The era of the Asian American actor in English-speaking cinema has arrived. The recent decades we have seen an ever increasing number of actors of Asian backgrounds moving into the spotlight from their minor and supporting roles. Let's take a moment to recap the most celebrated contemporary Asian actors who've become household names:
1) Jackie Chan
Born in Hong Kong with the given name Chan Kong-sang in 1954, Jackie Chan's highly successful career has taken Hollywood by storm. From here the Asian actor attended the China Drama Academy, where in addition to acting, he received training in singing, acrobatics, and martial art. He then went on to do stunt work and was cast in minor roles before his breakthrough performance in Rumble in the Bronx. After this, his impressive stunts and comedy performances in films like Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon have made his a beloved character in Hollywood.
2) Lucy Liu
Hailing from Queens, New York, Lucy Liu is the most famous Asian-American actress to make the list. Liu first garnered a lot of critical and scholarly attention for her role in the television show Ally McBeal, in which she played the outspoken Chinese American lawyer Ling Woo. Liu's most famous film appearances were in Shanghai Noon, Kill Bill Vol. 1, and Charlie's Angels. Now back in TV on Southland portraying Officer Jessica Tang, the actress starred in God of Carnage when making her broadway debut back in 2010.
3) Zhang Ziyi
Her versatility and talents on screen have been loved by audiences and lauded by critics as this Beijing-born actress continues to make a name for herself. The young Zhang Ziyi attended the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy followed by the Central Academy of Drama. She made her breakthrough performance in Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and went on to win roles in Rush Hour 2 and Memoirs of a Geisha. The latter performance earned her Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.
4) Sandra Oh
Oh was born in Ottawa, Canada in 1971 to Korean parents. Oh was an actress and ballerina from an early age, and eventually went on to study at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal. She has appeared in films such as Under the Tuscan Sun and Sideways, but is best known for her portrayal of Dr. Cristina Yang on the television series Grey's Anatomy. With a Screen Actor's Guild Award and a Golden Globe - alongside Emmy nominations - to her name for this it is fair to say that she has enjoyed monumental success.
5) Jet Li
No list of world-famous Asian actors would be complete without Jet Li. Born in Beijing, China in 1963, he started martial art training at age eight at the Beijing Wushu Academy. At age 11, he won his first national championship, and went on to win four more and become a coach while still in his teens. His roles in Shaolin Temple and Once Upon a Time in China helped him become a national celebrity, but his performances in Lethal Weapon 4, Romeo Must Die, and The Expendables turned him into an international superstar.
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