7 Great Filipino Actors And Where To Watch Them

Ned Leeds in Spider-Man: Far from Home
(Image credit: Sony/Marvel)

You know, when I married a Filipina, I didn’t just marry her. I married into her entire family. And while I can’t really marry into her culture, I have certainly adopted a great deal of it, not only for myself, but also for my two children, as I want them to embrace being both Black and Filipino. In that way, I’ve become very familiar with Filipino food, Filipino traditions, and of course, Filipino actors. 

Because you know what’s interesting? There are quite a few actors that you know and love who have Filipino roots. I would be remiss if I was talking about Filipinos and didn’t mention Jo Koy and his great comedy specials, because if you’re Filipino, then you’re likely familiar with Jo Koy. But, with him now mentioned, here are seven great Filipino actors, and where to watch them.  

Dave Bautista as Drax

(Image credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Dave Bautista - Guardians of the Galaxy 

I've always believed that every great wrestler could make for a great actor, since they're pretty much maintaining a role and storyline every single week. Dwayne Johnson's best recognized for his movies now, but for a time, wrestling fans were on the edge of their seats for him every week when he portrayed The Rock. And, the same could be said for Dave Bautista, who simply went by Batista when he was still wrestling in the WWE. Bautista is the son of a Greek mother, and a Filipino father, making him biracial.   

As an actor, Bautisa has been in a lot of noteworthy films lately, such as his brief (but potent) role in Dune, which he considered “a blessing," the lead role in Army of the Dead, and many others. But he’s definitely best known as Drax the Destroyer, in the Guardians of the Galaxy series. The third film will be the last time we see Bautista play Drax, but you can still check him out in Volumes 1 and 2, if you ever start to miss him.     

Watch Guardians of the Galaxy on Disney+.   

Lea Salonga singing

(Image credit: Newport Performing Arts Theater)

Lea Salonga - Mulan 

Any theater-junkie can tell you that Lea Salonga can act and sing her heart out. In fact, the quintessential version of Kim from Miss Saigon, belongs to Miss Salonga, who portrayed her in both the original West End production, as well as the eventual Broadway version, making her the first Asian actress to ever win a Tony Award. She was also the first Asian actress to portray the roles of Eponine and Fantine for Les Miserables, so her theater cred is well established.  

That said, most Disney fans will likely know her pipes from the singing voices of both the original Princess Jasmine as well as Fa Mulan from the animated versions of Aladdin and Mulan, respectively. Honestly, when I think of my favorite Disney songs, I usually hear them in Lea Salonga’s voice, and I know that I’m not alone. 

Watch Mulan on Disney+. 

Dante Basco voice acting

(Image credit: Creative Artist Agency)

Dante Basco - Avatar: The Last Airbender 

I, like many people of a certain age, was introduced to Dante Basco from the Steven Spielberg movie, Hook (though, his first movie role was actually as Romeo in Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, which is a movie that scarred me as a child). In Hook, though, he played the leader of the Lost Boys, Rufio, and (spoiler alert!) what happened to him in that movie also scarred me as a child.   

But, I think he’s probably most known now as the voice of Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Some of the best episodes of Avatar feature Zuko, and they wouldn’t be nearly as good if Basco didn’t infuse his voice with such a full range of emotions. In every way, Dante Basco brought the heart and soul to Avatar: The Last Airbender, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

Watch Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix.     

Vanessa Hudgens with Andrew Garfield in tick tick Boom

(Image credit: Netflix.com)

Vanessa Hudgens - Tick, Tick…BOOM! 

Like Lea Salonga, Vanessa Hudgens is a singer who can also act. Her late father was of Irish, French, and Native American descent, and her mother is a Filipina, making her biracial, much like Bautista. (And my own children!) Hudgens rose to fame with High School Musical as Gabriella Montez, but has also been in a number of other popular films like Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Spring Breakers, and was even in the DC sitcom, Powerless, so she’s got massive range.    

But, I wanted to focus on Vanessa Hudgens in tick, tick...BOOM!, as she did a marvelous job as the friend of Jonathan Larson (played by Andrew Garfield) and also a performer in his plays. Through her acting and singing, she proved yet again what a powerhouse force she can be.  

Watch tick, tick…BOOM! On Netflix. 

Lou Diamond Phillips in Longmire

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Television Distribution)

Lou Diamond Phillips - Longmire 

Lou Diamond Phillips was born in the Philippines to a Filipina mother and an American father of Scotch-Irish Cherokee descent. He’s been around since the early '80s, but rose to superstardom when he played Ritchie Valens in La Bamba back in 1987. One year later, he played the troubled youth, Angel Guzman, in the classic school movie, Stand and Deliver. And he’s been acting pretty much nonstop ever since.   

I wanted to focus, though, on his work in the long-running show, Longmire. Phillips plays the sagacious Cheyenne, Henry Standing Bear, who runs a bar and is Longmire’s best friend. Phillips plays him with the kind of confidence that only an actor of several decades could acquire, making him feel both ancient and fresh as a character at the same time.  

Watch Longmire on Netflix. 

Tia Carrere

(Image credit: IMDB.com)

Tia Carrere - Lilo & Stitch

Tia Carrere was born in Hawaii, but her lineage is Filipino. I’ll always loved her for her work in the two Wayne’s World movies as Cassandra Wong, but she’s had a long career in both movies and television, with some of her credits including the soap opera General Hospital, the comedy High School High, and the James Cameron action movie, True Lies, with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  

That said, like Lea Salonga and Dante Basco, a lot of people, especially young people, might know Carrere best from her voice, as she voiced Lilo’s older sister, Nani, in the Disney movie, Lilo & Stitch. Tia Carrere plays Nani perfectly as a super stressed, older sister who is just trying to keep the little family they have together. Plus, it’s set in Hawaii, which plays into Carrere’s birth place. Just always remember, “Ohana means family.” 

Watch Lilo & Stitch on Disney+. 

Jacob Batalon in Let it Snow

(Image credit: Netflix.com)

Jacob Batalon - Let It Snow 

And lastly, I wanted to highlight Jacob Batalon, who, when I asked my wife for potential actors to talk about for this article, she said, “Little Spider-Man.” When I pressed her on who she meant, she said, “You know, Little Spider-Man. His friend.” That’s when I realized she meant Ned Leeds from the recent Spider-Man trilogy, and yes, Jacob Batalon is Filipino, and he plays Ned Leeds in the Spider-Man movies. 

But, everybody knows that. So, I instead chose to focus on his role as Keon in the Netflix romantic comedy, Let It Snow, which is based on a YA novel. In it, Batalon plays a loveable employee named Keon at a diner called Waffle Town. It’s an ensemble cast, and it all leads to a big party that he throws, which brings all the characters together. It’s a fun little holiday film, and Jacob Batalon is a highlight. 

Watch Let It Snow on Netflix. 

Those are just seven Filipino actors in movies and television. For more news on other Filipino actors and actresses, make 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.