Vanishing Son

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Vanishing Son
Created by Rob Cohen
Directed by John Nicolella
Starring Russell 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 origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 13
Executive producer(s) Rob Cohen
Raffaella De Laurentiis
Stu Segall
Running time 60 minutes
(per episode)
Production company(s) Rob Cohen/Raffaella DeLaurentiis Productions
Stu Segall Productions
Distributor NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original network Syndicated
Original release January 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. As a result, they subsequently immigrate to the United States via a fishing boat and are apprehend by federal Immigration Agent 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), while Wago joins a gang led by Fu Qua Johnson (Marcus Chong). As the relationship between Jian-Wa and Clair grows deeper, 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).

Vanishing Son II[edit]

In Vanishing Son II, Jian-Wa leaves Claire and goes on the road in order to avoid being questioned by the authorities about criminal activities and murders committed by his brother Wago, who works with Fu Qua to gain the allegiance of local crime lord Andre Laine (Harry Lennix in order to fight back against the encroaching Triads. Jian-Wa stops by near a gulf community in Louisiana, where he meets a community of Vietnamese American fishermen that includes an elderly patriarch (Kim Chan), a young man named Hung (Dustin Nguyen), his sister Lanchi (Tamlyn Tomita) with whom Jian-Wa develops an intimate relationship, 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 local Ku Klux Klan and the Vietnamese American community erupt in Little Saigon, and just when Jian-Wa and Hung are about to lose the battle, Wago arrives on the scene and saves Jian-Wa's life. The final scene reunites Wago with a girl he loved (but who really loves Jian-Wa), 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 apprehended by a federal task force bent on apprehending Wago and members of his gang, and is forced to go undercover in order to save his brother. Meanwhile, with Fu Qua out of the picture, Wago begins the ascension to the top of The General's criminal organization, working with The General, Lili and a former Triad named Chou Pei (Luoyong Wang) to take down the "dragonheads" of the Triads. Jian-Wa begins to work for Wago and is given fancy new clothes, a new house and a new car, and when he is reunited with Clair, Lili immediately becomes jealous. The climax involves a siege of Wago's gang and the Triads by government agents, where Wago and Lili are killed, and where The General is also revealed to be working for the CIA. Jian-Wa flees the scene and goes on the run.

Vanishing Son IV[edit]

In Vanishing Son IV, Jian-Wa is wondering 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 local woman named Megan (Dee Wallace) who lives nearby in order to heal Jian-Wa's wounds. As Jian-Wa recovers, a series of flashbacks occur recounting the events that happened in Vanishing Son I-III. The flashbacks also add narration from Jian-Wa, because it is a back-story he tells Megan, who is revealed to be a reclusive artist who lives out in the woods due to losing a son and who becomes closer to Jian-Wa as a result of the revelation of this information. After Wago appears as a spirit that only Jian-Wa can see and 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 reconciles with her past, and 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 happen to be 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 also 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 murdered brother Wago, and meets an assortment of different characters a long the way, including becoming romantically 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 is a domestic abuse victim and testifying in court about her innocence after she accidentally murders her husband (Episode 3 - Birds of Paradise), reuniting with Hung (Dustin Nguyen) and Lanchi (Tamlyn Tomita) in Oakland, California, where they moved to from Louisiana, and helping them deal with members of a local white gang called the High Street Bank Boys who are at war with an Asian gang called the Red Circle Clan led by Crazy Boy 6 (Ron Yuan) (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


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