How Ali Wong Got Keanu Reeves for Netflix’s ‘Always Be My Maybe’
You’d have to look pretty hard to find someone who doesn’t adore Keanu Reeves. With the recent release of John Wick 3, and voicing a new character in the highly-anticipated Toy Story 4, Reeves is everywhere and fans are loving it. Entertainment Tonight put it best recently saying, “the world is obsessed with him” right now.
So how did actress, stand-up comic and former writer for Fresh Off the Boat Ali Wong get Reeves for her Netflix movie Always Be My Maybe?
Wong already has some street cred
Wong has made a name for herself over the past decade, including her two standup specials for Netflix, Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife, and a supporting role on ABC’s American Housewife.
Wong briefly mentioned the premise for Always Be My Maybe in her New Yorker interview in 2016, where she offhandedly said that she and pal Randall Park were hoping to make a romantic comedy based on their own cultural experiences – “our version of ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ ” Wong said. Ergo, the Netflix rom-com was created. The story details the renewed friendship of Marcus (Park) and Sasha (Wong) after 15 years apart, where Sasha is a celebrity chef opening a new restaurant, and Marcus still lives at home with his father and raps for an unknown hip-hop group, according to Glamour.
Why Wong wanted Reeves
Reeves plays himself, sort of. His “character” is an extreme comedic version of himself, according to the Hollywood Reporter, where he consumes minuscule meals from swanky restaurants, shows off his acquired stunt skills to parties and goes on and on (and on) about his work on Hollywood blockbusters.
Wong immediately wanted Reeves, knowing his Chinese-Hawaiian heritage fell perfectly in line with the story. “We thought, ‘Who would be Marcus’s worst nightmare?’ It should be an Asian American icon who’s a great actor and who’s funny but also willing to make fun of himself… [Keanu] was flattered that we remembered he was Asian American,” Wong told The Atlantic.
“It was really important to me that all of [Sasha’s] love interests were Asian-American,” Wong, 37, said to PEOPLE. “In everything I do it’s very important to show my attraction and desire towards Asian-American men.” The perfect candidate? “The only person in the entire universe who fits all those parameters is Keanu Reeves,” Wong told the Hollywood Reporter.
Why Reeves was on board
Turns out, Reeves was a big fan of Wong. According to Vulture, Reeves met with Wong and Always Be My Maybe director Nahnatchka Khan at the Chateau Marmont, where they learned he was an admirer of Wong’s stand-up. “He loved that she was just so ballsy. He was like, ‘You take no prisoners, and I love it,’” Khan told Vulture. “He was like, ‘I would be honored to be part of this love story.’”
“He told me that when he considers doing a project, it’s all about the people, the script and the director,” Wong told the Hollywood Reporter of Reeves. “He must’ve liked all three of those things because he said ‘yes.'”
And when Reeves said he was in, he was truly in. “[Reeves] had read the whole script and was referencing very specific parts like, ‘Well, I have a question about page 80,’” Wong said in the Vulture article. “We’re like, page 80? I had looked at this draft so many times, I don’t even remember what happens on page 80.”
Not only did Reeves deliver, he hit it out of the park (no pun intended). Indiewire reported that he “makes a meal” out of the two scenes he’s in, and the Los Angeles Times states that his role in the Netflix movie has “everyone obsessing.”
“He trusted myself, Ali and Randall to make the joke into what we’d talked about,” Khan told the Los Angeles Times. “… he is not the butt of the joke — he is in on the joke with us.”
“He’s very self-aware and he’s aware of how he’s perceived in our culture,” screenwriter Michael Golamco said in the Los Angeles Times article. “The dude’s a living legend. He’s somebody that has been beloved across generations… He just gives. That’s what Keanu does. He gives.”
Looks like our love-fest with Reeves won’t be stopping anytime soon!