Joe Dante and the Gremlins: Secrets Of The Mogwai cast tease Gizmo’s origin story

(Image credit: Max)

If you’re a fan of the Gremlins films, then it’s been a long 33-year wait to get anything new in the official mythology. With a third live-action installment in the film series never getting past development, it finally took executive producers/writers Tze Chun and Brendan Hay to pitch an animated prequel, Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai, for the patient creatures to get a chance to wreak more havoc.  

Set in 1920s Shanghai, Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai reveals how Gizmo the Mogwai came to be in the possession of Mr. Wing (Keye Luke), his human caretaker introduced in the first film. The animated series enters the past to show his life as a child, when young Sam Wing (Izaac Wang) was a responsible little boy helping his parents, Fong (Ming-Na Wen) and Hon (BD Wong), alongside Grandpa (James Hong) run their family medicine shop. 

GamesRadar+ recently sat down with series consulting producer and Gremlins director Joe Dante alongside voice actors Ming-Na Wen, BD Wong, Matthew Rhys, and the legendary James Hong to discuss the long road to this series getting made, the dark threat coming after Gizmo, and the theme of family that lies at the heart of this series. 

Dante's Return


(Image credit: Max)

After making exactly the deconstructed Gremlins sequel he wanted in 1990, Dante tells us he was more than content to see the franchise remain dormant. That is until he read the news that an animated Gremlins project was in development, which saw his curiosity positively piqued. 

“When I read about this, and what the concept was, I called Warner Brothers and said, 'listen, if there's anything I can do to help you guys, I think this is a great way into this franchise now,’” Dante reveals. “They were incredibly accommodating and they asked me to come out and meet the showrunners, the artists, and the writers.”

During that meeting, Chun and Hay gave Dante their ideas and asked for his in return. “I looked at all the character designs and I ended up becoming, apparently, a producer, which was never really my intention,” Dante chuckles. “But I was proud to be associated with it.”

In his role as a consulting producer on Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai, Dante says he primarily wanted to provide advice to help the characters remain true and within the rules of what they established about the Mogwai in both films. 

“But what I found was that they had really been very diligent in studying the first two movies,” Dante shares. “They've cherry picked a whole lot of really interesting aspects of both pictures, using them in a completely different setting. I was just really impressed with the way that they managed to fold all of the Gremlins stuff into this new area that takes it to a different level.”

Sam Wing Meets Gizmo


(Image credit: Max)

The ancient Mr. Wing in Gremlins is revealed in this series to have started out as a very serious kid who helps out in his parents' medicine shop. In fact, it’s Grandpa Wing who pesters young Sam to have some adventures and be open to surprises…like the Mogwai they come across at the traveling circus. When Sam and Grandpa rescue Gizmo, they open the door for a lot of adventure. 

Veteran voice actors and Mulan co-stars Wen and Wong reunite for this series as Sam’s supportive parents, Fong and Hon. Both actors were fans of the original films, but love that Secrets of the Mogwai leans into Chinese culture to tell its story. 

“Like Mulan, [Secrets] is taking these characters that are speaking Chinese, but in English, and sort of flipping that around so that it can appeal to the American audience, yet maintain the authenticity of these characters being Chinese in 1920s Shanghai,” Wen says of how the series is presented to audiences.

“And credit to Tze for making the show not arbitrary,” Wong continues. "Whatever we're talking about that's related to Chinese ghosts or mythological beings or whatever, it comes from something. It's researched. It's not absolutely to-the-letter authentic, but it's inspired by something that's culturally true. And so that feels deeper to us.”

Of course, the human character having the most fun in the series is Hong’s Grandpa, an impish instigator in Sam’s life who helps jump start the whole story. Also an animation veteran, Hong says he loves Grandpa's entertainment and wisdom value. 

“I think the audience, especially the children, will enjoy what is going on with Grandpa,” Hong offers. “[Wondering] why is he spouting off on a lot of things and nobody believes him anyways, just like in life,” the actor jokes. “But that's the enjoyment of life. You just live and you talk, and if people want to listen, fine. If they don't, let them be. But the consequences will be there if they don't really listen. The old Chinese custom is the grandfather knows everything because he's traveled the whole realm like me. I've been in this business for 70 years, so I know just about everything. But it takes the journey of this [series] for them to find out that [Grandpa] does know the secrets of the Mogwai.”

A Delicious Villain


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If you know Gremlins at all, then you will be aware that there’s no scarier baddies than Mogwai who eat after midnight. But they actually may have found their match in Riley Greene, the terrifying British industrialist who wants a Mogwai of his own. Voiced by Rhys, he tells us that he was immediately interested when he was approached to portray this dark character. 

“They were gracious enough, or mad enough, to offer me the part. And the first thing I said was, 'can you please show me a schematic or an image of who Riley is?'” Rhys shares. “When I saw him, that is when the little fireworks went off. And I went, 'oooooh, thank you so much'. I just knew I would be allowed to let all the inhibitors off and do all the things that I'm always told not to do or to tone it down,” he laughs.  

Rhys says embracing Greene’s industrialist world view unlocked the performance for him. “Riley likes to remind everyone how God-like he is,” he laughs. “The kind of zeal that they went after things in an age where so many things were burgeoning, it just helped me really. His motive is so enormous and intense.”

And that makes for some very scary moments that rival the most terrifying ones in the live-action movies. “I'm so glad we didn't pull those punches on the darker undertones that you need in a story like this,” Rhys adds. “You do need it, otherwise, it's kind of fluff. And they don't do that. They absolutely went for it. And I think they succeeded in walking that line of kind of comedy and some very dark, horrifying moments.”

Season 2 Teases


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In case you don’t know, Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai has a second season currently finishing post-production, which means there’s more to come for Sam and Gizmo. “The idea is that it's a quest, so when you've got characters who are looking for something, they can all go to different places,” Dante teases. “I can only tell you that having seen the second season it gets pretty crazy. I'm just so happy to be part of it.”

The show arrives on the HBO streaming service Max on May 23, but at the moment UK release dates are unconfirmed. When you do watch it don't forget to keep your eyes peeled for Easter eggs and cameos as we have been promised there are plenty there. And for more great shows to keep an eye out for, check out our list of the best new TV series.

Freelance Writer

Tara is the NYT bestselling author (or co-author) of 30 movie and TV companion books including the upcoming official history of Marvel Studios. She's also a freelance journalist with bylines at print and online publications such as: SCI FI Magazine, Total Film, SYFY Wire,, Fandom, Fandango/, Fancast, Newsarama, Star Wars: Insider, Walking Dead Magazine, Star Trek Magazine, LOST: The Official Magazine, Alias Magazine, 24 Magazine, and She is also the U.S. Editor for the world’s premiere sci-fi/fantasy publication, SFX Magazine. She is the host and producer for SYFY Wire’s official podcasts for USA Network’s, Colony, HISTORY's Project Blue Book official podcast, and the Lost retrospective, Through the Looking Glass co-hosted with Maureen Ryan.