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Veteran character actor James Hong (Chinese name: Wu Hanzhang) was born in Minneapolis, MN, US on 22 February 1929. His parents were immigrants from Hong Kong, and Hong was sent back to Hong Kong for a period of time because his father thought he was growing up too Americanized. Because of this, Hong is fluent in both English and Chinese. He returned to America at the age of 10 due to the the approach of World War II. Hong lost much of his English after several years of study in Hong Kong schools, but regained it back in the Minneapolis school system, eventually graduating from USC with a degree in Civil Engineering.
Hong began doing stand up comedy with Don Parker in 1953. He also appeared on Groucho Marx's TV game show "You Bet Your Life," and that appearance earned Hong his first solo stand up gig. By the time he graduated, Hong was seriously torn between his work for what became Caltrans and his continuing interest in acting. By the time Hong got three uncredited bit parts in three major motion pictures, Soldier of Fortune, Love Is A Many Splendored Thing and Blood Alley in 1955, he quit his day job and pursued acting full-time.
Hong was able to continue to work steadily from the '50s to the present day. He helped found the East West Players, the first actor's theatre for Asian-Americans, in 1965. He has also been an activist for bigger and less stereotypic roles for Asian-Americans in the media, having often had to play such roles out of necessity.
Outside of his role as genetic designer Hannibal Chew in Blade Runner, Hong is best known as the sorcerer David Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China. He has done over 450 roles in his 52-year career in movies, TV and LA-area stage. He teaches acting to youth in Hollywood when he has the time, and his most recent role is in the upcoming Ping Pong Martial Arts satire Balls of Fury as a venerable master of Ping Pong.