Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

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Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
田川 洋行
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.jpg
Tagawa in 2011
Born (1950-09-27) September 27, 1950 (age 72)
Other namesCary Tagawa
Panteleymon Tagawa
CitizenshipUnited States
Russia (since 2016)
EducationUniversity of Southern California
Occupation(s)Actor, film producer, martial artist
Years active1985–present
Sally Phillips
(m. 1984)

Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Japanese: 田川 洋行, Tagawa Hiroyuki; born September 27, 1950) is a Japanese-American actor, film producer, and martial artist.

Often cast as villains, he is known for his film roles in The Last Emperor (1987), the James Bond film Licence to Kill (1989), Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991), American Me (1992), Rising Sun (1993), The Phantom (1996), Snow Falling on Cedars (1999), Pearl Harbor (2001), Planet of the Apes (also 2001), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Tekken (2009), 47 Ronin (2013), Tekken 2: Kazuya's Revenge (2014), and Kubo and the Two Strings (2017). He starred as Trade Minister Nobusuke Tagomi on the Amazon Prime television series The Man in the High Castle (2015–2018) and Hiroki Watanabe on the Netflix series Lost in Space (2018–2021).

Tagawa is known for his role as the evil sorcerer Shang Tsung in various works of the Mortal Kombat franchise: he first played the character in the 1995 film adaptation, and reprised it in 2013 for the television series Mortal Kombat: Legacy and in 2019 for the video game Mortal Kombat 11.

Early life[edit]

Tagawa was born in Tokyo, Japan, the son of Japanese Takarazuka actress Mariko Hata and a Japanese-American father who served in the United States Army and was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Polk, Louisiana; and Fort Hood, Texas. His mother tongues are English and Japanese but he also speaks some Korean and Spanish.[1][2]

Tagawa was raised in various cities. His family finally settled in Southern California, where he began acting in high school while attending Duarte High School. He attended the University of Southern California and was an exchange student in Japan. He studied kendo and Shotokan karate under Masatoshi Nakayama at the Japan Karate Association.[3]


Tagawa in 2019

His breakthrough as an actor came when he was cast as the Eunuch Chang in The Last Emperor (1987). In 1989, he played an undercover agent of the Hong Kong Narcotics Board in the James Bond film Licence to Kill. In 1991, he starred alongside Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee in the action film Showdown in Little Tokyo, where he played the role of Yakuza boss Yoshida. He also starred alongside James Hong, Mako Iwamatsu and Jeff Speakman in the same year in the film The Perfect Weapon, where he played Kai, an assistant to the Korean mafia families.

In 1993, he starred as the wayward scion of a Japanese industrialist in Rising Sun, where Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes, and Harvey Keitel played detectives holding various viewpoints about the murder of a young woman that Tagawa's character was being framed for.

He appeared in the film Mortal Kombat (1995) as the sorcerer Shang Tsung; he reprised the role in the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy in 2013,[4] and in the video game Mortal Kombat 11 in 2019. He also appeared as the deadly pirate leader Kabai Sengh in The Phantom (1996). Tagawa is among the actors, producers and directors interviewed in the documentary The Slanted Screen (2006), directed by Jeff Adachi, about the representation of Asian and Asian-American men in Hollywood.

Tagawa played Heihachi Mishima in Tekken, the film adaptation of the video game franchise. In 2006, he provided the voice of Brushogun in Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. He was in the film Johnny Tsunami (1999) and its sequel Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board (2007). In between those two films, Tagawa played Attar's mentor Krull in Tim Burton's version of Planet of the Apes (2001).

He played Satoshi Takeda in Revenge, a powerful CEO in Japan and Emily Thorne's former mentor in her quest for revenge. In season 2, Tagawa took over the role from Hiroyuki Sanada, who was unable to continue due to scheduling conflicts.[5]

Tagawa also plays the role of Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi in the 2013 film 47 Ronin.[6]

In 2015, Tagawa was cast as one of the lead characters, Nobusuke Tagomi, the Trade Minister of the Pacific States of America in Amazon's The Man in the High Castle based on Philip K. Dick's novel of the same name. Also in November 2015, both he and Taimak (The Last Dragon) were honorees for the Fists of Legends Legacy Award at the Urban Action Showcase & Expo.[7]

In 2013, Tagawa started working with Russian film actors Pyotr Mamonov and Ivan Okhlobystin.[8]

Personal life[edit]

In 2015, Tagawa converted to Eastern Orthodoxy, and in 2016, he acquired Russian citizenship.[9] These are both results of the research he had done for his role in The Man In High Castle.



