Ever since his multi-hyphenated introduction as Boun in Raya and the Last Dragon, it’s been a challenge to separate the character and his voice actor, Izaac Wang. How can you, really, when the sprightliness, charm and kindness of Captain Boun is a combination that is all sorts of endearing.

So when news broke that he would be docking soon to chat with folks on his newest adventure, Clifford the Big Red Dog, we at JumpCut Online, well, jumped at the chance. In the adaptation of the enduring 1963 children’s book series from Norman Bridwell, Wang plays Owen, a classmate of the lead Emily (Darby Camp) and also the crucial “second brain” in her quest to show love for the colossal scarlet canine in a world that does the opposite. Clifford has been on the big screen before, in 2004’s Clifford’s Really Big Movie, but then he was animated.

Also starring in the film are Jack Whitehall (previously in Jungle Cruise), Russell Wong, Kenan Thompson, Sienna Guillory, Tony Hale, Rosie Perez, Russell Peters, and John Cleese.

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 What was acting with a CGI castmate like?

It was honestly not that hard! There was a puppet, and the puppeteers did a really good job making the puppet seem like a real dog. At certain points I was like, “There’s no way this is an actual puppet, this has to be a real dog…” Inside the dog, the controls were so sophisticated, it could move up and down, left and right, do some weird things. It was crazy. Props to them!

Owen describes himself as an “Asian Oliver Twist.” Was that in the script or ad-libbed? Either way, how did that line/description inform your performance?

That line was an influence for me, in general. Because Owen sort of relates to Oliver Twist, kind of. The line, though, I didn’t create that; that was the writers’ idea, I could never come up with that. Good job to them, actually.

Izaac Wang in CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG from Paramount Pictures. Photo Credit: K.C. Bailey

Regarding Owen’s appearance, did you have any input?

Owen, technically, was supposed to have glasses, but I already wore them. It was better for them. The slicked-back hair was their idea, but they copied my hairstyle. You can sort of see it here, which is a combover. Not really right now—it’s kind of (gestures) this, but then the way I’d usually have it when I wake up in the morning, (gestures) WHOOP! and that’s the good stuff. But some of the characters’ details were based on how I look.

How about Owen’s background?

He is a kind, trusting, loyal and careful kid. And he really cares for Emily. He sees her as his best friend, and he’s also sort of her secret admirer. Owen follows Emily around to make sure she’s OK. (laughs) It’s kinda creepy, but it’s OK, because Emily is OK with that. She sees Owen as one of her best friends!

Izaac Wang, Darby Camp, Jack Whitehall and Rosie Perez in CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG from Paramount Pictures. Photo Credit: KC Bailey.

I think that’s good. At that age we could use someone who appreciates what we’re doing. Now, how did you prepare for the role? Did you know about Clifford beforehand, or after filming did you become more interested in Clifford?

 As a kid, I actually read every single book by Norman Bridwell. I also read all of the comics of Clifford The Big Red Dog, too. I also watched every single cartoon. So Clifford was a big part of my childhood growing up. Being able to be in one of the movies, it’s just basically a nerd-out moment for me, like “I know what he does!” or “Yeah, he does that in the book!”

I like how they included some of the stuff that he did in the cartoon, the book. I honestly didn’t have to prepare for it that much—sure, I read a couple of books, just in case—but I was already such a “Clifford Nerd.”

 “Clifford Nerd,” that should be on a T-shirt somewhere. Thank you for your time, Izaac!

 

Clifford the Big Red Dog will be in theatres and Paramount+ from November 10, 2021