To most of us, Asia conjures up images of delectable cuisines, sharp minds, and vivacious lifestyles. It goes without saying that they’re not just a bunch of clichés. Today, Asians have stormed Hollywood, bringing with them not only the smarts but also the brave and gorgeous, not to mention the incredibly gifted.
At the moment, Hollywood is dominated by Asian actors and actresses. Simu Liu, Henry Golding, Kelly Marie Tran, and Daniel Dae Kim are just a few of the Asian actors and actresses creating a name for themselves in a predominantly Caucasian profession.
This generation’s actors and actresses are breaking down barriers and taking the reins from those who came before them in the industry.
Here are 10 of the most well-known Asian actors in Hollywood, both from the past and the present.
1. Henry Golding
Henry Golding has been a part of the Hollywood system for a long time, despite only lately becoming a leading man. Golding’s initial career aspirations were to be a hairdresser, but he soon changed his focus to acting.
His first acting gig was as host of the Maylasian variety show The 8TV Quickie, in which he played himself. This opportunity led to Golding anchoring Football Crazy, Welcome to Railroad Maylasia, and the BBC favorite The Travel Show, where he is still involved today.
The international smash blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians gave him his big break. After initially declining the part because of his inexperience, Golding finally agreed to play the beautiful Nick Young.
Golding became the latest heartthrob after the worldwide success of the movie, and he was cast in the romantic comedy Last Christmas with Emilia Clarke. Snake-Eye, Guy Ritchie’s The Gentleman, and The Gentleman’s lead roles followed this. You may expect to hear a lot more about Golding in the near future, as he is due to appear in several more films.
2. Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan is the undisputed king of action movies. In the 1970s and 1980s, Hong Kong-born kung fu film stars starred in some of the most popular Asian films. For years, the former stuntman has been recognized for his willingness to risk everything to bring his movies to new heights.
With almost 150 film roles under his belt, he’s had his fair share of bad luck with injuries. Rumble in the Bronx, the cult classic in which he debuted, led to his subsequent role as Chris Tucker’s co-star in the blockbuster Rush Hour. It took Chan two sequels and numerous American films to solidify his status as an international star.
An accomplished singer, Chan has made a number of chart-topping albums in both English and his native Cantonese. In addition to his charitable work, Chan is well-known for his pro-Communist political views.
3. Bruce Lee
This is yet another Asian actor who has had a profound impact on the world of performing. Actor Bruce Lee was more than simply a marquee name in martial arts cinema; he was a cultural icon.
In addition to having a significant impact on modern martial arts, he is also credited with helping to bridge the cultural divide between East and West through his work in Asian cinema, which was widely embraced in the United States. For 50 years, it has been regarded as a great martial arts picture.
4. Daniel Dae Kim
Originally from South Korea, Daniel Dae Kim’s career in the entertainment industry has spanned over three decades. Kim, a Tae Kwon Do master, began her acting career with little parts in a variety of series until landing the role of Jin-Soo Kwon on Lost. As a result, Kim became a staple on television following the conclusion of Lost.
For seven seasons, he starred in the reboot of Hawaii Five-0 and has appeared in shows like The Good Doctor, Anthrax, and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
He has fashioned out an interesting career that appears likely to continue for another three decades as People Magazine’s 2005 ‘Sexiest Man Alive.”
5. James Hong
James Hong has seen and done it all in the entertainment industry throughout his 70-year career. More than 450 film and television credits later, the actor, director, and producer is still going strong at the age of 90.
It was in the detective series The New Adventures of Charlie Chan that he first caught the eye of fans. Later, Hong appeared on episodes like Hawai’i Five-O, Perry Mason, and The Man from U-N-C-L-E. He also appeared in movies like Chinatown and Blade Runner.
In 2022, he finally received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his voice-over work. We believe he is richly deserving.
6. Jimmy O Yang
Jimmy O Yang began his career as a comedian, unlike many of the others on this list. It wasn’t long before Yang recognized he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life working in the financial industry. Before relocating to Los Angeles to pursue his comedy goals, he worked as a used car salesman and a DJ at a strip club.
In order to win his first acting role, he performed stand-up. Before Yang was cast in Silicon Valley, he appeared in guest roles on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Criminal Minds.
He was able to get roles in Crazy Rich Asians, Fantasy Island, and Love Hard, as well as his own comedy special for Amazon Prime Video, Good Deal, as a result of that part.
7. Jet Li
Jet Li, like Jackie Chan, was a big star in Asia before he became a great success in America. Before a knee injury at age 18 ended his competitive days in Wushu, Li had mastered multiple disciplines and won several awards. His martial arts prowess quickly led him to turn to act in order to show off his skills.
Among his best-known works are the Shaolin Temple and the Once Upon a Time in China flicks.
Taking a cue from fellow Hong Konger Jackie Chan, he made the move to the States and landed his first role in the action film Lethal Weapon 4. Actors like Romeo Must Die, Cradle 2 the Grave, and War soon cast him as the lead.
Fear and Hero, two of Li’s most successful foreign-language films, have brought in the most money over the previous two decades, despite his great Hollywood career.
8. Ken Jeong
Leslie Chow from The Hangover was formerly a doctor, although it’s hard to believe that now. Until he discovered acting, Kim Jeong worked as a licensed California physician for many years.
It was in the Judd Apatow comedy Knocked Up that he got his first break in the industry. He was quickly cast in The Hangover after receiving a lot of praise for his minor but amusing role. As they say, the rest is history. He gave up his medical practice in 2006 and has since been working as a full-time actor ever since.
With the two Hangover sequels, Jeong has also starred in such films as Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Killing Hasselhoff, and the smash sitcom Community. Jeong is currently the host of The Masked Singer, and he continues to show that if you work hard, you can attain your goals.
9. John Cho
In the minds of many, John Cho will always be known as MILG Guy No. 2 in the American Pie film series. The South Korean actor, has a distinguished filmography that showcases a variety of compelling performances.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and Better Luck Tomorrow are just some of the films he’s had roles in. Take a trip to White Castle, see the new Star Trek film, and see the remake of Total Recall. In addition, his performance in the live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop was well-received.
Getting the role of Cho in the sitcom Selfie in 2014 was his proudest professional achievement. Even though the show wasn’t a tremendous success, it was the first time an Asian actor had played the romantic lead in a television show. This Asian-American actress and activist will soon be seen in the coming-of-age film Don’t Make Me Go.
10. Steven Yuen
Steven Yuen is one of the most well-known Asian American performers of recent years. He became a household name after starring in the popular zombie series The Walking Dead. As one of the show’s numerous contributing factors, he has appeared in seven seasons.
As a result of this, Yuen now splits his time between doing voiceover work for TV series and making independent films. Despite his high notoriety, Yuen has opted for roles in critically praised indie films like Okja, Miari, and The Humans instead of going the blockbuster route.
In Hollywood, Yuen has carved out a unique path for himself by focusing on substance rather than quality.