Year Title Role Notes
1986 Big Trouble in Little China Wing Kong Swordsman Uncredited
Armed Response Toshi
1987 The Last Emperor Chang
1988 Bulletproof Thug In Flashback Uncredited
Spellbinder Lieutenant Lee
Twins Oriental Man
1989 The Last Warrior Imperial Marine
Licence to Kill Kwang
1991 Kickboxer 2 Sanga
Showdown in Little Tokyo Funekei Yoshida
The Perfect Weapon Kai
1992 Nemesis Angie-Liv
American Me 'El Japo'
1993 Rising Sun Eddie Sakamura
1994 Natural Causes Major Somchal
Picture Bride Kanzuki
1995 The Dangerous Kon
Mortal Kombat Shang Tsung
Soldier Boyz Vinh Moc
1996 White Tiger Victor Chow
The Phantom The Great Kabai Sengh
Danger Zone Monsieur Chang
1997 Top of the World Captain Hefter
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation Shang Tsung Archive footage
1998 Vampires David Deyo
Provocateur Captain Jong
American Dragons Matsuyama
1999 Bridge of Dragons General Ruechang
Fixations Alex
Snow Falling on Cedars Zenhichi Miyamoto
2000 The Art of War David Chan
2001 Pearl Harbor Commander Minoru Genda
Planet of the Apes Krull
2005 Elektra Master Roshi
Memoirs of a Geisha The Baron
2006 The Slanted Screen Himself Documentary film
Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo Brushogon Voice
2007 Balls of Fury Mysterious Asian Man
Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter Alibek
2008 Lost Warrior: Left Behind Detective Yoshide Video
Bodyguard: A New Beginning Kai
2009 By the Will of Chingis Khan Bodyguard
Hachi: A Dog's Tale Ken
Tekken Heihachi Mishima
The Tomb Len Burris
2012 Black Cobra Goro Tanaka Video
2013 47 Ronin Tokugawa Tsunayoshi
2014 Hype Nation 3D Sammy Kata
Priest-San Father Nikolai 'Takuro' Nakamura
Ninja Apocalypse Fumitaka
Tekken 2: Kazuya's Revenge Heihachi Mishima
Skin Trade Senator Khat
2015 Junction Narrator Voice
The Man with the Iron Fists 2 The Mayor
Little Boy Hashimoto
2016 Showdown in Manila Aldric Cole
Beyond the Game Detective Yoshida
Kubo and the Two Strings Hashi Voice
2017 The Whole World at Our Feet Khazar
2023 Reagan Yasuhiro Nakasone[10] Filming
Duel of Legends Sting

Short films[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2005 True Love & Mimosa Tea Andreas Kanaka
The Sand Island Drive-In Anthem Uncle C
2009 The Legend of Chang Apana Chang Apana
2010 Absolute.ness Chief Dax
Overturned Judge
2015 Genghis Khan Conquers the Moon Genghis Khan
2016 Overwatch: Dragons Narrator / Sojiro Shimada Voice


