|Alma mater||University of Southern California|
(m. 1967; div. 1973)
James Hong (traditional Chinese: 吳漢章; simplified Chinese: 吴汉章; pinyin: Wú Hànzhāng; Jyutping: Ng4 Hon3zoeng1; born February 22, 1929) is an American character actor, producer and director. He has worked in numerous productions in American media since the 1950s, playing a variety of East Asian roles.
He became known to audiences through starring in the crime series The New Adventures of Charlie Chan (1957–1958), and through numerous appearances on the original Hawaii Five-O (1968–1980). Hong is perhaps best known for his roles in various Hollywood films, such as Chinatown (1974), Airplane! (1980), Hannibal Chew in Blade Runner (1982), David Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Jeff Wong in Wayne's World 2 (1993), Master Hong in Balls of Fury (2007), and Jerry Chen in R.I.P.D. (2013). However, Hong also did a small part, playing "Private Old Man" in the Burt Lancaster Vietnam war thriller, Go Tell the Spartans (1978). As a voice actor, Hong voiced Chi-Fu in Mulan (1998), Daolon Wong on the animated television series Jackie Chan Adventures (2002–2004) and Mr. Ping in the Kung Fu Panda media franchise, in addition to several video game roles including Sleeping Dogs and Call of Duty: Black Ops II (both 2012). Hong also voiced several characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender. In 2021, Hong voiced Zong Shi in Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans. With over 600 film and television credits, he is one of the most prolific English-speaking actors of all time.
Hong was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Frank W. Hong and Lee Shui Fa. His father, Ng Fok Hong, emigrated from Hong Kong to Chicago, Illinois, via Canada, where he owned a restaurant. Hong's grandfather was from Taishan. For his early education, Hong moved to Hong Kong, where he lived in Kowloon, before returning to the United States at the age of ten. He graduated from Minneapolis Central High School. He studied civil engineering at the University of Southern California, where he concentrated the majority of his free time on moving plates and fixing templates for the drill squad. Hong later became interested in acting and trained with Jeff Corey. Hong was a road engineer in Los Angeles County for seven and a half years, acting during his vacations and sick days. He eventually quit engineering for good to devote himself to acting and voice work full-time.
Hong served in the United States Army at Fort McClellan and Camp Rucker with the Special Services. After finishing his training for the day, he would entertain soldiers during the Korean War; upon witnessing Hong's performing prowess, the camp general asked Hong to stay at Camp Rucker and be in charge of the camp's live shows rather than deploy overseas.
Hong reflected on this experience and how it may have saved his life:
I do not know if I would have liked to go to war in Korea but let's admit it that with a G.I. cap and this face charging at the Korean army, the Koreans would try to kill me. But then if we were to retreat and I turned around and ran back the Americans would try to kill me too because they had think I am an enemy in disguise. I definitely think I would have been shot from one side and the other.
Hong has played over 600 television and film roles. His career in show business began in the 1950s when he redubbed soundtracks of several Asian films. He dubbed the voices of characters Ogata (Akira Takarada) and Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) in the 1956 film Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, as well as the title character in The Human Vapor.
In February 1954, Hong appeared on the radio and television game show You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx. In this appearance, he did a number of impersonations including one of Groucho himself. Hong and his partner won $140 in the quiz. They contested the major prize of $2000 but did not win.
In 1956, Hong was cast as Jimmy Ling in the episode "Red Tentacles" of the Western aviation adventure series Sky King, starring Kirby Grant. He also guest-starred in the NBC Western series The Californians.
In 1957–1958, he was cast as the "Number One Son", Barry Chan, in the British-American series The New Adventures of Charlie Chan starring J. Carrol Naish as Charlie Chan. The role of the Number One Son was played by Keye Luke in the predecessor films. However, Keye Luke's character was known as Lee Chan.
In 1959, he appeared as a prince on an episode of Walt Disney's ABC series, Zorro. He was thereafter cast as Chung Lind in the 1960 episode "East of Danger" in the David Janssen NBC crime drama series Richard Diamond, Private Detective. From 1960 to 1962, he appeared four times on the ABC/Warner Brothers crime drama Hawaiian Eye, twice each on the ABC series Hong Kong and Adventures in Paradise, and once on ABC's related series, The Islanders.
