From Lo Pan To Mr. Ping: A Celebration Of James Hong's Unique Career

James Hong as Lo Pan
(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

You know the face. Hell, you even know the voice, as you've undoubtedly heard his distinctive cadence and pitch at some time in your life. I'm talking about Lo Pan himself, James Hong, as this is a celebration of the many James Hong movies and TV shows that have been made throughout the years. And "many" is actually an understatement, as Hong has played over 600 television and movie roles in the course of his almost 70-year long career. Damn. 

He started out as an uncredited South Korean Pilot Trainee in 1954’s American war film, Dragonfly Squadron, but found his first major break in the 1957 TV show, The New Adventures of Charlie Chan as “Number One Son” Barry Chan for 36 episodes. Since then, he’s been in several movies, and made multiple appearances on TV shows like Dynasty, The A-Team, and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., just to name a few.  

Hell, he’s also done voice acting in video games like Diablo III, and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. And, he even directed some movies, including a horror flick called The Vineyard, and even a 1979 sexploitation comedy called Teen Lust. But, this article isn’t about teen lust! It’s about some of Hong’s best roles! Can I get an “indeed!”?  

James Hong in Big Trouble in Little China

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Big Trouble In Little China (David Lo Pan) 

In one of Kurt Russell’s best movies, a truck driver named Jack Burton (Russell) ends up on an adventure with his friend in order to rescue “a girl with green eyes.” He needs to do this since an eternal spirit desires to marry her so that his curse can be lifted!    

And, James Hong plays the “evil spirit” by the name of Lo Pan. When I wrote my article about Big Trouble in Little China after re-watching the cult classic for about the millionth time, I couldn’t help but appreciate just what a silly (yet spooky!) performance Hong put in. From his wheelchair-bound old man form, to his evil magician form, he OWNS this movie, having some of the very best moments. Trust me, if he wasn’t in this film, it wouldn’t even come close to being the cult classic that it is today. He’s that great in it.   

James Hong in The Golden Child

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Golden Child (Dr. Hong) 

In one of Eddie Murphy’s funniest performances, a private detective (Murphy) is tasked with finding a missing person who just so happens to be “the golden child.” Murphy cracks jokes while Charles Dance makes angry faces. It’s a good time all around.   

And, James Hong plays a sort of straight man to all of this nonsense. What’s crazy is that The Golden Child and Big Trouble in Little China came out in the exact same year of 1986, and yet, you couldn’t get a more different performance from Hong, who plays a sort of guide into this mystical world. From being an evil, mystical character himself in one to being one of the safe harbor characters here, these two movies are proof that he could do it all.  

James Hong in Wayne's World 2

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Wayne’s World 2 (Jeff Wong) 

In one of Mike Myers’ many unforgettable movie roles, he plays the lovable Wayne Campbell in this hit sequel to the 1992 original. Here, Wayne and Garth want to put on a concert, and wackiness ensues.    

One of the wackiest movements, though, has to come from James Hong himself, who plays Jeff Wong, the father to Wayne’s girlfriend, Cassandra, played by the great Filipino actress, Tia Carrere. In this scene, Hong and Myers have an intense (and ridiculous) martial arts fight, with the former hamming it up every second. It doesn’t get much better than this.      

James Hong in Bloodsport II

(Image credit: Lions Gate Entertainment)

Bloodsport II: The Next Kumite (Master Sun)  

In this lesser, direct-to-video sequel to the Jean-Claude Van Damme masterpiece (yes, masterpiece), a new character (Daniel Bernhardt) gets imprisoned and mistreated, but then learns martial arts from a fellow inmate, played by our boy James Hong. Our hero then enters the next Kumite (hence the title) and uses his teacher’s “Iron Hand” technique to fight his way to the top of the competition. 

Honestly, I probably never would have even watched Bloodsport II, III, and 4 if not for Blockbuster, which is where I saw most of my favorite obscure movies. Hong played—what else?—a martial arts expert in II and III (but not 4), and he was undoubtedly the best part of these two flicks, bringing gravitas to something as silly as grown men kicking and slapping each other. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend II or III if not for him. He pretty much saves these two movies. And, since he’s not even in 4, I wouldn’t recommend that one at all. I need my James Hong, people!    

James Hong in Mulan

(Image credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Mulan (Chi-Fu) 

Mulan, which is one of the very best movies in the Disney Renaissance era from 1989-1999, is about a young woman who poses as a man so that her ailing father doesn’t have to be conscripted. It’s a sweet film, with some powerful ballads.  

James Hong plays a real scumbag as Chi-Fu, the Emperor of China’s advisor. It’s not one of the biggest roles in the film, but it’s certainly memorable, as he talks down to women, and generally is the most annoying character in the entire movie. But, as soon as you hear that voice, you instantly say, "Huh, that’s James Hong." Because honestly, you just can’t miss it.  

James Hong in Everything Everywhere All At Once

(Image credit: A24)

Everything Everywhere All At Once 

A24’s highest grossing film ever, Everything Everywhere All At Once, is about a woman punching, kicking, and finding herself throughout the multiverse. Or, it’s a family drama sci-fi epic. Or, it's a dark comedy about the meaninglessness of life. Truthfully, it could be any of those things, or none of those things. But, whatever it’s actually about, you need to see Everything Everywhere All At Once right now!  

James Hong plays the senile father, Gong Gong, to our heroine, Evelyn Quan Wang (Michelle Yeoh). But, he also plays Alpha Gong Gong, one of the leaders of the Alphaverse. Once again, he plays dramatic and silly with aplomb, even appearing in a zooming wheelchair, which brought back happy Big Trouble in Little China memories to my ‘80s soul.  

James Hong in Kung Fu Panda

(Image credit: DreamWorks Animation)

Kung Fu Panda (Mr. Ping) 

A panda who loves kung fu (Jack Black) may be the laziest panda in all of China, but that’s until he learns that he can actually do kung fu, just like Neo in The Matrix. It went on for three movies and multiple TV shows.

Guess what? James Hong pretty much always showed up to voice Po’s adoptive father, Mr. Ping. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the big screen, or the small, Po’s adorable goose dad is in love with his noodle shop, and also his son. In that way, he adds warmth (and silliness) whenever it’s necessary. 

Honestly, I could have gone on and on about James Hong, but I thought I’d end it there. For more news on Hong and other great actors, be sure to swing by here often. 

Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.