Year Title Role Notes
1987 MacGyver Asian Buyer Episode: "Dalton, Jack of Spies"
The Colbys Mr. Sung Episode: "Devil's Advocate"
Star Trek: The Next Generation Mandarin Bailiff Episode: "Encounter at Farpoint"
1987–89 Miami Vice Kenji Fujitsu, Tegoro 2 episodes
1988 Hotel Inspector Chin Episode: "Double Take"
1989 L.A. Takedown Hugh Denny Television film
Superboy Detective Jed Slade Episode: "Terror from the Blue"
Knots Landing Mr. Toyo Episode: "Giganticus II: The Revenge"
Moonlighting Artist Episode: "Perfetc"
A Peaceable Kingdom Coach Episode: "Chimp"
Alien Nation Yamato Episode: "The First Cigar"
Mission: Impossible Vang Kai Episode: "Countdown"
1990 Jake and the Fatman Raymond Char Episode: "Chinatown, My Chinatown"
Hardball Episode: "Wedding Bell Blues"
The Bakery Kim Lee Television film
Vestige of Honor Thai Major
1991 Baywatch Mason Sato Episode: "War of Nerves"
Not of This World Shikido Television film
Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the U.S.S. Indianapolis Shoji Hashimoto
1992 Raven Osato 2 episodes
1993 Renegade Hirotaka Episode: "Samurai"
1993–94 Space Rangers Zylyn 6 episodes
1994 Day of Reckoning Prakit Television film
1995 Babylon 5 Morishi Episode: "Convictions"
Thunder in Paradise 3 Mason Lee Television film
1996 Cybill Kenji Episode: "Cybill and Maryann Go to Japan"
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch Tai Wei Tse Episode: "Sweet & Sour Victory"
1996–97 Nash Bridges Lieutenant A.J. Shimamura 12 episodes
1997 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child King Young-Jin Episode: "The Little Mermaid"
Raven: Return of the Black Dragon Osato Television film
Stargate SG-1 Turghan Episode: "Emancipation"
1998 Poltergeist: The Legacy Sam Tanaka Episode: "The Internment"
Vengeance Unlimited Aung Myint Episode: "Ambition"
1999 Seven Days Peter Episode: "Walter"
Johnny Tsunami Johnny Tsunami Television film
NetForce Leong Cheng
2000 Walker, Texas Ranger Master Ko Episode: "Black Dragons"
2003 Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding Mason Sato Television film
2004 Hawaii Captain Terry Harada
2005 Faith of My Fathers Cat Television film
2007 Heroes The Swordsmith 2 episodes
Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board Johnny Tsunami Television film
2008 Ghost Voyage The Steward
2009 Beyond the Break Xander 2 episodes
2010 Hawaii Five-0 Hiro Noshimori 2 episodes
2012–13 Revenge Satoshi Takeda 6 episodes
2014 Teen Wolf Katashi / Silverfinger Episode: "Silverfinger"
The Librarians Mr. Drake Episode: "And the Apple of Discord"
2015–2018 The Man in the High Castle Nobusuke Tagomi Main cast
2016 Grimm Takeshi Himura Episode: "Inugami"
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Sumo Kuma Voice, 2 episodes
2017 Star Wars Rebels Alrich Wren Voice, 2 episodes
2018 Lost in Space Hiroki Watanabe 5 episodes
2020 DuckTales Akita Voice, episode: "Astro B.O.Y.D.!" [11]
2021 Star Wars: Visions Valco Voice, short film: The Village Bride: English language dub[12]
2021 NCIS: Los Angeles Craig Tanaka Episode: "Fukushu"


Year Title Role Notes
2013 Mortal Kombat: Legacy Shang Tsung 2 episodes
TBA Blue Eye Samurai[13]

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1997 Soldier Boyz Vinh Moc
2003 Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu Sin Tzu
2016 World of Warcraft: Legion Voice Over Cast
2019–20 Mortal Kombat 11 Shang Tsung Voice and physical likeness; appears as downloadable content


  • Paul, Louis (2008). "Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa". Tales From the Cult Film Trenches; Interviews with 36 Actors from Horror, Science Fiction and Exploitation Cinema. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. pp. 254–261. ISBN 978-0-7864-2994-3.


  1. ^ Profile Archived 2006-08-22 at the Wayback Machine,, May 25, 2011; accessed March 30, 2016.
  2. ^ Profile Archived 2004-12-12 at the Wayback Machine,, September 11, 2003; accessed March 30, 2016.
  3. ^ Wilson, Terry (2010-10-02). "The Invisible Strength of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa". Martial Arts & Action Entertainment. Retrieved 2021-12-26.
  4. ^ "Web Series 'Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2′ Hitting February 17th". Latino Review. Archived from the original on 2012-12-06. Retrieved 2012-12-03.
  5. ^ Keck, William (August 15, 2012). "Keck's Exclusives: Revenge Recasts a Role" (TV Guide); retrieved August 16, 2012.
  6. ^ "47 Ronin: trama, recensione, cast e trailer del film con Keanu Reeves". Controcampus (in Italian). 2019-06-14. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
  7. ^ "2015 Urban Action Showcase International Action Film Festival & Honoree Awards". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2015-12-14.
  8. ^ "This is just the beginning of my Russian career"[permanent dead link],; accessed March 30, 2016.
  9. ^ Seeking new citizenship: 10 foreign celebrities that now call Russia home
  10. ^ Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa Cast as Japanese Prime Minister in Ronald Reagan Biopic
  11. ^ "Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Akita".
  12. ^ "Stunning New Star Wars: Visions Trailer Debuts". 2021-08-17. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  13. ^ Otterson, Joe (2020-10-09). "Netflix Sets Overall Deal With Michael Green, Orders Animated Series 'Blue Eye Samurai'". Variety. Retrieved 2020-10-12.

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