Alex Wong photographed by Clinton Gaughran for AfterElton
Ever since Alex Wong burst onto the scene during the seventh season of FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance in 2010, we haven’t been able to get enough of the Canadian wonder. Whether he was performing one of his stunning solos, dancing with fellow faves Robert Riordan or Kent Boyd, or his collaborations with All-Stars like Stephen “tWitch” Boss, it seemed like he was a lock for winning the competition.
However, as SYTYCD fans know, his time on the reality competition show came to an abrupt end due to an Achilles injury suffered during rehearsals. That misfortune sidelined Wong for the rest of the season. Then, last summer when his injury was healed and he was set to return as one of the SYTYCD All-Star dancers, it was Wong’s other Achilles tendon that was injured, benching him yet again.
During his lengthy recuperation, Wong stayed in touch with fans regularly by posting photo and video updates on Facebook and Twitter. But was also wise to take his healing slow and is now poised to for a very big 2012. There’s a new music single, “Crave,” a movie, Broadway and, hopefully, a return to SYTYCD this summer to finally take his rightful spot as one of the All-Stars.
We recently sat down with Wong at the West Hollywood staple, The Abbey, to chat about his experience on reality shows, just where in the healing process he is, his work on Broadway and Smash, of course, his future with So You Think You Can Dance.
AfterElton.com: I knew you, of course, from SYTYCD, but then I found out you sang. And then I saw you are in an upcoming movie called The Ballet Dancer. And you also have a clothing line?
Alex Wong: I do. I have my merchandise line and it’s just a few items. Shorts, sweatpants, a gym bag, tee shirts in five or six different colors. Stuff like that. It’s basically for dancers because I teach a lot.
AE: You’re doing so many different things, is that something that’s just a part of you by nature?
AW: Well, I’ve been singing since I was young, but I guess the injury has given me a little bit more time to focus on a few other things. So it’s been nice in a way that I’ve been able to pursue things that I wouldn’t normally have been able to.
AE: And you even tried out for American Idol this season!
AW: I had auditioned on Idol on a whim just because it was something that I always wanted to do. My friends would always joke. They were like ‘oh my gosh, you should audition for Idol. You should audition for Idol!’ And, you know, dance always came first. So I was still on crutches actually when I auditioned for Idol. I was in New York and I saw on Facebook that they were coming to Jersey, and I just thought ‘well, I might as well just go.’ Yeah, it was a great experience.
AE: Speaking of reality shows like SYTYCD, how much do they mean to a career? I’m sure it’s a boost in terms of people knowing who you are, but as far as the career and the business side of it, does it have a major effect?
AW: Yeah, I think it definitely gives you a nice solid launch pad, and then you can kind of choose to do what you want with it after. It puts you in the public spotlight. So anything that can kind of put you in that limelight, it gives you a little bit more opportunity to do things.
AE: With shows like this and Dancing With The Stars, people really know who dancers are now, when they would only be able to name maybe Baryshnikov ten years ago. Is it weird when people recognize you?
AW: It’s not weird, but it’s something that is interesting. I put two and two together I guess. I was on TV, so obviously people are going to recognize me, so it’s not weird in that sense. But it’s very nice to have people recognize you for something that you do and something that you love. Most people that come to me they all just say ‘I’m big fan of your dancing,’ and it feels really good. And also with coping with my injuries and stuff like that, people always ask me how I’m doing. So it’s always good to have that positive energy thrown at you.
AE: Was all the Tweeting and posting on Facebook during your recovery helpful for you in the healing process?
AW: Yeah, it was great just because any sort of positive energy is always good. I think it helped me kind of keep myself together and keep going.
AE: So now where are you officially with with your injury?
AW: I’m doing well. This second injury has actually recovered a lot faster than my first one. At this time last year I wasn’t jumping yet. I didn’t start jumping until the very end of February. So I’m two-and-a-half months ahead of where I was last year, which is great. I’m dancing full out and medically speaking I’m a hundred percent. But just because the amount of physical activity I do is so crazy, I’m not back a hundred percent dancing-wise, but it’s very good.
AE: How does an injury or injuries affect you mentally? Do you constantly think about it, or do you have to just let that go and still just give it your all?
AW: I try not to think about it because when you have an injury it’s not nice to always remember it, especially when you’re dancing. I mean, I love dancing freely, to have no limits, so I try not to think about it. But especially during the rehab process, I have to be careful that I don’t just kind of go crazy and let it go. Or not warm up properly and things like that. So I do have to be very careful about that, especially in this timeline where it’s still quite sensitive.
AE: How did Newsies come about?
AW: It’s funny. I had auditioned for Aladdin last spring and they were doing out of town tryouts to kind of put together the production. And I got it, but I was supposed to do So You Think You Can Dance All-Stars. So because it kind of overlapped timewise I wasn’t able to take it. And so I had told my agent ‘Let’s not do Broadway for now because I don’t think I can do a long contract because there’s so much coming up.’
