Vanishing Son

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Vanishing Son
Created byRob Cohen
Directed byJohn Nicolella
StarringRussell Wong
Haing S. Ngor (telefilms)
Vivian Wu (telefilms)
Rebecca Gayheart (telefilms)
Marcus Chong (telefilms)
Chi Muoi Lo
Jason Adams (series)
Stephanie Niznik (series)
Composer(s)Jan Hammer
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes13
Executive producer(s)Rob Cohen
Raffaella De Laurentiis
Stu Segall
Running time60 minutes
(per episode)
Production company(s)Rob Cohen/Raffaella De Laurentiis Productions
Stu Segall Productions
DistributorMCA TV
Original networkSyndicated
Original releaseJanuary 16 –
May 8, 1995

Vanishing Son is an American action television series that was part of Universal Television's Action Pack. Starting as a series of four made-for-television movies in 1994, the series debuted in Syndicated on January 16, 1995. Vanishing Son I, Vanishing Son II, Vanishing Son III, and Vanishing Son IV, were aired on February 28, July 18, July 25, and October 10, 1994, respectively. The series was ground-breaking for the casting of an Asian male in an attractive leading-man role.


Russell Wong starred as Jian-Wa Chang, a musician who escaped from the People's Republic of China after being involved in Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989 and escaping the subsequent massacre of students by the government. He and his brother Wago Chang (Chi Muoi Lo) escaped to the United States; he pursued his music while Wago became drawn to a life of organized crime.

Vanishing Son I[edit]

Vanishing Son I covers Jian-Wa and Wago's life in China, where Jian-Wa is trained in violin by Teacher Beaton (Rob Cohen) and both Jian-Wa and Wago are trained in martial arts by Sifu Yamou (John Cheung). Both Jian-Wa and Wago participate in political demonstrations with their mutual friend, Lili (Vivian Wu), and as a result of getting into an altercation with military guards, their father, Louyung Chang (Kay Tong Lim) tells them to flee or else risk being arrested or killed by the Secret Police. They subsequently immigrate to the United States via a fishing boat and are apprehended by a federal Immigration Agent named Estabrook (Paul Butler). After they are brought to a jail in San Bruno, Agent Estabrook discovers photos of Jian-Wa and Wago in Time, releasing and letting them free due to the asylum laws. After they attempt to get a series of low-paying odd jobs in and around Los Angeles, Jian-Wa becomes a violinist and falls in love with a cellist, Clair Rutledge (Rebecca Gayheart). Wago joins a gang led by Fu Qua Johnson (Marcus Chong), whom the brothers met in jail. As Jian-Wa performs gigs and his relationship with Clair grows, Wago rises in the ranks of the criminal underworld. We also find out that Fu Qua's gang is ultimately run by a Vietnamese mobster named "The General" (Haing S. Ngor). Jian-Wa's life with Clair is infringed on when he senses that Wago is in danger and hurries off to rescue him. When he is powerless to pull Wago from his life of crime, he returns to Clair. The next morning, she awakens to find she is alone and discovers Jian-Wa's letter proclaiming his love for her, yet it is his love for his brother that has forced him to leave once again.

Vanishing Son II[edit]

In Vanishing Son II, Jian-Wa parts with Clair and goes on the road in order to evade being questioned by the authorities about criminal activities and murders committed by his brother, Wago, who works with Fu Qua to achieve the allegiance of a local crime lord named Andre Laine (Harry Lennix) to fight back against the Triads. Jian-Wa hitchhikes to a gulf community in Louisiana, where he meets a population of Vietnamese fishermen that includes an elderly patriarch (Kim Chan), a compulsively violent man named Hung (Dustin Nguyen) and his sister, Lanchi (Tamlyn Tomita), who Jian-Wa is attracted to, and a young woman named Mai (Ming-Na Wen) who eventually falls for Reggie Valmont (Jamie Walters), the son of a local fisherman and Ku Klux Klan member, Mickey Jo (Dean Stockwell). Tensions between the Ku Klux Klan and the Vietnamese community erupt in Little Saigon when Hung kills a local white fisherman. Jian-Wa is on the verge of leaving again when the Sheriff seeks him out for questioning after having witnessed the event, but Lanchi's persuasion makes him reconsider. Reggie, who is also a witness, is torn between lying to please the good old boys and following his own convictions. Ku Klux Klan members storm the Vietnamese community, and just when Jian-Wa and Hung are about to lose the fight, Wago arrives on the scene and saves Jian-Wa's life. Jian-Wa bids farewell to Lanchi and the Vietnamese once the National Guard and police units infiltrate the area and heads to Washington D.C. The final scene reunites Wago with the woman he loves, Lili (Vivian Wu), who was thought to have been killed by the Secret Police.

Vanishing Son III[edit]

In Vanishing Son III, Jian-Wa is playing in a violin competition in Washington D.C. when he suddenly reunites with Clair, and he tells her the truth about Wago as well as the promise he made to his father to look after him. The two quickly rekindle their romance, yet it is cut short when Jian-Wa returns to Los Angeles with her and is arrested by a federal task force bent on apprehending Wago and members of his gang. He is forced to go undercover to infiltrate Wago's gang for information on them and The General, but also to save Wago. Meanwhile, with Fu Qua dead, Wago begins the ascension to the top of The General's criminal organization, working with him, Lili, and a former Triad named Chou Pei (Luoyong Wang) to take down the "dragonheads" of the Triads. Jian-Wa begins working for Wago and is given upscale clothes, a new house, and a new car. Jian-Wa resists the charms of Lili, cognizant of Wago's love for her. When Jian-Wa is rejoined with Clair once more, Lili becomes envious and attempts to murder her with a car bomb after she fails to seduce Jian-Wa one night in his house. When faced with the death of her best friend, Clair questions the life Jian-Wa is leading. Jian-Wa guarantees her protection and gives her a plane ticket to a safe location. Jian-Wa angrily confronts Lili over her actions and rebukes her as merely a tool to be used by The General. Wago turns against his brother out of blind love for Lili and resentment when Jian-Wa attempts to convince him of Lili's lies. Jian-Wa visits Estabrook later and learns that The General is a high-level CIA operative and Lili is working with him (also his lover), planning to set up Wago to take a fall. In the climax, Wago's gang and the Triads are seized by government agents during an ambush. In the midst of the chaos, Jian-Wa faces off with Wago and Lily. Seeing Wago become taken in by Jian-Wa's words, Lili manages to steal Wago's gun from him. Failing to appease the emotionally unstable Lili, Wago attempts to disarm her and the gun discharges, instantly killing her and fatally injuring himself. Before his last breath, he tells Jian-Wa that he never stopped loving him through everything. Estabrook and the task force happen upon the bodies of Wago and Lili huddled together as they comb the area. Jian-Wa has escaped.

Vanishing Son IV[edit]

In Vanishing Son IV, tormented by his brother's death, Jian-Wa is wandering around the countryside at night when he gets struck by a truck driven by two drunk teenagers, Adams (Mark Valley) and Dawson (Matthew Lillard). Jian-Wa is taken in by a reclusive woman called Megan (Dee Wallace) who lives nearby. While Jian-Wa heals, he piques the interest of Megan on his origin and identity. At first, Jian-Wa is reluctant to discuss the past, but with reassurance from the spirit of Wago, who only he can see, he opens up. Through learning of Jian-Wa's dark past, it is revealed that Megan has a dark past of her own and has chosen to seclude herself out of mourning and heavy guilt over the death of her young son in a carjacking incident. The two connect through their backgrounds of heartache and loss of loved ones. Jian-Wa urges her to make peace with her child's death and persevere. Once Wago's spirit warns him of impending danger, Jian-Wa fights off the two teenagers (from before) who raid the cabin in an attempt to remove all evidence of their hit-and-run. Megan comes to terms with her son's death and goes into town to get the police. Jian-Wa once again takes to the road.

13 Episode Series[edit]

The 13-episode series occurs after the events of Vanishing Son IV. At the end of Vanishing Son III, two US Federal Agents were killed and Jian-Wa is held responsible, therefore he constantly is on the run from the authorities. However, "The General" is the true mastermind behind the murders. Jian-Wa becomes a fugitive, using his wisdom, music, and martial arts skills to solve problems along the way on his quest to bring "The General" to justice. The series has a lighter tone compared to the darker tone of the previous four telefilms in order to match the 90s TV show nature of the series where Jian-Wa undertakes another adventure each episode. The music, as well as the opening theme song, was also composed by Jan Hammer.

