3 Body Problem Actors Discuss Key Moments, Story Roles, and More

Game Rant speaks with the cast of Netflix’s 3 Body Problem about the challenges and joys of playing their characters and adapting this sci-fi story.

Science fiction has been one of the most popular genres for decades, and Chinese writer Liu Cixin’s trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past has been hailed as one of the best sci-fi trilogies, consisting of the titles The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End. Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B Weiss, joined by Alexander Woo, have now adapted the groundbreaking books to screen with their new series 3 Body Problem, which is available to stream now on Netflix.

Spoilers for 3 Body Problem Ahead

Game Rant recently had the chance to speak to Rosalind Chao, Zine Tseng, Liam Cunningham, Benedict Wong, John Bradley, Alex Sharp, Jess Hong, and Jovan Adepo, all of whom feature in 3 Body Problem. They offered their insight into the characters they play, their experiences on set, and gave perspective on why their characters would make choices that would change the fate of the world and humanity. The following transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Rosalind Chao (Ye Wenjie) & Zine Tseng (Young Ye Wenjie)

Q: Both of you are playing the same character in 3 Body Problem. What was one thing that the other actor brought out in Ye Wenjie that you really enjoyed?

Rosalind: The characteristic that I really tried to hang onto is the way Zine brought a certain power and stoicism at the same time into her character. You see her face as the drama of her family is evolving in front of her, and you can see the betrayal, the horror, the trauma. You can feel it, but there is a mask. I did try to carry that through, because in real life my mask is terrible. I have no mask, so I really did try and carry Zine’s Ye through with me. That was my challenge and the gift that Zine gave to Ye.

Zine: Her power and the details she could put into the work of the character really took my breath away. You’ll see that she mimics my way of speaking and my habits. I spotted some of them, and I was like, “Oh my, Ros.”

Rosalind: I’m embarrassed that she spotted her walk.

Zine: Yeah, I spotted my walk, my way of talking, some of my gestures I even spotted, and the way I would move my head. I also spotted that.

Rosalind: I was given the gift of seeing her performance before I started.


Q: What is your opinion of Ye Wenjie’s actions in pushing the button?

Rosalind: Well, I empathize. I think we both empathize with Ye’s situation. She’s coming out of extreme trauma and isolation, and she’s a woman of action. I think betrayal has been a source of pain throughout her life, and it continues later in life. It’s like an umbrella that envelopes Ye, and I think that it informs a lot of her decision-making later on.

Zine: Pushing the button, I want to make it a justifiable action and choice for the audience just to get out of the question of right or wrong. There’s no right or wrong at that moment. I want to put a very strong intention and let you feel that even you would make the same choice.

Rosalind: I think the script does that too. The script and the way they lay it out makes it so that when you watch it. I personally felt that when you watch it you feel like “I would have done the same,” and that was all in the writing.

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Liam Cunningham (Thomas Wade) and Benedict Wong (Da Shi)

Q: What’s your favorite characteristic of your character?

Liam: Well, in my case it was the single-mindedness of this guy. He’s driven. There’s not a lot of gray area. A gray area for him is a problem that needs solving. It needs to be made black or white because then the problem becomes clear, and a plan can be formulated. Gray means obfuscation and hesitation, and Shi is of the same mind.

Benedict: Definitely. Yeah, he is single-minded. There’s a line in the show where he just talks to his son like, “Why do you do what you do?” It’s like, “I like helping people.” And it’s just something that covers everything. It’s on this level of scale, with these two unlikely characters who have been thrust together. Aligned with the greater good and the great sacrifice that it takes, nothing else matters but that. I think you’d want these guys in your corner.


Q: What would you say is the driving force behind their motivation?

Benedict: For me, as I said before, the greater good of saving people, saving lives. When I did some research with a counter-terrorist operative, I just wanted to know “What would this be? Would this actually exist?” in their world. It’s like, “This is Top Tier Three.” And I just didn’t even know what that was, but there’s the fact that they’ve actually got something.

Liam: And a name for it. They’ve got a label.

Benedict: “Top Tier Three,” to know that’s where we’re at. For me, I just need to know that notion that it exists and that kind of brings me forward and closer to the world.

Liam: Yes, that single-mindedness of “There’s a problem that needs to be solved. How do we solve it? What do we do to solve it? What do we need to get to solve it?”

Benedict: And if you’re in the way, get out of the way.

Liam: Or you’ll be moved out of the way, by whatever means necessary. It’s an interesting way of thinking.


Q: Who is your favorite character in the overall story?

Liam: Oooh. That’s a good question. I like Jack. John Bradley’s character is fantastic. He’s a really, really cool character. And knowing John from Game of Thrones, it’s such a different kind of role, so I’m intrigued watching his work in this as well. He’s wonderful, funny, and warm-hearted, and he immediately comes to mind, but what I love about the show is that it’s an ensemble of this. I have to think about who it would be because there are so many distinctive, individual voices in this. Incredibly difficult to write for. Not difficult to write for a “superhero” who everyone just, you know, just surrounds them, to facilitate this singular character. You don’t make it easy for yourself when you have to write a mesh of these individual voices together, but it’s more satisfying to watch.

Benedict: I’m leaning toward the Ye Wenjies: that story of that period, for someone to make that decision where they just thought they’ve lost all faith in humanity, and that button is pressed. That’s the end of our world, but the great ensemble I like. I’m really thrilled to be a part of it. We’re all these cogs in this telling of the story, anyone onscreen and offscreen, and it’s just the juggernaut of this piece is overwhelming.

