James Hong (traditional Chinese: 吳漢章, W Hnzhāng; born February 22, 1929) is an American actor and former president of the Association of Asian/Pacific American Artists (AAPAA). A prolific acting veteran, Hong's career spans over 50 years and includes more than 350 roles in film, television, and video games.
Hong was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father, Frank W. Hong, immigrated from Hong Kong to Chicago via Canada, where he owned a restaurant. Hong's grandfather was from Taishan, China. For his early education, Hong moved to Hong Kong, and returned to the United States at age ten. He studied civil engineering at the University of Southern California, but later became interested in acting and trained with Jeff Corey. Hong was a road engineer for Los Angeles County for 7 years, acting during his vacations and sick days. He finally quit engineering for good to devote himself to acting and voice work full time.
James Hong has played in over 500 television and film roles. His career in show business began in the 1950s when he redubbed soundtracks of several Asian films, including the re-dubbing of characters Ogata (Akira Takarada) and Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) in the 1956 Japanese film Godzilla, King of the Monsters! as well as the title character in The Human Vapor. He appeared as a prince on an episode of Disney's Zorro in 1959. Hong was one of the original founding members, in 1965, of the East West Players, one of the first Asian American theatre organizations.
Hong had a small part on a 1972 episode of The Bob Newhart Show. He was a frequent guest star on the 19721975 television series Kung Fu, joined the cast on the final season of Switch, as Wang, and also played a flight attendant in the original 1979 film The In-Laws. He appeared as a doctor accused of performing an illegal abortion in the Blake Edwards movie The Carey Treatment in 1972. He also starred as a uniformed man in the 1980 comedy cult film Airplane!. He is perhaps most widely known as the immortal ghost sorcerer Lo Pan in John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China (1986), as the eye manufacturer Chew in Blade Runner and as the low-rent private eye in Black Widow. He would then appear in the 1989 film The Vineyard.
Hong appeared as a host in a Chinese restaurant on All In the Family's 1975 episode Edith Breaks Out as well as on the well-known Seinfeld episode The Chinese Restaurant. Hong also played a similar role in several episodes of The Big Bang Theory during its first season, as well as in the Color Blind episode during the first season of Alias. Hong appeared as a villain in a season three episode of The X-Files. He appeared in two episodes of The West Wing (Ep. 1.11; 3.15) as the US Ambassador from the People's Republic of China. He also played Mr. Soo on The King of Queens, an Asian restaurant owner again who rents Doug Heffernan and his friends a loft apartment above his store, in the episode Apartment Complex (2006). Additionally, Hong had guest-starred on Friends, playing Hoshi, the former paid assassin and boxing coach for Monica's boyfriend Pete (played by Jon Favreau) in the episode The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion.
Hong played Jeff Wong, Cassandra Wong's father (who happens to be a martial arts expert), in the 1993 comedy sequel Wayne's World 2. He had a small role in the 1998 independent film Broken Vessels. Most recently, he played the role of Mr. Takato in the movie Chasing Zoey, and in the television series Zoey 101 his character taught Michael Barret how to operate a manual transmission. Hong also voiced the character Daolon Wong, an evil wizard in the Jackie Chan Adventures television series, and was the voice of Chi Fu in Disney's Mulan, Mandarin in Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, and Professor Chang in Teen Titans. He made a cameo appearance in the television series Las Vegas as a presumed cheating monk. James Hong also lent his voice to the Cartoon Network animation Chowder as Mung Daal's mentor in the Won-Ton Bombs episode. In 2006, Hong voiced the character Mayor Tong in Avatar: The Last Airbender in the second season's episode titled Avatar Day.
Hong's voice also appeared as Colonel Zhou Peng in the video game Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, Dr. Chang in 2007's Def Jam Icon, Ancient Wu in True Crime: Streets of LA, and reprising his role as Chew in the Blade Runner video game. His most recent appearances were in the films Balls of Fury and The Day the Earth Stood Still. In 2008, he voiced Mr. Ping in Kung Fu Panda, the father of Jack Black's Panda character. He was nominated for an Annie Award for his performance of this fatherly Goose. He later reprised this role on Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special and won an Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Television Production. Furthermore, he and Lucy Liu will be the only members of the feature film series cast to appear in the television series adaptation, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness.
He will appear in the upcoming film Safe.