Mr. Panda and I love to watch movies and TV series. We watch almost anything, as long as it is entertaining. These days, we watched RED 2, where almost illegally handsome Byun-hun Lee played a professional killer. After being districted by his six pack, I only realized once again, that he was only the side kick, while his acting talent was far good enough for a main role.

Of course there are a few East Asians or descendants of East Asians who already became famous in Hollywood, acting main roles in their own movies, such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or Chow Yun-Fat. But compared to other ethnicities, they are still in the minority and are deported at supporting roles too many times.

Not only Byun-hun Lee, but many other East Asian actors also suffer the same fate as him. They are talented, good looking and furthermore: unreasonably underrated in Hollywood. There are far too many who deserve a main role or be shown more often, in more important roles right now. Although there are many more out there, I have tried to make a list of my 15 favorite East Asian actors in Hollywood. Oh yeah, and I left out the many mixed talents out there on purpose. (At least that is my excuse for Daniel Henney not being on my list.)

(Source: Wikipedia)

15. Rick Yune
He’s born in the US in 1971 of Korean descent. He has already played side roles in a few Hollywood movies and series so far. He is probably best known for his role in the first part of The Fast and The Furious (2001) were he played Vin Diesel’s antagonist. At least this is where I originally know him from. Once again he got the role of the bad boy as the leader of the terrorists in the action thriller Olympus Has Fallen (2013) with Morgan Freeman. Maybe we can see him in a villain’s role again soon, he can definitely play them.
(More information about him: IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

14_StevenYeun
(Source: Wikipedia)

14. Steven Yeun
Born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1983, he might be best known for his acting in the horror drama The Walking Dead were he plays the side kick (and I really hope they did not kill him off!). 2010 he was nominated as Best Supporting Actor in Television for his role in the same series for the 37th Saturn Awards. Next time, we want you to be the main zombie hunter!
(More information about him: IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

13_HenryShum
(Source: Wikipedia)

13. Harry Shum Jr.
He was born in 1982 of Chinese descent, his mother is a native Hong Konger, while his father is from mainland China. He is probably best known for his role in the comedy drama TV series Glee, and acted in other music related movies such as Step Up 2: The Streets (2008) or Step Up 3D (2010). I would definitely like to see you dance and sing more often.
(More information about him: Official Homepage, IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

12_BDWong
(Source: Wikipedia)

12. Bradley Darryl “B.D.” Wong
Although the Tony Award winner is born in 1960 of Hong Kong descent, he probably does not age at all. In Jurassic World (2015) he looks still as young as he did back in Jurassic Park (1993) where he played awesome dinosaur scientist Doctor Wu. He also plays another doctor in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and generally – he is probably pretty awesome at playing doctors in any form. We need another House MD (maybe家 MD? ok that one is not so funny as I think) where he can play the main role as another awesome doctor.
(More information about him: IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

11_KenWatanabe
(Source: Wikipedia)

11. Ken Watanabe
He is a Japanese actor born in 1959. He is already a prize winning actor with lots of main roles in Japan, and he is also well known for his many roles in Hollywood to the rest of the world. Most of the time he plays tragic heros, like his roles in The Last Samurai (2003) or Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), but he is also known for his roles in Inception (2010) (wooo he was hot!), Godzilla (2014) and Batman Begins (2005).
(More information about him: Official Homepage, IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

(Source: Wikipedia)

10. Aaron Yoo
Born of Korean parents in 1979 in the US, Aaron Yoo is known for his various rolls in TV series or supporting roles in movies. He has played quite some time in the series The Tomorrow People, and was in an AMWF relationship, but was dumbed because of his insensitive behavior by Lindsay Lohan in Labor Pains (2009). I would love to see him in another AMWF role, but definitely in a more likable one.
(More information about him: IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

09_MasiOka
(Source: Wikipedia)

9. Masi Oka
Born in Japan in 1974, he is probably best known for his role in the TV series Heroes for which he even got a Golden Globe nomination as best supporting actor. Since then he has also played frequent roles in the TV series Hawaii Five-0, and he has also played a grumpy lab assistant in Scrubs. But his far most funny role might be the one of a Japanese fleeing from Godzilla in Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), where he just screams “It looks like Godzilla, but due to international copyright laws, it’s not” (cit.). Please, let us see more from you!
(More information about him: IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

