first 25 minutes of the film, and I didn't realize how much I was missing of him.  Yesterday I was going on and on and on about him, and how he looked in the final scene, not realizing how he looked in the beginning and the middle, and the end. So, I was like, wow, this is great!

Jim Ferguson:  So, these are the bad guys, believe it or not, in this film.  But they are really not so bad, you can tell that, Russell and Isaiah, and again, congratulations. Don't miss "Romeo Must Die."

AsianConnections wishes to thank Jim Ferguson, Russell Wong, and Isaiah Washington for contributing their time and input for this interview.


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