Asian Americans have given a lot to American culture, especially when it comes to entertainment. Beyond just Asian-themed classics like the Karate Kid to modern films like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hollywood has greatly benefited from the presence of incredible Asian actors and actresses. While I've seen a number of lists of Asian actors and actresses I really wanted to focus just on Asian-Americans who have broken through the international border and are common names to American TV-junkies and movie-goers.
So we thought, why not make our own top 10 list for the best and most important Asian American actors and actresses in the history of Hollywood! Check out our selections!
Born in Beijing, China as Zhang Zi-Yi. Ziyi is an actress known for her roles in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon(2000), Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004) as well as countless box office hits in Asia. Ziyi makes our list for her powerful and moving scenes conveying both a soft and respectful Asian personality with the bad-ass attitude of a powerful woman. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0955471/
Raised in California, the daughter of Korean parents, Jamie got her big break on the cast of Real World San Diego. Since then, we’ve seen her on countless TV series’ like Days of Our Lives and Once Upon a Time as well as features in Mulan, Dragonball: Evolution and The Hangover 2 & 3. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1512166/
LA born to Japanese immigrants, the original Sulu from Star Trek, George Takai is a gay rights advocate and one of the first Asian-American actors most of us could remember. Since the original Star Trek was released (1966-1969), he starred in every Star Trek movie and has been in countless TV Shows and movies. He is an absolute icon in both gay rights advocacy and in the world of entertainment culture. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001786/
Not only a trailblazer for Korean-American acting and comedy but also for gay rights, she is breaking stereotypes left and right. Standup comedian turned actress, we’ve loved Margaret in long stints on 30 Rock and Drop Dead Diva. Fun fact, did you know her first role was in an episode of Golden Palace, the spinoff of Golden Girls? We highly recommend checking out her work. It’s sure to please. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0158632/
No list of the top Asian American actors/actresses would be complete without Jet Li. This strong, silent, and leading action film stud is an entertainment icon around the world. Originally from Beijing, China, he started training at the Beijing wushu martial arts academy at age eight and reached the highest levels and medals in China as a teenager. He has been starring in Asian and US action movies since 1982, dominating the early 2000’s and with a recent resurgence in the Expendables. He’s pretty easy on the eyes too. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001472/
Well, maybe Asian-Canadian, Sandra was born to Korean Immigrants outside Ottawa, Canada. It seems like she has gotten more beautiful over the years. From her big break on Grey’s Anatomy over the last 9 seasons, to her most memorable role in Sideways we’ve adored her right from the beginning. She is an incredibly diverse actress, with leading roles that allow her to explore her funny, strong and emotional sides, she sits right in the middle of our list. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0644897/
Ok, last martial arts star we promise. Hong Kong's cheeky, lovable, gravity-defying and best known film star took many years to become an international success. Jackie famously does all of his own stunts and has broken enough bones to prove it. His Rush Hour trilogy with Chris Tucker made him one of my favorites to watch growing up. He is beyond unbelievable athletic and has fighting skills I wouldn’t want to mess with. As a bonus, he is absolutely hilarious! It’s rumored that Rush Hour 4 is currently in production!
Li Jun Li
She was born in Shanghai, China and moved to New York City in 1992, by way of Bogotá, Colombia. How exotic is that!? With long runs on Quantico and Minority Report TV Shows as well as starring in movies like Humbling w/ Al Pacino and Ricki & The Flash w/ Meryl Streep, she is really taking Hollywood by storm. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4050835/
A first generation Chinese-American born to immigrants in Queens, NY, Lucy seems to be the ageless Asian wonder of acting. She got her start back in 1991 and is still on multiple TV series’ today. Probably best known for her role in Charlie’s Angels and Kill Bill as Oh-Ren, Lucy has been in at least one episode of nearly every memorable TV show for the last 25 years. Just to name a few: Improvement, Ally McBeal, NYPD Blue, ER, X-Files, Coach, LA Law, The Simpsons, Ugly Betty and about a dozen more. When most Americans think of an Asian actress, she is the first name to come up. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005154/
At the top of our list, she ruled in The Office for 8 seasons and when that was done, she launched into her own show The Mindy Project now in its fifth season. Cute, loveable, funny and real, Mindy is America’s Asian-American sweetheart.
We’re so happy to see real diversity in Hollywood, and thanks to the people on this top 10 list, people around the globe have fallen in love with Asian culture and talents. Every year it seems that more Asians are making their way into entertainment with roles designed for the everyday person, and we hope this is a trend that continues.