08_DanielDaeKim
(Source: Wikipedia)

8. Daniel Dae Kim
The in 1968 born Korean is probably on of the most used East Asians in Hollywood TV series. He’s already acted in the TV series Crusade, Angel, Star Trek: Enterprise, Emergency Room, 24 (2003-2004), as well as the successful series Lost, and is now a regular at Hawaii Five-0. Furthermore he is active as voice actor, but I would more likely SEE him even more often.
(More information about him: IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

07_HiroyukiSanada
(Source: Wikipedia)

7. Hiroyuki Sanada
The Japanese actor was born in 1960, and has already been acting in many Japanese movies for a long time now, he has also been staging in US movies and series since a few years. I have seen him first in Rush Hour 3, where he played Jackie Chan’s brother he met in the orphanage both grew up. Later I have also seen him in Lost, Wolverine (2013) and Keanu Reeves’ 47 Ronin (2013). Compared to other actors on the list, he’s played Japanese guys all the time, while others played roles who differed from their actual origin.
(More information about him: IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

06_KenJeong
(Source: Wikipedia)

6. Ken Jeong
The in 1969 US born South Korean actor is known to me as ‘the crazy guy’ from Hangover 3 (2013). While he’s played minor roles in different TV series, he is now a regular at the Comedy series Community. As he is stuck as crazy Mr. Chow in my head, I would love to see him in more crazy roles. But could I handle such a movie with him as the main actor? Yes!
(More information about him: IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

05_KiHongLee
(Source: Wikipedia)

5. Ki Hong Lee
Still quite new in Hollywood, is the in 1986 Korean born actor Ki Hong Lee. I first saw him in The Maze Runner (2014) last year and fell for him right away. So far he has only had some minor roles in TV series and short movies, but I am excited to see him soon again in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015). Run faster cutie, so that the maze walls will not crush you!
(More information about him: IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

04_TimKang
(Source: Wikipedia)

4. Tim Kang
Born in 1973 in the US of Korean descent, Tim Kang is probably best known for his role of Agent Cho in the police procedural series The Mentalist or for his role in Rambo (2008). He has also played smaller roles in various television series and movies and has recently founded his own production company. In The Mentalist, he later also has an AMWF relationship in the series with a police informant played by actress Samaire Armstrong. The series would not be as good without his grumpy attitude.
(More information about him: IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

03_JayChou
(Source: Wikipedia)

3. Jay Chou
Born in Taiwan in 1979, musician and songwriter Jay Chou has played the awesome and funny sidekick in Seth Rogan’s The Green Hornet (2011). Although he is rather known for is music, as the soundtracks for The Green Hornet or The Interview (2014), I would like to see him acting in a comedy movie soon again.
(More information about him: Official Homepage, IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

02_LeeByung-hun
(Source: Wikipedia)

2. Byun-hun Lee
He is born in 1970, and already a poplar actor in South Korea. In Hollywood, he is known for his acting as Storm Shadow in GI Joe (2009, 2013) and as professional Killer who first tries to kill Bruce Willis’ role in RED 2 (2013), where we can see him (almost) all naked (the movie alone is already good, but that scene where he undresses alone is worth watching). Please show up in more action movies, and I really do not mind when you undress again! (I know, sexualization is bad, but he is just too hot.)
(More information about him: IMDB, Wikipedia)

 

01_GeorgeTakei
(Source: Wikipedia)

1. George Takei
Finally, unchallenged number one, in 1937 (but looks and acts much younger) Japanese born actor Gorge Takei. (Obviously, and I suppose you have guessed it already anyway).
While he already acted way before I was born, I became to know him because of his role of Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek (I love SiFi series). Since then he has played in various movies and TV series, for example the father of Masi Oka’s role in Heroes. Furthermore he had several cameo appearances as himself in such as Big Bang Theory, Will and Grace or Community or Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008). He even got his own comic figure in Drawn Together. While he already voice acted for The Simpsons, I am still waiting for him to show up in that one.
He also is active on social media, posts a lot on his YouTube as well as Facebook account. He also produces his own mini series It Takeis Two (Official, Facebook) with his husband. (That is, you could say, an AMWM relationship, I guess?)
Furthermore, he is currently on stage on Broadway in New York for his play Allegiance which is actually about his family’s story about their imprisonment in camps in the US during World War II.