In 1962, he appeared on CBS's Perry Mason as Dean Chang in "The Case of the Weary Watchdog". On September 23, 1963, Hong hit the prime time slot playing spy Wen Lee in, "The Hundred Days of the Dragon", the second episode of ABC's "The Outer Limits" first season. That year Hong also played Louis Kew in "The Case of the Floating Stones". He also appeared three times on the NBC military sitcom, Ensign O'Toole. In 1964, he appeared in an episode of Kentucky Jones. In 1965, Hong was one of the original founding members of the East West Players, an early Asian American theatre organization. Also in 1966, he played the bar owner Mr. Shu in The Sand Pebbles. Hong also appeared in several episodes of the original Hawaii Five-O.
Hong had a small part on a 1972 episode of CBS's The Bob Newhart Show. He was a frequent guest star on the 1972–1975 ABC television series Kung Fu, joined the cast on the final season of CBS's Switch, as Wang, and also played a flight attendant in the original 1979 film The In-Laws. He appeared as a doctor accused of performing an illegal abortion in the Blake Edwards movie The Carey Treatment in 1972. He starred as a uniformed man in the 1980 comedy cult film Airplane! He has also directed such films as Teen Lust.
Hong is perhaps most widely known as the immortal ghost sorcerer Lo Pan in John Carpenter's cult classic Big Trouble in Little China (1986), as the eye manufacturer Chew in Blade Runner, as Evelyn Mulwray's loyal and vigilant butler in Chinatown and The Two Jakes, and as the low-rent private eye in Black Widow. He would then appear in the film The Vineyard (1989).
Hong's first appearance as a host in a Chinese restaurant was in the movie Flower Drum Song. Hong then appeared as a host in a Chinese restaurant in the 1975 All In the Family episode "Edith Breaks Out" as well as on the well-known Seinfeld episode "The Chinese Restaurant". Hong also played a similar role in several episodes of The Big Bang Theory during its first season, as well as in the "Color Blind" episode during the first season of Alias. Hong portrayed Chow Ting, a dry cleaner with the power to wash sins and guilt from a person's conscience in the 1985 Tales from the Darkside episode "It All Comes Out in the Wash". Hong appeared as a villain in a season three episode of The X-Files. He appeared in two episodes of The West Wing (Ep. 1.11; 3.15) as the Chinese Ambassador to the United States. He also played Mr. Soo on The King of Queens, an Asian restaurant owner again who rents Doug Heffernan and his friends a loft apartment above his store, in the episode "Apartment Complex" (2006). Additionally, Hong had guest-starred on Friends, playing Hoshi, the former paid assassin and boxing coach for Monica's boyfriend Pete (played by Jon Favreau) in the episode "The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion".
Hong played Jeff Wong, Cassandra Wong's martial arts expert father in the comedy sequel Wayne's World 2, and was featured as the head of the Scarred Foot society in the pilot for The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993). In 1994, he, his wife Susan and daughter April appeared as a family riding mountain bikes beneath the Hollywood sign in the mountain-bike travel-adventure documentary, Full Cycle: A World Odyssey. He had a small role in the independent film Broken Vessels (1998). He played the role of Mr. Takato in the movie Chasing Zoey, the final episode of Zoey 101. His character taught Michael Barret how to operate a manual transmission, and it was revealed at the end of the episode that he did not exist. Hong also voiced the character Daolon Wong, an evil wizard in the Jackie Chan Adventures television series, and was the voice of Chi Fu in Disney's Mulan, A.N.T. Farm, Mandarin in Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, and Professor Chang in Teen Titans. He made a cameo appearance on the television series Las Vegas as a presumed cheating monk. Hong also lent his voice to the Cartoon Network animation Chowder as Mung Daal's mentor in the "Won-Ton Bombs" episode. In 2006, Hong voiced the character Mayor Tong in Avatar: The Last Airbender in the second season's episode titled "Avatar Day" in addition to his previous role as Monk Tashi in the first-season episode "The Storm" in 2005. In 2006, he also voiced the character of the High Lama in the film Chill Out, Scooby-Doo!
