During the first lockdown, Jason Wong found himself rewatching a lot of old Silent Witness episodes. “I was watching the reruns,” he tells RadioTimes.com over the phone in late August. “That’s what I was doing over lockdown. I know it sounds really cliche but I genuinely was rewatching it. And then I got a call saying you’re up for Silent Witness and I was like – ‘that’s crazy because I’ve just watched the last four seasons of it!'”
Wong is the latest addition to the main cast of the long-running forensic crime drama, joining Emilia Fox and David Caves starting from this week’s double-header Bad Love. His character, Adam Yeun, is an enthusiastic pathologist who joins the Lyell Centre following the departure of Clarissa Mullery (Liz Carr) and the death of Thomas Chamberlain (Richard Lintern) last series, and to begin with, he doesn’t find himself making many friends in the new job.
“I would say he’s a little bit over-keen,” Wong says of the character. “He wants to do a good job but he’s a bit impatient, he wants things done now, he wants the quick, rapid flow version of things. And so his impatience can sometimes rub off the wrong way because he is so eager to please and so eager to do well.
“So we sort of see in the first couple of episodes that he steps on people’s toes, but unintentionally, not doing it to annoy people. He just wants to do a great job and impress Dr Alexander!”
In his first appearance, Adam clashes with Jack Hodgson in particular – with the latter not taking too kindly to the newcomer’s rather cocky manner. But Wong says that as the series progresses, and as the characters get more used to each other’s contrasting personalities, they do begin to form more of a stable working relationship and learn how to work as a team.
“They do have their bumpy start, Jack gets a bit irritated with Adam and there’s a little bit of back and forth in their dynamic,” he says. “But they eventually find it, and they build that trust with each other through a couple of incidents that happen.
“But there is that question of trust between them both,” he adds. “Because I want to impress so much and some of these things that happen might not always come across as honest and sincere, and Jack’s a bit dubious. He’s just normally like that, he’s just a bit dubious and a bit wary about what people say and do. And sometimes what I say and do contradicts that whole situation.”
Jack and Nikki might not have been the most welcoming to Adam, but Wong says his real-life experiences as a newcomer on set couldn’t have been more different. He knew Fox already having worked with her on the ITV drama Strangers, and he says she was an enormous help in terms of getting him up to speed – claiming that he’s “never worked with such a giving actress before.”
“It’s not easy, it’s like going to school for the first day,” he says. “It’s the same thing for me to go on set the first day, going onto this really established show. And it’s sometimes a bit nervous and daunting, but they definitely put my nerves at ease.
“And David Caves is lovely, he’s just the funniest guy. I’m also supposed to say that he’s charming, he’s really good looking…” he laughs. “But he was really lovely, like with small technical things he’d say take a moment there, don’t rush, because there are certain parts of the script that are difficult.”
In the early stages of the job, perhaps the biggest challenge for Wong was learning some of the trickier scientific words and jargon that his character uses. Silent Witness has never shied away from using accurate and often complex scientific language, and although Wong says he tried to do as much research as possible into pathology, there were some aspects of the script that read like a foreign language to him.
“I’m an actor, and it was the hardest thing to say all this pathology chat!” he says. “One of the writers, I think for episode three, is a doctor and literally it was some of the most complicated words I’ve ever seen in my entire life, I was like what the heck am I saying?
“And it’s not just one or two words, it’s a sentence of long words I’ve never heard in my life before. And as much as you’re having to learn all these amazing, complicated words, you’ve got to say them like you’re ordering a meal at McDonalds or Starbucks. And that was the challenging thing, but that was where I was watching Emilia and David Caves just saying these complicated words so effortlessly.”
Pathology jargon wasn’t the only thing that Wong had to pick up quickly while working on the show. In his very first episode – which he picks out as one of his favourites from the series – Adam has several interactions with a deaf character (played by Rhiannon Jones), who arrives at the Lyell Centre claiming to be Jack’s niece. Wong was asked to learn British Sign Language for these scenes, and while he admits the prospect of picking it up from scratch was initially a little daunting, he says it was a thoroughly worthwhile experience.
“When they first told me I was like, ‘Whoa, I’ve got all the pathology words as well as learning sign language’,” he says. “And it was really daunting in the beginning. But actually, it was really nice working with the coach, and I found it a lot easier. Sign language is a lot more simple than a lot of people think it’s going to be – so for me, it was a really nice moment.”
And Wong says there are lots of nice moments for his character that fans can look forward to during the series. He teases that we’ll get to learn more about Adam’s personal life – and says that he spoke at length with the writers and producers to ensure that his family life was properly shown on screen, in part because it offers fans something a little different.
“What I can say is that Adam is definitely a family man,” he says. “And you do get to meet some of his family in the episodes. And actually it’s a very nice, sweet, tender moment because he’s got a son and you see his son. And that was fun to shoot because it was a three-year-old who came onto the set, and I don’t know if you’ve ever worked with three-year-olds, but he definitely kept me on my toes. But he was so good and just so free to work with.
“But I guess when you see Nikki Alexander, you don’t see that family relationship so much there, or with Jack as well. They’re both single characters, and you don’t see them with any children. So it’s nice to have that moment with myself and my family on screen – and how the other two react when I bring my child to work, for example.”
In terms of other highlights from his first series on the drama, Wong singles out a scene he shares with Emilia Fox that saw him divulge some information about his past. This moment was particularly special for him because it allowed him to do something he’s had little opportunity to do in his acting career so far: show his vulnerable side.
“I’ve played a lot of gangsters, tough guys, all these police officers and I’ve never really had much of an opportunity to play vulnerability,” he says. “And so there’s a moment where my character is very vulnerable and sharing something from his past to Dr. Nikki Alexander. And it was a really nice moment to be able to do that and have that moment with Emilia Fox on screen. And yeah, it was just nice to be vulnerable and play vulnerability on camera.”
Wong himself also sometimes felt a little vulnerable on set – although for a rather different reason. He says that some of the more grisly aspects of the show took a certain amount of getting used to, and there were a few times in the beginning where he found himself feeling rather queasy when dealing with blood and gore.
“I’ve got quite a weak stomach,” he says. “So when I had to see all the gore and blood, even though you know it’s fake you’re still just going like what’s that, it looks so real because the makeup team and the prosthetic crew are so good at their job. Even though you know the blood is like golden syrup mixed with colouring you go ‘wow that is grim’.
“But Emilia and David have been there for so long that David would just be there eating a biscuit and having a cup of tea while we’ve got this corpse on the table!”
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Fingers crossed that Adam can stay a part of Silent Witness long enough to act just as blasé, and Wong says that he certainly hopes fans will get to see a lot more of him going forwards. For now, though, he’s just excited to have joined such a well-established show – and reckons that his arrival will take the show in some exciting new directions.
“Hopefully the fans find this season slightly different,” he says. “Obviously, you got two characters exiting from the main story arc and myself going in there. Hopefully, that can bring a different level of energy and a different… something that Silent Witness fans might not have encountered or seen before.”