Warning: Spoilers ahead for Netflix's 3 Body Problem.


When David Benioff and DB Weiss cast Game of Thrones, they needed two key actors to say yes - Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage. This time around, for their biggest and most ambitious project since, Netflix's 3 Body Problem, it was Benedict Wong.

In fact, just one conversation with co-creators Benioff, Weiss and Alexander Woo made it clear just how important Wong was to making the wildly ambitious adaptation of Cixin Liu's weird and wonderful hard sci-fi novels.

The series follows a group of tight-knit scientists who have to team up with a counter-terrorist operative (Wong) to stop an unknowable threat.

"I got the call off Dan, David and Alex on Zoom, and it was very suspicious why there were three showrunners for this mystery project. There was no script at the time," Wong recalls, speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com.

More like this

"As soon as I heard their names, Dan, David, Alex, I said, 'Is this a good part?' and they said, 'That, we can't tell you.' And it was like, 'Please tell me,' and then [in the tone of their voice], 'It's a good part.'

"They gave me this character breakdown, the parents from Hong Kong, they moved to Manchester, he's born there, after 20 years he moved down to London. I said, 'Guys, it sounds an awful lot like me.' And then they just confessed, 'Yeah, we copied your Wikipedia page.'"

Benedict Wong as Da Shi in 3 Body Problem sitting down smoking
Benedict Wong as Da Shi in 3 Body Problem. d Miller/Netflix

"I remember Dan and David said when they were casting Game of Thrones, it was two key members that they needed to cast - Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage - and they said, 'For this one, it's you,'" he adds.

"I started to dive into the first book, and the second, and I just thought, 'This is so dense.' I had to keep going back to the chapters. I was getting really confused with the game. I was like, 'How [are they] going to film this? It almost feels unfilmable.'

"It's a daunting task, and you just think, 'Wow, this is such a heavy gauntlet to pick up,' and I'm all about the challenge - and I was on board. And with that, you've got this incredible cast, this ensemble that I'm so proud to be a part of."

Despite Wong's initial struggle with the novels, his character, Da Shi, is one of the most faithfully adapted.

While major changes have been made to the series (which Cixin Liu actually approved in his first meeting with the creators), Wong's Da Shi is exactly the no-nonsense, grouchy and steadfast man we meet in the books, albeit with a slight adjustment in backstory.

"I did a couple of passes of the book, and selfishly just really honed in on Da Shi, and he just came across as... he just tends to just speak his mind. He's the class disrupter, he's highly skilled.

"As [great] as the Oxford Five scientists are in their ability, he's brilliant at his job as well. You just leave him to his own devices, he's one of those people where he's kind of unfireable.

Liam Cunningham and Benedict Wong in 3 Body Problem gathered by a table looking concerned
Liam Cunningham and Benedict Wong in 3 Body Problem. Netflix

"As Cixin had given his blessing to Dan, David and Alex to recalibrate this as a global story, but yet, keeping the Asian spine of these characters, with Da Shi now being from Manchester, it was perfect. It's that sarcastic sort of swagger that that really lends to it."

Never one to do things by halves, Wong tracked down an actual counter terrorist operative to learn the ins and outs of the job, and added his own details to the series.

"I was lucky to find someone and fire as many questions [as I could]. Ultimately, there's a lot of sacrifice and dedication, a single-minded laser focus that he has. And everything else falls to the wayside.

"It's not James Bond, it's completely the other end - terrible diets, really kind of unkempt, washing everywhere, it's just constantly on the go."

While Da Shi is one of Wong's best roles to date, he's no stranger to winning over audiences, particularly when it comes to his role as Wong, once a sidekick to Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange and now the Sorcerer Supreme in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Recalling how he first landed the role, he explains: "I was doing The Martian at the time with my friend Chiwetel Ejiofor, he was telling me ,'Yeah, I'm doing this Doctor Strange, look on the internet.' Then [there was] this character, he's kind of like a little bit on the side, and it said Wong - and my jaw dropped.

Benedict Wong as Wong wearing a big coat talking
Benedict Wong as Wong. YouTube/Marvel

"I don’t have an agent now, so I didn't know how to get involved. I tried the petition route by asking Chiwatel to sign it and to get Benedict Cumberbatch to sign it, called 'Wong for Wong', which he wasn't really interested in doing.

"I was filming Marco Polo, and I got this mystery email from Marvel/Disney, saying we'd like you to audition for Lee, which with Wong is like Smith and Jones - so they couldn't kid me.

"I went on tape, I did some tweaks in Slovakia, and then I found out in Malaysia, and it's kind of just spiralled into a much beloved character - which I’m all for.

"Now he's got the promotion of being the Sorcerer Supreme, we'll see what lies ahead. You know, I'm a massive Marvel fan, so it’s a win-win."

Rumours are rife that Wong will be back, but when exactly? Sheepishly pausing, he cautiously answers: "Somewhere in the future, I think he might come back."

As for his big hopes for Wong? "Now that he's Sorcerer Supreme, there's so much scope and leadership that he has now, and we'll see where he goes. Maybe Strange is the sidekick now."

Plus, with the return of Black Mirror confirmed, Wong, who starred in the season 3 episode Hated in the Nation, is "manifesting" another role.

"I'd love to [return]," he says. "I love Black Mirror. I bumped into Charlie Brooker on Saturday at My Neighbour Totoro - you don't want to over-hijack him, so you just give him a little nod, I don't know, do some jazz hands in front of him [to let him know] you're available!

"I love the series. I'll manifest it out there!"

As for 3 Body Problem, the series ends on an uncharacteristically hopeful note thanks to Da Shi, hinting at future seasons.

The final scenes see him giving a rousing speech to Jin (Jess Hong) and new Wallfacer Saul (Jovan Adepo) about how humanity isn't done for just yet.

Da Shi is now assigned to protect Saul at all costs - a mission proven almost impossible in the show's final episode.

"They've assigned him to Jovan Adepo's character and he's got to gee up these scientists, and has literally got to get them back on track. They are coming and there's nothing we can do. There seems to be a bit of a Henry V rousing speech he makes to them, and then it's like, 'Yeah, let's get back to work.'"

3 Body Problem is available to stream on Netflix now. Sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

Check out the rest of our Sci-Fi and Fantasy coverage, or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what’s on tonight.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 10 issues for only £10 – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.