As he helps others while traveling across America, he is aided by the spirit of his deceased brother, Wago, and meets an assortment of different characters along the way, including becoming involved with a Latina labor organizer nicknamed V (Jacqueline Obradors) (Episode 1 - Dance of The Dust), helping a man (Matt Letscher) track down information about his Vietnam war veteran of a father and fighting another martial artist named Nguyen (Yuji Okumoto) (Episode 2 - Holy Ghosts), coming to the aid of the Irish wife (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) of a Texan ostrich farmer who physically abuses her and testifying in court for her innocence when she accidentally murders him in defense (Episode 3 - Birds of Paradise), reuniting with Hung (Dustin Nguyen) and Lanchi (Tamlyn Tomita) in Oakland, California, where they moved to from Louisiana, and getting caught up in a gang dispute involving Hung and Lanchi's caucasian boyfriend (Episode 4 - Single Flame), getting hired as a bodyguard/driver for the daughter (Aimee Brooks) of a wealthy man that lives in Rancho Santa Fe, only to find out that the daughter is more manipulative than she seems (Episode 5 - Sweet Sixteen), being helped by an eccentric man named Issac (Kurt Fuller) who can also see the spirit of Wago (Episode 6 - Miracle Under 34th Street), assisting a Chinese art smuggler and con artist named Dinah Lai (Una Damon) with recovering some stolen artifacts from the Han Dynasty that she intends to sell in order to free her friends in China (Episode 7 - Runaway Hearts), becoming embroiled in a twisted game run by a sadistic couple (Sofia Milos and Nicholas Guest) where a young African American boy named Cliff (Brandon Hammond) and his Electrical Engineer father Ray (Bobby Hosea) also get caught up in (Episode 8 - Lock and Load, Babe), getting kidnapped along with another young girl named Beth (Dorie Barton) by two brothers, George Bruce (Stephen Ramsey) and Tom Bruce (Steve Larson) who are armed with guns and want to go down in history as famous criminals (Episode 9 - Two Guys with Guns), helping out at a stable that breeds competitive horses and developing a relationship with a young rider named Tina (Alexandra Tydings) who ends up getting sabotaged by the proprietor of the stable, Harry (Forry Smith) (Episode 10 - Win, Place or Dead), comes to the aid of a singer named Dana (Sherrie Rose) in New Jersey (Episode 11 - Jersey Girl), gets hired as a maitre d' "that women can fantasize about" by an owner of a restaurant, Rachel (Catherine Bell), who is reminded of her deceased former lover Mark whenever she sees Jian-Wa (who goes by "Jack") (Episode 12 - Long Ago and Far Away), and assists another musician (flute player) he knew from the Beijing Philharmonic named Yu Lin (Peter James Smith) free the clutches of a Triad criminal organization who he serves as a bookkeeper for known as the Tien-Ching gang led by "dailo" White Powder Ma (George Chung) and his nephew Benny Ping (Stan Egi) in San Francisco, and which also has ties to The General (Episode 13 - Land of the Free).

In the series, Jian-Wa is constantly on the run from ruthless Federal Agent Dan Sandler (Jason Adams), the direct superior of the agents killed in the two-hour films. Agent Judith Phillips (Stephanie Niznik) was a member of Sandler's team who was convinced that Jian-Wa was innocent and she gradually became his ally. This put her at great odds with Sandler.

The series was not renewed after the first thirteen-episode season aired.


Episode titles[edit]

episode# Title Air Date
1 "Dance of the Dust" January 16, 1995
2 "Holy Ghosts" January 23, 1995
3 "Birds of Paradise" January 30, 1995
4 "Single Flame" February 6, 1995
5 "Sweet Sixteen" February 13, 1995
6 "Miracle Under 34th Street" February 20, 1995
7 "Runaway Hearts" February 27, 1995
8 "Lock and Load, Babe" March 6, 1995
9 "Two Guys with Guns" March 13, 1995
10 "Win, Place or Dead" March 20, 1995
11 "Jersey Girl" April 24, 1995
12 "Long Ago and Far Away" May 1, 1995
13 "Land of the Free" May 8, 1995


  • Nicholson, David (March 1, 1994). "Adventure in the Making: 'Vanishing Son' TV-movie Series Films Locally". Newport News Daily Press. p. C1.
  • Lee, Elisa (March 25, 1994). "'Vanishing Son' Brings Asian Americans to TV". AsianWeek. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012.
  • Solomon, Harvey (January 21, 1995). "Television 'Kung-Fu' meets 'Fugitive' in 'Vanishing Son' series". Boston Herald. p. 22.
  • Darling, Cary (February 8, 1995). "Groundbreaker Russell Wong Changes Image of Asian-Americans in 'Vanishing Son'". Orange County Register.
  • "Wong's TV movies led to 'Vasnihing Son'". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. March 26, 1995. p. 5.

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