Russell Wong in 2009
|Birth name||Russell Girard Wong|
March 1, 1963 |
Troy, New York, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Flora Cheong-Leen (Divorced)|
Early life and education
The sixth of seven children, Wong was born in Troy, New York; the son of Chinese-American restaurateur William Wong and Connie Van Yserloo, an American artist of Dutch and French descent. His family moved to Albany when he was a baby, where his father ran a restaurant. When Wong was seven years old, his parents divorced, and he moved with his mother to California, settling near Yosemite. In 1981, Wong graduated from Mariposa County High School, and that fall enrolled at Santa Monica City College.
Wong supported himself as a photographer and as a dancer (appearing in rock videos with David Bowie, Donna Summer, and Janet Jackson, among others) before scoring his first screen roles in 1985, appearing in a Hong Kong musical called Ge wu sheng ping (aka Musical Dancer) and in a screen adaptation of James Clavell's best-seller Tai-Pan (as Gordon Chen). A number of television and film roles followed, including an appearance as Narong Bansari on an episode of the 80s crime show The Equalizer, but Wong began breaking into better roles in 1989, when he made a memorable guest appearance on the drama series 21 Jump Street (as Locke in the episode "The Dragon and the Angel") and won a leading role in Wayne Wang's acclaimed independent romantic comedy Eat a Bowl of Tea as Ben Loy. He also played a rising Chinese American gangster named Yung Gan in Abel Ferrara's China Girl, a Romeo and Juliet love story film about the conflicts between Chinese gangsters and the Italian mob in New York.
Supporting roles in China Cry (as Lam Cheng Shen), China White (as Bobby Chow) and New Jack City (as Park) were to follow, and Wong found himself working with Wayne Wang again when he was cast as Lin Xiao in the film adaptation of Amy Tan's best-selling novel The Joy Luck Club.
Wong finally got a breakthrough role in 1994, when he was cast in the leading role in the short lived TV series Vanishing Son, in which he played a Chinese political activist exiled in America. The show was popular enough to spawn three sequels, and was later spun off into a syndicated TV series. People magazine named him one of fifty "Beautiful People" in 1995.
After Vanishing Son ran its course, Wong moved on to more big-screen work, including major roles in Prophecy II (as Danyael), The Tracker (as Rick Tsung), and Romeo Must Die (as the antagonist Kai to Jet Li's hero), as well as the made-for-TV epic The Lost Empire, where he played the title character, The Monkey King. He also played Lieutenant Tong in the film Twisted starring Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia and directed by Philip Kaufman.
In 2003, he was cast as the lead in a TV series created by Robert Mark Kamen and Carlton Cuse entitled Black Sash, where he played a former narcotics cop named Tom Chang who opens up a martial arts school in San Francisco left to him by his teacher, Master Li (played by Mako), to teach a number of young students "the art of 8 palm changes" or Baguazhang. The series also starred Missy Peregrym, Corey Sevier, Ray J, Sarah Carter, and Drew Fuller. Although 8 episodes were made, 6 ended up airing on The WB.
Wong also voiced the main character, an undercover cop named Nick Kang, in the video game True Crime: Streets of LA (2003). In the late 2000s, he starred as Ming Guo (aka General Yang) opposite Michelle Yeoh and Jet Li in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) directed by Rob Cohen and as Patrick in the Thailand action film The Sanctuary alongside Michael B, Inthira Charoenpura and Patharawarin Timkul. He also appeared as Leon in Chris Chan Lee's independent film Undoing (2006) opposite Sung Kang and Kelly Hu, and Anna Chi's Dim Sum Funeral (2008), opposite Bai Ling and Talia Shire. He also guest starred on a number of TV shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (as Lieutenant Arthur Chen), Just Legal (as the District Attorney in the pilot episode), Commander in Chief (as a Cabinet member), Numb3rs (as Jeremy Wang).
In the 2010s, Wong appeared in the TV series Nikita (as Victor Han), Hawaii Five-0 (as Kong Liang; he also appeared as Nick Wong in the 1997 Hawaii Five-O TV movie), and HBO Asia's Serangoon Road (as Winston, the husband of Joan Chen's character) in 2013. Film wise, Wong was involved with a number of films shot in Asia or China, reuniting again with Wayne Wang for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2011) (as the Bank CEO at the beginning that gives a speech to Archie Kao and Li Bingbing) and as Peter in the Chinese language remake of the film What Women Want (2011) starring Andy Lau and Gong Li.
In 2014, Wong finished shooting a horror series entitled Grace which was shot in Singapore for HBO Asia, and also directed by Serangoon Road co-director Tony Tilse. He plays the father character of the family, and is named Roy Chan.
Wong has one daughter, Eja Robinson-Wong, with dancer Eartha Robinson. He was married to Hong Kong-based designer Flora Cheong-Leen. They divorced in 2012.
- Lost in the Pacific (2016)
- Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2011 film)
- What Women Want (2011)
- Unshakable (2010)
- The Sanctuary (2009)
- Dim Sum Funeral (2008)
- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)
- Stranglehold (2007) (video game)
- Undoing (2007)
- Honor (2006)
- Twisted (2004)
- Black Sash (2003)
- True Crime: Streets of LA (2003) (video game)
- Romeo Must Die (2000)
- Takedown (2000)
- The Prophecy II (1998)
- Vanishing Son (1994)
- The Joy Luck Club (1993)
- New Jack City (1991)
- China Cry: A True Story (1990)
- China Girl (1987)
- The Musical Singer (1985)
- Russell Wong's official website
- UCLA Asia Pacific Arts Interview
- Russell Wong at the Internet Movie Database