Each year Actors’ Equity Association awards one male and one female performer with the Clarence Derwent Award, a title bestowed upon the actors deemed most promising that season. In 1988, that actor was B.D. Wong.
Now best known for his role as Dr. George Huang on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, B.D. Wong burst onto the theatrical scene in M. Butterfly opposite John Lithgow. For his performance, Wong won the Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, and Theatre World Award for the role—an unprecedented (and still unmatched feat) by any other actor.
Wong played the role of the Peking opera singer who was the object of the affections of French civil servant Rene Gallimard. (The revival of M. Butterfly, directed by Julie Taymor, opens at the Cort Theatre this fall.) The actor followed up the historic role with Roundabout Theatre Company’s The Tempest starring Frank Langella. Wong worked regionally, working again with David Henry Hwang on his play Bondage, and began making a name for himself in film. Thriving opposite strong co-stars, Wong played the assistant to Martin Short’s wedding planner in Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride Part II.
He returned to Broadway in 1993 for Face Value. The show, also written by Hwang, played eight preview performances and never officially opened on Broadway.
Working at smaller theatres like the McCarter and the Public, Wong came back to Broadway in 1998 for his Main Stem musical debut in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. As the blanket-loving Linus, Wong starred alongside Kristin Chenoweth, Anthony Rapp, Roger Bart, and more in this Tony-nominated revival.
In 2001, he began what would become a long-running engagement with SVU, but Wong continued to make time for theatre, performing at Off-Broadway’s Signature and reputable regional houses like Williamstown, the York Theatre, Bay Street Theatre, and more. The star returned to Broadway as the Reciter in the 2004 revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures.
His solo show, Herringbone, became a passion project of Wong’s. In 2008 he debuted in a McCarter Theatre production of the show before transferring to the La Jolla Playhouse. Later, in 2012, he performed the show as a benefit in New York and released a live recording of the performance in 2014.
Wong continued to collaborate with La Jolla and starred in the 2014 U.S. premiere of The Orphan of Zhao, co-produced by American Conservatory Theater and La Jolla. In 2015 he became the California theatre’s artist in residence.
While Wong remains connected to the theatre, his latest television role landed him his first Emmy nomination. As Mr. Robot’s Whiterose, the leader of the world’s most dangerous hacking organization and a transgender woman, Wong has audiences and critics buzzing.