Numerous Asian nations are achieving success by imprinting on the globe in economic, technological, political, and even entertainment spheres. Asian actors have a long history in Hollywood films, although, in the past, they were often cast as villains, morons, sexists, and racists, owing to the region’s conservative culture. Additionally, Asia is renowned for its martial arts.
No longer relegated to supporting parts, many Asian-American actors and actresses are making their mark in the Hollywood film capital, alongside A-list celebrities and nominated for several prestigious academic prizes. As Hollywood attempts to diversify and break down racial boundaries, several Asian-American stars are on the rise, breathing fresh vitality into the film business.
Even though some of these Asian actors were born in Hollywood, it is a reality that many of them are steadily gaining prominence in Hollywood films. Now, let’s examine some of the Asian actors who are becoming more prominent in Hollywood.
1. Simu Liu – First Asian Marvel Super Hero
According to SCMP, the Chinese-Canadian actor created history by appearing as the first Asian-American starring actor in Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings. According to Screen Rant, the film presently has a total of $400 million worldwide, joining the list of Hollywood’s highest-grossing works of 2021 despite not being distributed in China.
According to SCMP, before pursuing a career in acting, Simu Liu worked as an accountant for Deloitte and received a degree in business administration from the University of Western Ontario. The Chinese-born actor’s breakthrough came in 2016 with the television series Kim’s Convenience, followed by Blood and Water, Dark Matter, Orphan Black, etc. Following the success of Shang-Chi, Disney persuaded Simu Liu to collaborate on Star Wars: Visions. The actor provided the voice for Zhima.
2. Henry Golding – The Handsome Young Master Of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’
In the 2021 film Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, Henry Golding is recognized for portraying a solitary warrior with a mysterious history. Even though the film’s narrative was poorly accepted, Hollywood found the Asian-American actor when he was cast in the lead role of the acclaimed adaptation series. Previously, the Malaysian-British actor was known for performing in Crazy Rich Asians.
This actor’s breakout role is as the attractive and wealthy Nick Young. After the popularity of Crazy Rich Asians, the actor portrayed Tom the ghost in Last Christmas and Dry Eye the gangster in The Gentlemen. The same year, he appeared in the Netflix TV series Persuasion and the spy drama Assassin Club.
3. Lewis Tan – Talented Actors From East To West Of “Mortal Kombat”
According to SCMP, the actor was noticed when he appeared in Mortal Kombat – the movie adapted from the famous video game. According to Screen Rant, it was the most successful movie ever to debut on the HBO Max streaming platform. SCMP reported that the actor, born in 1987, is the son of stuntman and martial arts choreographer Philip Tan. As a result of Mr. Philip Tan’s employment on the set of Batman, his family relocated from Singapore to Los Angeles, California (1989).
Lewis Tan is a martial arts superstar, skilled in boxing, taekwondo, wushu, and other styles. The actor has performed double stunts in well-known films such as Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, among others. After Mortal Kombat, the 34-year-old actor returns with Netflix’s Wu Assassins: Fistful of Vengeance and the romantic comedy About Fate.
4. Daniel Wu – Actors Of Asian Screens In The 2000s
In 2021, the Chinese-born star attracted attention with the role of the villain Saint Joe in Reminiscence. Actor who co-starred with Hugh Jackman and Nick Banister in the sci-fi movie. According to SCMP, Daniel Wu pursued martial arts after watching the performances of Jet Li in The Shaolin Temple and Donnie Yen in Iron Monkey.
Since his 1998 debut, Daniel Wu has appeared in more than 60 films and is regarded by the media as Donnie Yen Ji-dan’s heir. PeoplePill reports that the 47-year-old actor’s roles range from hero to villain. Ngo Ngan To also acted in several films directed by Jackie Chan, who encouraged the actor’s career and regarded him as a son.
5. Chang Chen – God Of War In Love and Destiny Television Series
Chang Chen portrays Wellington Yueh, a doctor serving the noble family of Paul Atreides (played by Timothée Chalamet), in the Warner Bros. science fiction movie Dune. The actor of Chinese descent performed alongside A-listers Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, and Jason Momoa.
Chang Chen was born into an artistic household and made his cinematic debut at 14, according to SCMP. After portraying Lo “Dark Cloud” Xiao Hou in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” he became well-known across Asia. The actor earned the Osaka Asian Film Festival’s Best Actor award for his performance in The Go Master. The Chinese-born actor co-starred in the Korean television series Suriname with Park Hae Soo, a notable actor from the internationally renowned Squid Game.