So come December I was actually in Hollywood for American Idol and my agent calls me and he says, ‘I’m on the phone with Disney Productions and your name came up and they’re wondering if you’re interested in doing Newsies?’ I guess they needed some new cast members because they had already done their tryouts in Jersey a few months back.
I talked it over with my family just to kind of bounce ideas back and forth to see if it was a great idea, and it was just too good of an opportunity to miss. I’ve always wanted to do Broadway, and it’s tough to find a show that will sign you for just a few months and yet you’re Broadway original cast. It’s a Broadway debut and I get to sing. I get to dance. So I decided to take it…I’m very excited.
AE: What’s your role in the show?
AW: It’s Newsies so it’s basically an entire cast of newspaper boys, and they kind of make the show. There’s one lead guy and that’s played by Jeremy [Jordan] and so the rest of us are just newspaper boys. I don’t know if there’s much differentiation between us, but I’m a Newsie!
AE: And the last time we talked you had done the Smash pilot (Wong was part of the ensemble in Megan Hilty’s baseball number). Anything else coming up there?
AW: If I had to pick the most ideal thing that could possibly happen to me it would be to get a recurring, actual role on Smash because I’m getting into more acting things and singing things. I did the pilot and then I got injured so I wasn’t able to do any episodes for awhile. It was surprising to me because I didn’t think I’d be ready until February or March but early December I started to feel like ‘Okay, I think I might be ready.’ I told my agency, and then literally the next week I was booked for another episode on Smash. I filmed episode eight, I believe.
AE: In the audition video for Idol you talk about Katharine McPhee, but the number in the Smash pilot is with Megan Hilty. Have you since been able to meet Katharine?
AW: I’ve seen her quite a few times, and we chat but we actually haven’t done a dance together. In the pilot, I worked a lot with Megan and then the last number we did [for episode 8] we also worked a lot with Megan. So I haven’t had any dances with Katharine yet, but it was funny because [McPhee] actually sings Over the Rainbow for like a split second in the pilot.
AE: Let’s talk about your music single, “Crave”, which I bought on Itunes. It’s a fun dance song.
AW: I was asked to sing a song for the end of a short movie so I said ‘Okay, great.’ You know, I’ll go in, I’ll sing the song and it’s done, but when I got there, there was some music and it didn’t have lyrics yet. I didn’t feel that the background music was really singable. It’s kind of very loungy and not really my style. And so he said, ’I really want you to like this song.’ And that completely changes things because, when you do work you don’t have to necessarily like it. Even if you don’t like it there’s so much you can learn from it in terms of doing things artistically. So I said, ’Okay, well, if you want me to like it then we need to change things.’ So we started changing things, and one thing led to another and eventually it became a song, and then the song became so different from the short film that we couldn’t use it for the short film anymore. That’s the point where it became a single and then we really let it fly, and it changed and it became a dance single.
AE: Okay. Are you’re dating? Or single?
AW: Yeah, I’m single right now.
AE: In terms of dating, since people do recognize you, does that impact things at all?
AW: I mean, yeah, sometimes people know who I am. I don’t know. I just feel like I’m still me. It doesn’t make a difference to me.
AE: Okay, talk to me about the film you did, The Ballet Dancer.
AW: So this guy [Scott Eriksson] contacted me after I auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance the first time [Wong had auditioned for Season Five but was unable to join due to prior commitments with the Miami City Ballet]…he asked me to do a short film, and I wasn’t available. And then I got injured so it’s been a long time in the thought process of his. So it was nice because I got to dabble into acting a little bit more. It’s a short film about a ballet dancer and basically it’s about me and another girl (played by Cindy Huang) and we’re in love and we do a dance together, a ballet dance, which is great because I haven’t done ballet for a while. So it was nice to kind of do that again. I’m in white tights and everything is, like, wow.
AE: I saw the pictures on the film’s Facebook page. And I was like ‘Okay, those tights are unforgiving. You can’t hide anything.’
AW: Oh my gosh, I know. [laughs] I didn’t want to wear them, actually. I told him I was going to wear black tights and the director was like ‘No, it has to be white’. And I was like ‘Oh my gosh, are you serious? You just don’t understand. I can’t wear white tights.’ I mean, he loves the way it looks. But basically we’re in love and it fast forwards to 25 years later and she’s old. I died and we had two children and they want to put her into a retirement home because she’s always still talking to me as if I’m always there. So some of the scenes you see me actually relating back to her and some of the scenes she’s talking to a blank space, and it all kind of revolves around dance. I think it’s got a great concept and a nice storyline. It was lovely to be able to work with Scott Erickson and just really nice to be able to get into film. It was a nice introduction.
AE: So what’s your status with this summer’s SYTYCD? Any chance you’ll be a part of it?
AW: I don’t know. I really hope so. Last year I was supposed to start as an All-Star but then I ruptured my other Achilles five days before I was supposed to start. I really hope that they would take me on as an All-Star again this year. I would love that. All the past contestants are considered for All-Stars, so I guess I can say yes, I’m being considered.