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Jan 20, 2009

Familiar Face - Unknown Name #10 - James Hong

Call them what you want - character actors, "That Guy(s)," scene stealers - I don't care. This is a regular feature where I spotlight one performer, whether they be longtime veterans like J.K. Simmons or Barry Corbin, or a fresher face just making their way up the stardom ranks. For previous FF-UNs, click here.

Today's Familiar Face-Unknown Name:

James Hong

Where You've Seen Him (high profile): Where haven't you seen him might be the better question. Hong has over 300 credits on his IMDb resume that stretch over the course of some 50+ years of acting (he also has a handful of producing, writing and directing credits). He's been a guest star on every TV show ever made (not an exaggeration) and has been featured and/or had high-profile roles in Blade Runner, Big Trouble in Little China, Chinatown, Airplane!, The Golden Child, Wayne's World 2, The Shadow, Bloodsport 2 (and 3!), and loads of other films.

Where You've Seen Him (not-so-high profile): See above. It's impossible for one person to have seen him in everything he's been in, so let's just call them all high-profile, k?

Character Specialties: Every Asian stereotype under the sun, but generally seen recently as the all-knowing, wise mentor type. Also excels at being a speaker of Engrish. You name it, he can do it - and probably has.

My favorite role: Despite such a massive career, I probably get the biggest kick out of one of his smallest - that of the maitre'd Bruce in "The Chinese Restaurant" episode of Seinfeld. Clueless, friendly Bruce mistakes George's last name of Costanza for "Cartwright," is oblivious to Elaine's attempt to bribe him for faster seating, jokes with a regular customer and of course, calls out the group "Seinfeld - four!" just after the gang has grown impatient and left the restaurant.

Little Known Facts: Despite the heavy accent he can put on like a pair of comfy shoes, Hong was born in Minneapolis. Also, he unsuccessfully auditioned for the part of Sulu on the original Star Trek series. Who would have been better - him or Takei?

Interestingly enough, there is a two-part "conversation with James Hong" on YouTube (really, it's just video footage of him speaking to a small gathering of fans in Houston). The quality isn't great (background noise, etc), but if you really dig the man and want to hear some life stories from a great character actor (it's about 40 minutes all told), I can't think of a better place to start.

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JICAilI_4Ro
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRzmCgLz5KE

On Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hong
On IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0393222/
Official Website: http://www.jameshong.com/

6 people have chosen wisely: on "Familiar Face - Unknown Name #10 - James Hong"

Fox said...

This is a great dig-up by you, Fletch! I hadn't even realized that the guy from the Seinfeld episode was the same guy from Big Trouble in Little China (definitely my favorite role for James Hong ... no direspect to him that I didn't know his name until today.)

I think he's also a ping pong coach in Balls of Fury, but I could be wrong. (And perhaps racist if I AM wrong...).

Fletch said...

Thanks, Fox. I liked him for this feature because he's ideal - EVERYONE recognizes the guy, but I'm guessing very few know his name (I was in your boat as well).

And yes, that's him in Balls of Fury. I chose not to include that winning credit...

Nick said...

I believe he was in the recent Kung Fu Panda, as well. I was so surprised to hear him go from his 'Engrish' to normal speaking on the extras.

steel11kane said...

Has also been doing some work on The Big Bang Theory recently - of course in the Chinese Restaurant.

tommy salami said...

James Hong is one of my favorite character actors. He even made Balls of Fury tolerable.

Reel Whore said...

I heart James Hong! He's always a treat to see. Wayne's World 2 is just one of his shining moments. Excellent choice.