Tochi on set of "King of the Nerds" in August 2013
|Born||Brian Keith Tochihara
May 2, 1963
|Occupation||Actor, Comedian, Entrepreneur|
Brian Keith Tochihara (born May 2, 1963), better known as Brian Tochi, is an American actor, screenwriter, film director and producer. He was widely recognized as the most popular East Asian child actor working in U.S. television during the late 1960s through much of the 1970s having appeared in various T.V. series and nearly a hundred televisual advertisements. He is best known for his characters Toshiro Takashi from the Revenge of the Nerds film franchise, Cadet (later Lieutenant) Tomoko "Elvis" Nogata from the third and fourth films in the Police Academy film series, and as the voice of Leonardo in the first three live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies.
Tochi was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Joe Tochihara (aka 'Tochi'), a well known Beverly Hills celebrity hair salon owner, and Jane Harada, both Japanese, and former detainees (along with thousands of other Japanese immigrants and U.S.-born Japanese people) of Japanese Internment camps during World War II. While Brian was still a young child, the family moved from Los Angeles to Orange County, California, where he divided his education between local public schools and studio tutors (for child actors) on movie studio lots. After graduation from high school, he attended USC, UCLA, and UCI.
Usual range of roles
Being of Japanese descent, Tochi frequently plays characters who are Japanese, Chinese, or of other East Asian origins, adopting the appropriate accent as needed. Early in his professional career, Brian Tochi was lauded for being one of the only East Asian faces on American television. Many have credited him with breaking racial barriers and opening doors for Asian people in entertainment in the U.S., additionally advancing the perception that "Oriental" actors have the ability to portray more mainstream roles.
As a child actor
A beginning role for Tochi was a guest-starring appearance in the short-lived television series He & She (1967–68, with real married couple Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss) as their newly adopted son. Produced by Leonard Stern and cowritten by Chris Hayward and Allan Burns, it also starred Jack Cassidy as an egomaniacal actor, Kenneth Mars and Hamilton Camp. That same year saw Tochi appearing in "And the Children Shall Lead", a classic third-season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. Other roles followed, including guest appearances on such popular shows as The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family and Adam-12.
Tochi's debut as a T.V. series regular was as Yul Brynner's oldest son and heir, Crown Prince Chulalongkorn, in Anna and the King on CBS, it was based on the film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I and also starred Samantha Eggar and Keye Luke. Although the series was short lived, Tochi and Brynner remained friends until his death in 1985. Concurrent with the series, Tochi was cast with fellow actor Luke in his first animated television series The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, also in the series was a young Jodie Foster, who played his sister.
After both series ended, guest-starring roles followed, including The Streets of San Francisco with Karl Malden and Michael Douglas; and Kung Fu, with David Carradine, who made his directing debut on the episode, "The Demon God" (which was Tochi's largest guest role of three Kung Fu episodes he appeared in). Tochi also played an undercover informant, and was ultimately beaten and killed in a gritty two-part episode of Police Story on NBC; and nearly died on the Robert Young medical drama Marcus Welby, M.D. until the show's heroic James Brolin and new best friend Vincent Van Patten came to his rescue.
Young adulthood in theater
During the mid-1970s, Tochi spent time in the theatre, this time reprising his role as Crown Prince Chulalongkorn in the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera's revival of the musical The King and I at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. There he co-starred with the renowned Latin Lover, Ricardo Montalbán, as the King of Siam, to which they would later accompany the show as it went on tour. When the show ended its run, the two remained dear to one another, with Tochi and Montalbán rendezvousing regularly for lunch during the run of Fantasy Island.
Return to television
Tochi returned to star in another TV series Space Academy (1977–1979) with veteran actor Jonathan Harris (best remembered as Dr. Smith from Lost in Space). His character, Tee Gar Soom, had super-strength and continued the martial arts traditions of his Asian ancestors. During hiatus of the show, Tochi was asked to shoot a 20-minute promotional "behind-the-scenes" visit to the Space Academy for a popular daytime series, Razzmatazz, on CBS. Razzmatazz was a highly regarded news magazine show produced by Don Hewitt and the same production team as CBS's primetime news show, 60 Minutes. It starred Barry Bostwick, who opted to leave the show for a career in features, to capitalize on his recently released cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Searching for a new host, the television network persuaded Tochi to accept their offer of his own daytime show, which aired on the network for 4 more years into the early 1980s.
Other appearances include a guest stint on Wonder Woman, a recurring character in the tropically set Hawaii Five-O, starring actor Jack Lord, a two-hour TV movie "We're Fighting Back" (with Ellen Barkin and Stephen Lang), and regular television roles in the TV dramas St. Elsewhere and Santa Barbara. He later played featured characters in episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (making him one of only a handful of living actors to ever have appeared in the Original Star Trek series and a subsequent spin-off), and "Wong's Lost and Found Emporium," the ninth episode from the first season of the television series The New Twilight Zone. The episode is based on the short story Wong's Lost and Found Emporium, by William F. Wu, first published in Amazing Stories. This episode was stretched into a half-hour run time for syndication, as recently shown on the Chiller TV network.
In the short lived ABC TV series The Renegades, he starred with his friend, Patrick Swayze, as the martial arts expert and former gang leader known as Dragon. Then, exercising his journalistic prowess, Tochi later became part of the core team that created and developed the cutting edge educational news program Channel One News. During his two-and-a-half-year association, his responsibilities grew to include Hosting and Narrating duties, utilizing his talents as a writer, producer and segment director. He was later named Chief Foreign correspondent for the show.
In 2004, Tochi co-wrote, produced and directed "Tales of a Fly on the Wall", a live action comedy casting several of his friends in lead roles, it included fellow actors Roscoe Lee Browne, Revenge of the Nerds co-star Curtis Armstrong and Police Academy 3: Back in Training co-star Leslie Easterbrook. In 2005, he was one of the winners of the Hollywood Film Festival's Hollywood Screenplay Awards, taking home top honors for co-writing the screenplay, "In the Heat of the Light." He continues with his directing, producing, and screenwriting careers.
As a voice actor, Tochi has provided voices for numerous animated films, computer games and animated cartoon series, including the Bionic Six (all 65 episodes), Challenge of the GoBots, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, What's New, Scooby-Doo?, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, and Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (as its main star Liu Kang). He performed the voice of Leonardo in the first three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series of movies in the early 1990s, he also is the voice of the Chinese soldier who runs the Great Wall in Disney's Mulan, and more recently had recurring roles in Batman Beyond, As Told by Ginger, Kim Possible, Johnny Bravo, Static Shock, Family Guy and Avatar: The Last Airbender on Nickelodeon.
He is a devoted environmental advocate, pursuing projects meant to benefit the needs of the planet and the world around us. He is diligently working toward solutions for third world countries to sustain and preserve life.