6. Steven Yeun – First Asian-American Oscar Nominee
In 1983, Steven Yeun was born in Korea. Steven Yeun, who graduated from college with a distinguished Psychology degree, had wanted to become a doctor to satisfy his parents. Still, he ultimately opted to pursue his love for acting. The actor came to the United States in 2005 to seek a career in cinema.
The film that brought the Korean-born actor to the notice of foreign viewers is The Walking Dead. He played Glenn in seven out of ten seasons of the popular zombie-themed television series. Steven Yeun’s performance in several Korean films, including Okja (2017), Burning (2018), and Sorry to Brother You (2018), was impressive.
For his heartbreaking performance in Minari, Steven Yeun became the first Asian actor to be nominated for Best Actor at the prestigious Oscars in 2021. Although he did not win, the Oscar nomination opened several doors for Steven Yeun’s career.
7. Jackie Chan – The King Of Comedy Martial Arts Chinese Cinema
Jackie Chan is the master of action. The Hong Kong-born Chinese actor helped define the 1970s and 1980s Asian kung fu flicks. The former stuntman is renowned for his dedication to completing daring stunts that take his films to the next level. In the course of appearing in more than 150 films, he has received terrible injuries. With the success of the cult film Rumble in the Bronx, he was cast with Chris Tucker in the blockbuster Rush Hour. After two sequels and several American films, Chan finally established himself as a worldwide box office star.
In addition to his prodigious film career, Chan is a renowned singer who has made several chart-topping records in his language. Despite his dubious views, he is also a well-known philanthropist since Chan has become a pro-Communist.
8. Bruce Lee – Legend Of Chinese Martial Arts
Bruce Lee (1940-1973). He grew up in Hong Kong after being born in the United States. As a child, Tieu Long was little and fragile. His father started teaching him Tai Chi at age seven for health purposes.
Bruce Lee’s arrival transformed Chinese martial arts films, clearing the Chinese army’s path to infiltrate Hollywood. Bruce passed away on July 20, 1973, in Hong Kong, at the height of his career, with a series of major film projects in the works. He was less than 33 years old at the time of his death. The legendary figure from the world of martial arts was laid to rest in Seattle, the United States.
Bruce Lee was selected among the 100 most influential individuals of the 20th century by Time magazine in 1999. Bruce Lee, who went several decades ago, is still among the top three Chinese-origin actors in the world.
9. Jet Li – “Kung Fu King”
Another well-known actor, film producer, martial artist, and Chinese Kung Fu champion established himself in Hollywood. Jet Li is most known for playing Huang Feihong, China’s national hero, in the Once Upon a Time in China television series. His first role in Hollywood was in the 1998 film Lethal Weapon 4 as the antagonist. In 2000, he received his first significant Hollywood role as Han Sing in the box office smash Romeo Must Die.
Jet Li is the film industry’s monarch in a nation with billions of people. The actor and his works led to the influx of martial arts films into Asian nations, ushering in a golden age for the Chinese Kung Fu genre. Jet Li gained screen-based fame, yet he did not choose to remain an actor for life. As he aged and his health deteriorated due to hyperthyroidism, the actor decided to retire and take some time to recover.
10. Chow Yun Fat – Famous Hong Kong Actor
Chow Yun Phat was born in 1955 in Hong Kong to a working-class family (China). Chow Yun-fat has become an icon of the Hong Kong film industry. Until today, the actor has built a brand; if a Hong Kong film is mentioned, Chow Yun Fat will be mentioned. Even though he is one of Hong Kong’s most renowned actors and has a wealth of more than $700 million, Chow Yun Fat’s public image has always been that of an unremarkable, average actor.
Chow Yun Fat is the second highest-paid actor in Hong Kong and has appeared in over 121 films and 24 television shows to date. His first two Hollywood features, The Replacement Killers (1998) and The Corruptor (1999), were box office flops. Later, he starred in Anna and the King, which underperformed at the box office. In 2000, an actor with the last name Zhou portrayed Li Mumbai in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a box office hit that earned him an Academy Award.
