AsianConnections salutes actor James Hong for his many successful career achievements and contributions as an advocate for more and better roles for Asian Americans in the entertainment industry.
James Hong, one of Hollywood's most prolific and versatile actors turned 79 February 22nd, and he's busy as ever.
Hong is a veteran actor with more than 450 appearances in feature films, television shows, and foreign productions spanning more than fifty years. He also is a film producer.
Among his diverse roles, James has acted in critically acclaimed films such as period drama "Chinatown" starring Jack Nicholson playing Faye Dunaway's butler, in the sci-fi thriller "Blade Runner" with Harrison Ford, as the voice of Chi Fu in Disney's "Mulan," and the character Lo Pan in cult classic "Big Trouble in Little China."
James talented voice acting can be heard this summer when Dreamworks' releases its animated feature film "Kung Fu Panda." He is part of an all-star voice-actor ensemble including Jack Black, Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman and Lucy Liu.
James was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on February 22, 1929. His father emigrated from China to the U.S. via Canada and started a laundry business, later owning restaurants and an upscale club catering to Caucasian customers.
By the time James was 5, Hong's father felt his son was becoming "too Americanized" so he moved the family to Hong Kong where James could attend a Chinese elementary school.
When James was ten, the family moved back from Hong Kong to Minneapolis. While in junior high and high school James was in the drama club, and by college he was entertaining audiences as a stand-up comic while studying civil engineering.
While a college student in Minneapolis, James formed "Hong and Parker" a successful stand-up comedy team with partner Don Parker. After local successes which garnered an invitation to be a contestant impersonating Groucho Marx on the TV show "You Bet Your Life, James was invited to work as a stand-up comic at San Francisco's popular Forbidden City nightclub.
With an eye toward Hollywood, James moved to southern California but still kept his academic focus and enrolled for his senior year, and graduating from the University of Southern California.
After graduating from USC, James worked for a year and a half as a civil engineer for the Los Angeles County Road department, and made his move to focus full time on his acting career after being cast in feature films including "Soldier of Fortune" with Clark Gable, and 1955's "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" with William Holden and Jennifer Jones.
It's no secret that Asian Americans have been under-represented in the mainstream entertainment industry for generations, and Hong has alot to say about that. James is an outspoken advocate for increasing the number of acting opportunities as well as the quality of the roles for Asian Americans in film and television.
During the actors strike in 2000, AsianConnections team members attended a packed Screen Actors Guild meeting with more than two hundred Asian American actors venting frustration over the strike and from the lack of Asian American roles in the entertainment industry. James Hong was one of the most vocal voices at the meeting.
In 1965, James and other pioneer Asian American actors and members of the entertainment industry joined forces to establish East West Players, an Asian American theatre organization in Los Angeles.
Today, some 43 years later, East West Players is nationally and internationally renowned for its award-winning productions, and training and career opportunities for both established and emerging Asian American actors. Many have gone on to win prestigious awards including Tony Awards, Emmy Awards, Obie Awards, and Academy Awards.
We wish James Hong a very Happy Birthday and thank him for his outstanding contributions helping to pave the way for future generations!
Read more about James Hong at his official website: