He spoke Mandarin with Keanu Reeves in “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” He backflipped his escape of a battle in “Wayne’s World 2.” He was the helpful, noodle-lovingMr Ping in “Kung Fu Panda.” On tv, he was the maître d’ in the episode of “Seinfeld” entitled “The Chinese Restaurant.”
Without exaggeration, Hong may be the most respected actor in Hollywood history. With more than 600 credits to his name, he might claim the most credits of any actor, living or dead.
Hong’s course to fame began, as numerous do, as a kid practicing in front of a mirror. But he kept his acting goals from his moms and dads.
“Well, you know, Chinese parents want you to do some professional jobs rather than be an actor,” Hong states. “Being an actor is like the last rung in the ladder of professions. They don’t even call it a profession because it’s shameful to demonstrate your feelings in front of an audience. You were taught to be kind of quiet and to keep to yourself.”
Still, he got a few of his preferred acting motivation from his daddy’s herb store in Minnesota.
“All the laundrymen from Minneapolis had nothing to do on weekends, so they would gather at my father’s store, herb store,” Hong remembers. “I remember that, because we’d have those little wooden stools and they all gathered there, and they hired these Chinese opera people from San Francisco to come and do their thing … I was only a little boy. You watch them with wide eyes, ‘Wow! What a profession.'”