Benedict Wong on the Politics of Running the 'Deadly Class' Assassin School

“The students were once peasants, but now, everyone’s got a few more quid.”

Part of the magic and mystery that makes Harry Potter so successful comes from exploring an unknown world through the wide eyes of its protagonist. Deadly Class, the new Syfy series, wonders what Hogwarts would be like if it was a school for young assassins instead of witches and wizards, all while exploring appropriately darker themes in 1987 San Francisco.

Our protagonist, Marcus (Benjamin Wadsworth) is a homeless youth invited to a young assassin’s academy, but not-unlike in Harry Potter, the most interesting character be the mysterious school headmaster, Master Lin, played by Benedict Wong (Wong in Dr. Strange and Avengers: Infinity War).

Based on the Image Comics graphic novel of the same name by Rick Remender and Wes Craig, Deadly Class brings the series to live action. Remender serves as co-showrunner with Miles Orion Feldsott and Mick Betancourt with the Russo Bros. (Avengers: Infinity War) as executive producers.

During a November set visit to Vancouver, Inverse learned all about the world of Deadly Class and the school it’s set in, King’s Dominion, straight from the headmaster himself, Benedict Wong.

Deadly Class Master Lin invites Marcus
Master Lin inviting Marcus to King's Dominion.

In the show’s pilot episode, released Thursday, we learn that Master Lin’s grandfather founded the school and “dedicated his life to the self-liberation of oppressed people.” In his elevator pitch to Marcus, Lin calls his assassins “creative problem solvers” and describes the school’s mission statement of the holistic mission statement to “give peasants the required skill to overthrow their corrupt masters.”

Expectation and reality, however, do not match up two generations later as the political landscape shifts. The political landscape at King’s Dominion has shifted.

“The students were once peasants, but now, everyone’s got a few more quid,” Wong tells Inverse with a chuckle.

“A few more quid” is putting it lightly. Whereas previous generations of peasants trained at King’s Dominion to overthrow those aforementioned corrupt masters, in Deadly Class, the school is now dominated by intimidating cliques.

High school dynamics look and feel familiar in Deadly Class, but rather than jocks, nerds, and outcasts, we’re talking about members of the Yakuza, Mexican drug cartels, and Neo-Nazi groups.

“They started out as peasants themselves,” Wong says of the school’s founders, “and never thought then that it’d become a multi-million dollar company. So in a way, it’s like the makeup of the school has changed.”

Each main character fits squarely into one of these cliques, compromising the nobler original intentions of the school.

“We’re at a point in the school where the world’s elite and the criminal underworld are all together sending their offspring here,” Wong said. “In a way, it’s acquired a very corporate element to it. So you’re going to see Master Lin feel slightly torn.”

Deadly Class Master Lin
Master Lin teaching a class at King's Dominion

Like everyone else in the well-rounded group of core characters, Master Lin has to reconcile his legacy and the expectations that come with it with the reality of his situation. He boasts that his students are “creative problem solvers,” and he himself is the most creative problem solver of all, deftly managing a deadly institution that’s wandered away from what its forefathers imagined.

In the cold open, Deadly Class makes a hero out of Gavrilo Princip when Master Lin says, “World War I was started by a teenager with a pistol, a Serbian peasant who chose to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It set in motion a chain reaction resulting in two World Wars and today’s Cold War.”

This is the type of hero-assassin that Lin wants to inspire his students to become, but when every major criminal organization in the world sends their offspring to King’s Dominion for more selfish reasons, the purpose and integrity of the institution itself is compromised. As often as Deadly Class examines the character of the people in its school, it’ll also examine that character of the institution they attend.

What happens when the purpose of an institution is bent to the will of those with money and power? And what does it mean for the people in charge will still cling to those original intentions? Through the eyes of Wong, Deadly Class hopes to answer these questions — and have a little assassin-training fun at the same time.

Deadly Class officially premieres on Syfy Wednesday, January 16 at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Here’s a closer look at student life at King’s Dominion.

Inverse was invited to attend a set visit event for Deadly Class earlier this year. Expenses for the trip were paid for by Syfy.

Media via Syfy