Ming-Na Wen: Family is everything in 'Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai' series

Season 1 of "Gremlins: Secrets of Mogwai" is now streaming. Image courtesy of Max
1 of 5 | Season 1 of "Gremlins: Secrets of Mogwai" is now streaming. Image courtesy of Max

NEW YORK, June 25 (UPI) -- Screen icons Ming-Na Wen and BD Wong say the importance of family and protecting the vulnerable are central themes of their animated series, Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai.

"What's really important in the story is the family dynamic and the love, the connection," Wen told reporters in a recent Zoom interview. "That way you can really relate to and feel for the characters."


"It's delightful and entertaining and intergenerational and culturally resonant and has representation. That is positive to me," Wong added.

"This sense of family and the relationships as a family are very sweet and very warm and positive examples for families everywhere of all colors and all the different nationalities and backgrounds. So, that's always good for me. If I can have a side dish of that with everything that comes with it, then I am really happy."


Jurassic Park alum Wong and The Mandalorian actress Wen -- who play husband and wife Hon and Fong Wing in Mogwai -- are old friends who previously collaborated on many projects over the years, including Mulan, All-American Girl, Law & Order: SVU and Nora From Queens.

"Even when we are not working in the same room, I can hear his voice," Wen said of her co-star with whom she doesn't always have the luxury of recording her lines.

Wong added: "We do know each other's rhythms. There are many times where they would say, 'As you see in the script, Ming says this...' And I'm like: 'Oh, I know what that's going to be like. I get it.' And then we would play off of each other. That doesn't come from nowhere. That comes from years of understanding someone's energy."

Now streaming on Max, Mogwai is a prequel to the 1984 live-action horror-comedy, Gremlins.

Written, directed and produced by Tze Chun, it is set in 1920s China and follows the adventures of the adorable, magical Mogwai critter Gizmo (AJ LoCascio) and members of the Wing family (Wen, Wong, James Hong and Izaac Wang) who adopt him.


"Tze did a lot of research and did a lot of heavy lifting to give us the gift of this fully fleshed out and respectful and somewhat culturally authentic mythology," Wong said.

Wang voices young Sam, who will grow up to be the mysterious shop owner Mr. Wing in the Steven Spielberg-produced Gremlins and its 1990 sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

The boy is charged with the task of protecting Gizmo from evil industrialist Riley Greene (Matthew Rhys) who wants the critter for himself, knowing that when Gizmo gets wet, he spawns other Mogwai, which then turn into dangerous, murdering monsters if fed after midnight.

Wen and Wong -- who are both parents in real life -- play characters who are fiercely protective of their young son Sam and his new pet.

"We never want to see our kids hurt, emotionally or physically," Wen said. "Damn it, if that happens, my instinct [kicks in] and I will fight, protect and just do everything I can. I think we just innately have that in us from our own personal experience to offer the characters."

The actress said these feelings extend to her elderly father (Hong) in the show, as well.


"It's funny how you become the parent to your parent," Wen said.

"Don't get in trouble! Don't do this! Don't do that! She is parenting Grandpa, as well, and she leans on Hon a lot, like I lean on my husband a lot, for support and encouragement."

Hong, who is on a career upswing after starring in the Oscar-winning Everything Everywhere All At Once -- described the role of Grandpa as a natural fit for him.

"I am 94 years old now, so I maybe passed Grandpa!" he said. "Grandpa was easy. It was like falling off the log. All I had to do was talk and the dialogue was very easy. It was a lot of fun doing the whole thing."

Despite his advanced age, Grandpa seems younger than Sam because he is still mischievous and loves adventure when viewers first see him in the series.

"I think the audience, especially the children, will enjoy what is going on with Grandpa. Why is he spouting off about things and no one believes him?" Hong said.

"It takes the journey of this [show] for them to find out that I do know the secrets of the Mogwai."

Wen and Wong said they were fans of the original Gremlins films and were eager to continue its legacy with Mogwai.


"I love anything that is funny and dark and kind of scary. That combination of things really works for me," Wong said.

"There wasn't a lot of stuff like that at the time when I grew up. It was really refreshing, actually," he added. "There's this kind of seemingly innocent trapping that kind of pulls you in. It's all cute and stuff and then it turns terrible."

Wen added: "Steven Spielberg is good with that, like Jaws. Start off with a tranquil, peaceful beach town and then it turns horrifically wrong!"

Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai has already been renewed for Season 2.

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