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What's His Face: Naming A Hollywood Legend - Character Actors Part 2

By Mieka Strawhorn | Celebrity | August 16, 2018 |

By Mieka Strawhorn | Celebrity | August 16, 2018 |


I was looking at a list on IMDB of “500 greatest character actors” for this post, and right up top was J.K. Simmons. He’s a perfect example of a character actor who done good; somebody who’s been able to rise through the ranks and become a leading man or woman. Many of our favs started out as bit players. But not all can reap the benefits of sexism, racism, nepotism, typecasting, what have you, to break through into stardom. And I’m certainly not accusing J.K. Simmons of not having earned his place among the Oscared elite. He’s a wonderful actor and has worked his ass off. It’s just that being a white dude helps, doesn’t it? If you can’t be a white dude, be a thin, beautiful, young woman (preferably white, but that’s currently negotiable, thank the lord). If you can’t be a white dude or a thin, beautiful, young woman, then be prepared to slog it out.

Take for example the gentleman pictured above and below. With one of the longest IMDB pages I have ever seen (seriously, if you printed it, you’d probably have to refill the tray more than once), he is surely recognizable to most. He’s from Minneapolis (a Midwesterner, like J.K.) but because he’s Chinese American, you know he’s had to fight against being typecast (or lean in, his only two choices) his entire career. Despite that handicap, he’s given some of the most original and memorable performances of any actor working today.

I remember him best as David Lo Pan from Big Trouble In Little China. And that’s not because I’ve seen the movie a bunch of times (I barely remember it), but because once in the mid-’90s, he came into the store I worked at and all the cashiers went ape-shit and were screaming “It’s David Lo Pan!!!!!”, even though that is not his name. He was super cool about it too, bless his heart.

He’s played a bajillion doctors, hundreds of “mystical Asians” and twice as many characters simply named Mr. (insert your favorite Chinese/Japanese surname). His name is James Hong and he’s got 426 acting credits to his name (according to IMDB). That’s 241 more than Mr. Simmons!

You may remember James from Wayne’s World.

He committed harakiri in Airplane!, played 4 different characters on the original Hawaii Five-0, 9 different characters on Kung Fu, was both “Chinese waiter” and “Doctor” on All In The Family, appeared on Dallas, Falcon Crest, Dynasty and just about every other TV show that aired in the 1970s or ’80s. He’s also the voice of Mr. Ping in the Kung Fu Panda movies, TV series, and videos games. In fact, he does a lot voiceover work on animated shows.

Can you think of an American movie set in China or Chinatown? Odds are, James was in it (yes, that includes Chinatown).

#robertstamenovphotography #folmonetoronto#jameshong

A post shared by Robert (@robertstamenovphotography) on

Happy Birthday James Hong! #jameshong #dynasty #kieuchinh #jackcoleman

A post shared by Len Conner (@len3rd) on

I’ve been watching James Hong my whole dang life, and not until this day did I learn his name. Shame on me. His talent contains multitudes. I doubt James is holding his breath for his “big break” at this point, but I for one - would welcome it.

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Mieka is a staff contributor. You can follow her on Twitter.

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