11. Ken Watanabe – ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ Actor
Born in 1959, Ken Watanabe is the most recognized actor in Japan. Ken Watanabe is one of Hollywood’s most successful Japanese actors. He appeared in the movie “The Last Samurai” in a supporting role. After the film’s release, the actor’s performance and good appearance attracted many admirers. The actor was voted among the top fifty most handsome persons in the same year.
Ken Watanabe is one of the few Japanese actors with a reputation in Hollywood. He is noted for consistently portraying sad characters. His career began in 1979, but he didn’t get widespread recognition until 2003 when he starred in The Last Samurai, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In Batman Begins, he also portrayed President Iwamura in Memoirs of a Geisha and Ra’s al Ghul. Inception, Godzilla, and Transformers: Age of Extinction is his other significant Hollywood blockbusters.
12. Lee Byung Hun – Masked Leader Of ‘Squid Game’
Lee Byung Hun was born in 1970, began acting in 1991, and has received several significant accolades in both the cinema and television industries. Lee Byung Hun has become a prominent Korean action actor due to his remarkable transition into a gangster in “A Bittersweet Life.” Hollywood filmmakers note the star Lee as an actor who assures decent ratings in domestic cinema.
Lee Byung Hun is a highly famous and popular South Korean actor and martial artist. His most well-known works in Korea include Joint Security Area, A Bittersweet Life, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and Iris. However, in the United States of America, he is most recognized for his role as Storm Shadow in the films G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. In 2013, he also appeared in the action comedy Red 2. In the forthcoming Terminator Genisys, Lee Byung Hun will portray the T-1000.
13. Ki Hong Lee – Charming Asian Actor
People magazine ranked Ki Hong Lee fourth on its list of the world’s most gorgeous men five years ago, and his portrayal as Minho in the 2016 film The Maze Runner has garnered him a large fanbase. Single-lidded eyes, a face that is both innocent and strong masculine, and innocent and profound acting have helped Ki Hong Lee earn points in the hearts of millions of viewers and critics worldwide.
After the success of The Maze Runner part 1, Lee continued to take on the role of Minho in the sequel film Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, which was released in September 2015. In the Korean market, Lee Ki Hong debuted as a guest in The Mayor and also appeared in an SBS variety show called All the Butlers.
14. Bi Rain – Golden Imprint Elevates Korean Culture
Bi Rain, whose real name is Jung Ji Hoon, is a popular R&B and pop singer in Korea. In addition, he is a well-known actor and is regarded as a pioneer artist who contributed to the global dissemination of the Hallyu movement.
The presence of a K-pop singer on this list is unsurprising, given that her spouse Kim Tae Hee’s music and film careers in Korea have helped him become a globally renowned entertainment. Bi Rain made an impression in the West when he joined Speed Racer and Ninja Assassin in 2008.
In 2014’s The Prince, the male actor portrayed Bruce Willis and John Cusack’s competitor. Specifically, in 2017, Bi Rain was invited to appear in the renowned film X-Men. However, he declined since the main character in Uhm Buk Dong had not yet been cast.
15. Bobby Lee – Cast Member On MADtv
Robert Lee Jr., who goes by the stage name Bobby Lee, is his actual name. He was the first Asian cast member to join MadTV and was born in 1971. He took on the role beginning with the pilot episode and continued to play it until the series was finally scrapped in 2009. After that, he returned almost immediately when Mad TV was brought back on The CW in 2016.
Bobby Lee has also made cameo appearances in several well-known films from Hollywood, including “The Pineapple Express” and “Harold & Kumar.” Most recently, he appeared as a lead in the sitcom Splits Up Together, created by Ellen Degeneres, and made its debut on ABC in 2018.
16. Irrfan Khan – The Talented Star Of Indian Cinema
Irrfan Khan is an Indian actor best known for his roles in Bollywood films such as The Warrior, Maqbool, Haasil, Charas: A Joint Effort, Paan Singh Tomar, and many more. His full name is Saahabzaade Irfan Ali Khan, born in Jaipur in 1967. His father owns a tire company.
In 2007, Irrfan Khan debuted in Hollywood with A Mighty Heart and The Namesake flicks. Then, he portrayed a police officer in the highly acclaimed British film Slumdog Millionaire, for which he and the rest of the ensemble received the Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Cast. His other outstanding Hollywood films include New York; I Love You, The Amazing Spider-Man, Life of Pi, and Jurassic World.