"From day 1 it was basically bulking everything for me," actor Wesley Wong tells PEOPLE of his training plan for Pacific Rim Uprising.

By Dana Rose Falcone
March 23, 2018 08:50 AM

Hong Kong-born actor Wesley Wong makes his Hollywood movie debut in the new sci-fi thriller Pacific Rim Uprising — and he tried his best to steal scenes from stars John Boyega and Scott Eastwood. Especially a shirtless scene.

The 31-year-old — who received his master’s degree from the Beijing Film Academy after graduating from the University of Southern California — learned about Hollywood’s less glamorous side as he prepped with a strict diet and exercise regimen for six months.

“We had a fitness trainer and a nutritionist on set throughout the whole process,” says Wong, who’s featured as One to Watch in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “So from day one it was basically bulking everything for me. The trainer was with us for five days a week, training everyday. I was actually the heaviest of my life. I’ve never been that heavy and it was specifically to prepare for that shirtless scene.”

Wong continues, “That’s part of it, looking like the role. It’s pushes your limits to see how far you can go.”

Wong’s parents, Angie Chiu and Melvin Wong, are both successful actors in China, but he wasn’t pressured to go into the family business.

“Since I was a kid they absolutely didn’t want a specific direction for me to go,” Wong says. “They’ve always stressed the importance of finding my own passion in life.”

But once he completed college at USC, Wong made up his mind to follow in his parents’ footsteps.

“My dad took me aside as I was about to graduate. He was asking me what my plans were; whether I was going to do a master’s, stay and find a job or head back to Hong Kong,” Wong recalls. “I told him that I had an interest in acting. Both of them actually told me that they would support me.”

His parents did offer a warning about the business, though. “It’s much more than what normal people see acting is,” the Pacific Rim Uprising star says. “As an audience, we only see the fame, the glamour, the red carpet, the premieres. But they don’t see the background work that an actor has to go through to perfect their art. So they warned me about that; it’s difficult.”

Wong in Hong Kong in 2017

His costars, including Boyega and Eastwood, helped Wong stay motivated. “We all had our own different regimes because we all wanted to look differently,” Wong says. “When they saw me they were like, ‘Oh wow! You look great!’ ”

Boyega, best known for playing Finn in the Star Wars franchise, even indulged Wong’s request for autographs. “A lot of my friends, when they found out that I was shooting Pacific Rim and that John was in it, they were giving me all sorts of gifts, [asking for] autographs from John,” he says. “I thought he might get annoyed about it, but he didn’t mind at all. He was very happy about it actually.”

Pacific Rim Uprising is in theaters now.