If you’ve been consuming cinema since the 1950s, then there’s no doubt you’ve been seeing the face of James Hong on screen for more than 60 years. As early as the Americanized version of Godzilla, King of the Monsters! in 1956, where he provided the English voice of Dr. Serizawa, Hong has been a Hollywood mainstay, albeit one often working in the background of classic films and TV episodes. He’s one of the quintessential “that guy!” character actors in film history, so it’s only fitting that he receive a little recognition.
Recently, YouTube channel Great Big Story released a retrospective on Hong, wherein the 90-year-old actor claims his career now includes more than 500 credited roles, “the most ever, alive or dead.” That may be a bit of an overstatement, judging from some of the historical data available on credited acting appearances, but there’s little doubt that Hong ranks among the highest, even if he’s not at the tip-top. Since he began working regularly in the 1950s, Hong has never really slowed down.
In terms of appearances, you know him from so many things. He was the primary villain in John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China. He battled Mike Myers in Wayne’s World 2. He denied Jerry, George and Elaine a table in one of the most famous episodes of Seinfeld, “The Chinese Restaurant.” And his voice work has been especially prolific, from playing Po’s father throughout the Kung Fu Panda series to portraying notable characters in the Diablo videogame mythos. Hong is seemingly always filming something, even as his age creeps past 90.
In addition to all his credits, Hong also strove throughout his career to be a positive force for Asian actor representation. He helped to establish the East-West Players, which stands today as the oldest Asian American theater in L.A., where future screen luminaries learned to ply their trade. In doing so, Hong has become a “grand old man” for generations of Asian American actors.
So with that said, check out the video appreciation of Hong below.