John Bradley (Jack Rooney) and Alex Sharp (Will Downing)

Q: What did you find the most relatable about your characters?

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John: The thing that I think is the biggest parallel between me and Jack, and it’s something that David and Dan had in their minds when they wrote this character for me, is we’re both from backgrounds where you wouldn’t expect us to be in the world that we currently find ourselves. I think that we’re both from working-class backgrounds, where people from our backgrounds don’t really become actors in big shows or we don’t really become science prodigies that go to Oxford. There’s something about the attitude of overachieving in life, and going through the world not wanting to feel that you’re lesser than the people that you see. You come in with a sort of pugnacious and quite forceful attitude, “I’m as good as everybody here, and I’m going to take my place within this group.” I think that attitude is quite common among people like me and Jack, and I find that to be very incisive and a very perceptive thing for them to pick up on.

Alex: When I read the script, I was just very moved by the simplicity and beauty of the character of Will. I think, in a way, we’re quite different. He has a level of acceptance: self-acceptance, acceptance of circumstances, and a beautiful level of perspective that comes with that, almost like a clarity that he gets to. I don’t relate to that because I have not gone through what he’s gone through. I really admired Will. I think he’s a character of integrity. He’s put in these circumstances where life has put him in these circumstances where he loses everything a person could possibly lose. I think that’s what defines us: how one would hypothetically react if they were in that position. I just thought that he was just quietly heroic, which, again, I don’t relate to. I thought it was beautiful and really, really fun to explore that.


Q: If you could think of a phrase that encapsulates your character, what would that word be?

John: “His own man.”

Alex: I would say “quiet hero.”

Q: Alex, what is your favorite part about John’s character, Jack?

Alex: I’m very excited for the world to see how John plays this because it’s so different. John is a ridiculously charismatic guy, and he gets to play in that space with this character. I love the charisma, the humor. John sends a witty voice note on WhatsApp like no one I’ve ever met in my life. I mean, I literally played a voice note from him, and I spit my mouthful of Cheerios out because it’s so hilarious. He’s very fast and dynamic as a person, and I do think that Jack is very different from you in a lot of ways. But there are so many ways that charisma, speed of thought, and dexterity come into play, and John plays with it so well. That’s why Will loves Jack as well. He’s pretty dynamic.

Q: John, what’s your favorite part about Alex’s character, Will?

John: I think in terms of Will, I think the hardest thing you can do is get people to care. People often talk about, “It must be really hard when people play bad guys” or “It’s really amazing when people play bad guys because you really hate them and that shows that you’re acting well.” I think, beyond that, the hardest thing that you can really do is get people to care, properly care. I don’t mean care as long as the show is on and then they forget about it, but to properly care. In order to properly care about a character, humanity and goodness needs to bleed out of the screen. I’ve known Alex for years now, but when I saw his performance as Will, I’ve never cared about a character as much in my life. There’s something about that. He doesn’t need to do anything. It’s not even really a script thing. It’s just the way he presents himself to the world and presents himself onscreen that you cannot help but hope that he’s okay. Just because he makes it look easy doesn’t mean it is. That’s the hardest thing you could ever pull off, and I’ve never known anyone to pull it off with such heartbreaking aplomb.

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Jess Hong (Jin Cheng) and Jovan Adepo (Saul Durand)

Q: What was your favorite moment from the set?

Jess: Oh it’s so hard to choose. Okay, there are two different kinds of moments, because on the one hand, filming the game stuff was absolutely epic. There was one with a snowstorm, and I had to push my way through 99 naked people to get to my goal, so that was absolutely wild. Now I can say that I’ve done that in my life. Very memorable. Another one was, there’s a scene with Jin and Will at the hospital. It’s very heartbreaking, and it made me cry when I read the script, just the draft of it. So, of course, when we got to that scene I was very anticipatory, and it was just a really beautiful moment that I think speaks to the core of that relationship and to Jin’s character and her motivation.

Jovan: Yeah, I’d have to say my favorite moments on set were before we actually started filming. I think it’s just that first hour when you get there, and you’re rehearsing. I think because it was such a collaborative experience, working with David, Dan, and Alex. We, oftentimes, found new ways to present the scene than what might’ve been on paper. All of us who play the Oxford Five, we all became friends and spent time together off-set. I think that just really flavored the interactions we had onscreen as well.


Q: Jovan, what’s your favorite thing about Jess’ character, Jin?

Jovan: I’d say Jin’s discipline. I think that’s something to be marveled over. In a perfect world, that’s the type of mindset I’d like to maintain at all times. If you’re not motivated to do something, discipline is what’s going to push you through it. That’s something that’s really appealing about Jin.

Q: Jess, what is your favorite thing about Jovan’s character, Saul?

Jess: On the opposite side, I really love Saul’s c’est la vie approach to life. I actually think I’m just like that, Jess the actor. I have a very much “It will be what will be” kind of attitude, which means that he’s very unflappable when it comes to these incredible circumstances that are thrust upon him and the way that he deals with that huge responsibility on his shoulders. He could absolutely crumble and fall, but instead, he’s just like, “Okay, I guess this is happening now. I better just keep moving forward and try to deal with it.” It’s really admirable.


3 Body Problem is available now on Netflix.

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August 29, 1997

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