While I still hope he could act a main role in a big block buster, I am actually happy that he is still so active, and that I can follow him on social media platforms and that I can see new content from him frequently. Unfortunately New York is too far away from me, so I will settle for old movie content and new YouTube videos from him for now. Go see him on stage if you are staying in New York or somewhere near.
(More information about him: Official Homepage, IMDB, Wikipedia)

Who is your favorite East Asian actor? Does my list miss your favorite?

15 East Asian actors in Hollywood who deserve a main role
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14 thoughts on “15 East Asian actors in Hollywood who deserve a main role

  • November 5, 2015 at 23:27
    Permalink

    I like your list.

    Well, Ken Jeong got his leading role in an American sitcom (“Dr. Ken”), and it’s already gotten orders for more episodes, so I think you got your wish for at least one of the actors.

    Since Harry can dance, I would like him to play the role of Andy in the future sitcom, “When West Marries East: Memoirs of the Persecuted Daughter-in-Law.” 🙂

    Reply
    • November 5, 2015 at 23:36
      Permalink

      I have read about Dr. Ken but did not have the opportunity to watch it yet. Is it good? Do you recommend it?

      I would like to have Jay Chou play Mr. Panda in “Shared Housing: Crazy Chinese and Betty”. Maybe we should write some scripts and send them in.

      Reply
  • November 6, 2015 at 5:09
    Permalink

    Randall Park does a good job in a leading role on the sitcom, “Fresh off the Boat.”

    B.D. Wong deserves a big starring role or two. He’s brilliant.

    I enjoyed your list. Thanks for putting it together.

    Reply
    • November 6, 2015 at 9:41
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      I know Randall Park him from The Interview. He and James Kyson should also make it on the list. I should enlarge it soon.

      Reply
  • November 6, 2015 at 6:13
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    Knowing Hollywood, Asian men are always the sidekicks, so we’ll never see them as leads. I don’t watch Hollywood when it’s full of shit. Take hangover and Ken. What wasthe point of that caricature?I’m sick of Hollywood and it’s emasculation of asian men, so screw Hollywood.

    Reply
    • November 6, 2015 at 9:37
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      What I don’t like is that most movies are so predictable.

      Reply
  • November 6, 2015 at 8:21
    Permalink

    You missed the most elegant and gentleman actor, which is Tony Leung! (梁朝偉) 😛
    But he is very famous and has many protagonist roles in Hong Kongese and Chinese movies, so I guess he doesn’t need more publicity!

    Reply
    • November 6, 2015 at 9:34
      Permalink

      He did not make it into the list as he is super famous in HK already anyway, and he does not act in Western movies at all. Anyway, I love him in Ip Man, all parts. 🙂
      I would like to watch more HK movies, but they are sometimes hard to get here, all the more with acceptable English subtitles. And it is not very relaxing to watch a movie with asking “What did they say???” all the time. At least not for Mr.Panda. 😀

      Reply
      • November 6, 2015 at 10:53
        Permalink

        Have you watched In the mood for love and Infernal affairs? Super yummy Tony Leung in both and they are quite famous, so the subtitles should be fine!

        Where do you get your movies from? I see everything on the internet… copyright laws are quite relaxed in China, haha.

        Reply
        • November 6, 2015 at 10:59
          Permalink

          Yes, I have seen them, as well as Hero.
          And that’s a difficult question, which I of course have to answer with “DVDs, Netflix, Amazon Prime and other legal streaming platforms.” 😀
          Mr.Panda also loves Stephen Chow movies, so I inevitably saw all of them. But they are all funny, so I can recommend them.

          Reply
  • November 8, 2015 at 11:56
    Permalink

    Actually, Jay Chou will be in the sequel ‘Now You See Me: The Second Act.’ I think it will be released next year. Lots of big names in the movie and I loved the first one, ‘Now You See Me.’

    Reply
    • November 8, 2015 at 21:53
      Permalink

      Oh really? I liked the first one, so now I am even more eager to watch the sequel. 😀

      Reply
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