He’s Probably In The Film You’re Watching Right Now
This piece was originally published May 10th, 2010
Recently while watching an episode of I Dream Of Jeannie from Season One (in glorious, non colorized black and white) I happened across an appearance by James Hong.
This got me thinking, wow, this guy really has been around forever and shows up in everything!
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1929, Hong spent school time until the age of ten in his family's original home of Hong Kong, where he studied and then became an engineer for 7 1/2 years, eventually he abandoned this career and decided to devote himself to his hobby of acting and voice over work full time.
Hong's first notable voice over was for the (uncredited) re dubbing of Dr. Serizawa (and the character Ogata) in the Japanese film Gojira (1954) when it was released for the American market in 1956 as Godzilla, King of the Monsters.
He also was a founding member of the East West Players in 1965 Los Angeles.
This group was one of the first of its kind— actors who were all Asian American with the intended purpose of not limiting themselves to the usual stereotyping that would have previously narrowed their choice of roles in film and television.
Still an ongoing and important organization, it was due to the hard work and vision of a talented and driven actor such as James Hong (and his six fellow founding actors), that we can now be thankful for the myriad of roles to which Hong has provided so much entertainment—from memorable cameos to full on menacingly comical laughs, thrilling villains and always intriguing characterizations.
In Never So Few (1959)
Starring Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford. Gina Lollobrigida, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson
Nicknamed, Man of a Thousand Faces, James Hong is certainly an archetype and as familiar a face (and voice) as has ever graced television and cinema.
James Hong in The Carey Treatment (1972)
With James Coburn
With James Coburn
Spin your television dial (ok I guess I mean push the channel selector on your remote) and there is a fairly good chance that you will come across a film or tv show that has a witty, cool, sly or sarcastic appearance by James Hong.
I mean it, if he were a British subject, then he would easily be worthy of a Knighting. Sir James Hong has a nice ring to it doesn't it?
Hong as the eye manufacturer, Hannibal Chew in Blade Runner
A few of my favorite roles for Hong would include Lo Pan, the Ghost Sorcerer in John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China, the maître d' of a Chinese restaurant who keeps George, Jerry and Elaine endlessly waiting for a table while he assures them it'll only be "5, 10 minutes" on season 2, Episode 16 of Seinfeld, Master Wong in Balls of Fury, the eye manufacturer Hannibal Chew in Blade Runner, Jeff Wong, the surprising martial arts master/father of Cassandra Wong in Wayne's World 2 and the voice of Ping the inimitable goose/father of Jack Black's Panda in the Kung Fu Panda.
James Hong continues in his eighties, to both operate his own acting workshops through his official website, make personal appearances at conventions and signings, do voice-overs and act in endlessly in television and film.
With well over 500 (!) acting roles, James Hong is truly a remarkable, living legend of pop culture. Not to mention, he really has the best voice...
Mr. Hong, in the words of the great Neil Young, "Long May You Run."