San Francisco native and TV/film/theater actor BD Wong jumped at the opportunity to return to the local stage for Bay Area playwright Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap. Set in 1989, the play revolves around young Manford Lum, a sidewalk basketball player from San Francisco’s Chinatown who talks his way onto a college team for an exhibition game in China. Wong plays the Beijing coach Wen Chang, who served as interpreter when the American coach helped train the Chinese team in a visit years ago. The now-aging, fast-talking American arrives ready to challenge his former protégé, but Lum’s actions steal the show. See it at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater March 6–31. act-sf.org
You are from the Bay Area. What’s your Bay Area origin story? I was born and raised in San Francisco. My childhood home was out on 40th Avenue in the Sunset. My mom and brother are still living in the Sunset.
You won a Tony in New York in 1988 for your Broadway debut performance in M. Butterfly and were most recently back in San Francisco in 2014. Why return to the Geary Theater and A.C.T.? I grew up with the Geary and grew up aspiring to be an actor because of the performances I saw there. Performing on that stage is very personal. It is a deep kind of gratification, like being drafted by your home team. It’s incredible.
How did this opportunity in The Great Leap come about? I did The Great Leap last year off-Broadway in New York. Then I found out they were programming it in San Francisco at A.C.T. I called and asked about it and they asked if I would consider doing it again. It was an opportunity to do the same play in a much bigger space; there’s a completely different orientation to the audience. It’s a different human experience. For an actor, it is so rare to do the same part in a different production. It just never happens.