Hong's voice also appeared as Colonel Zhou Peng in the video game Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, Dr. Chang in Def Jam Icon (2007), Ancient Wu in True Crime: Streets of LA, and reprising his role as Chew in the Blade Runner video game. His most recent appearances were in the films Balls of Fury and The Day the Earth Stood Still. In 2008, he voiced Mr. Ping in Kung Fu Panda, the adoptive father of Po and was nominated for an Annie Award for his performance; he later reprised the role on Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special and won an Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Television Production. Furthermore, he and Lucy Liu have been collaborated in the feature film series and in the television series adaptation, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness. After the release of the third film he stated that he hoped to continue in the role, though due to his advanced age he wanted the filmmakers to start work on it quickly. In 2015, Hong voiced Azmorigan on Star Wars Rebels as well as the Sugi arms dealer Endente in an unfinished four-part story arc of Star Wars: The Clone Wars; the rough animatics for the entire arc have been published on the official Star Wars website.
He appeared in the film Safe (2012). He also provides the voices for the jeweler NPC Covetous Shen in Diablo III, Master Bruised Paw in World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, Bucky (for two episodes) from the television series Archer, and Uncle Po in Sleeping Dogs. In 2013, he appeared as Ogisan, the gift shop keeper from the Incredible Crew sketch "Magical Video Game Controller" alongside Jeremy Shada and Shauna Case. He also appeared in the film R.I.P.D. (2013).
In 2018, it was announced that he was producing a feature screenplay about a grandfather and his estranged granddaughter who realize, through an unexpected adventure that pushes them into another world, that family relationships are the key to survival. Later it was revealed that the film's title is Patsy Lee & the Keepers of the 5 Kingdoms, directed by Zack Ward, starring Michelle Fang.
Currently, James Hong is in production for A24 film Everything Everywhere All at Once. Also, he is also set to voice Grandpa Wing in the streaming television series Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai who is currently in pre-production.
There was an effort to get Hong a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, started by fellow actor Daniel Dae Kim on GoFundMe in 2020. He eventually got honored on the Walk of Fame Class of 2022, alongside names like Carrie Fisher and Michael B. Jordan.
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- James Hong (June 21, 2019). The Actor With 500 Credits and Counting. YouTube: Great Big Story. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
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- Voisin, Scott (May 2014). Character Kings 2: Hollywood's Familiar Faces Discuss the Art & Business of Acting. BearManor Media. pp. 79–.
- Busch, Anita (August 17, 2018). "James Hong, 89-Year-Old Chinese American Actor: "I Never Thought It Would Take This Long"". Deadline Hollywood.
- "Patsy Lee & The Keepers of the 5 Kingdoms". IMDb.
- Fleming, Mike Jr. (January 23, 2020). "A24 Reunites With 'Swiss Army Man' Directors; Finance & Distribute AGBO's 'Everything Everywhere All At Once'". Deadline Hollywood.
- "James Hong". NNDB.
- Kahn, Rachel (April 28, 2014). "Get to know Minneapolis native James Hong, in town for Comic Con". Mill City Times.
- Lee, Janet W. (August 6, 2020). "Daniel Dae Kim Launches Fundraiser to Nominate James Hong for Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame". Variety. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
- Sharf, Zack (August 10, 2020). "Daniel Dae Kim Raises $55,000 to Help Get James Hong a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star". IndieWire.
- Shanfeld, Ethan (June 18, 2021). "Michael B. Jordan, Carrie Fisher, Nipsey Hussle, James Hong and DJ Khaled Among 2022 Walk of Fame Honorees". Variety. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
- Pilato, Herbie J. (1993). The Kung Fu Book of Caine: The Complete Guide to TV's First Mystical Eastern Western. Boston: Charles A. Tuttle. ISBN 0-8048-1826-6.
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