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5 Asian Celebs Who Paved the Way in Hollywood
Modern60

Reviewed By Celina Bravo, Editor

By Modern60, Editorial Team

Published On June 3, 2024

Beauty & Fashion

5 Asian Celebs Who Paved the Way in Hollywood

"We learn martial arts as helping weakness. You never fight for people to get hurt. You're always helping people."

Over the years, Hollywood has seen some powerful performances from Asian actors. These artists have broken barriers and paved the way for future, younger generations of performers.  Making a place for themselves in an industry like Hollywood hasn’t been easy, but their body of work and fan following just goes to show that hard work is second to none. From action to sci-fi, they’ve done it all and continue to amaze us with their craft. 

Jackie Chan

Source: Instagram/jackiechan/

Nicknamed the “Fastest Hands in the East,” Jackie Chan’s combination of comedy and action is legendary. His career began back in 1962 when he made small appearances in films. Interestingly, he was an extra and a stunt double in two of Bruce Lee’s iconic films, Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon. In an interview with the Post almost two decades ago, when talking about his work in those films, Jackie Chan said, “We were stunt doubles. Our job was to make the actors look good. That’s when I realized that I wanted to be a star myself. So from then on, I wanted to let people know it was me on the screen. I didn’t want to be a double.”


A few years later, he became a star of Hong Kong cinema, primarily featuring in action-comedy flicks. These movies also became extremely popular in North America, making Jackie Chan a world-renowned star. He then went on to star in films, such as the Rush Hour series, Shanghai Noon, Shanghai Knights, and The Karate Kid, to name a few. Even at 70, the beloved actor seems unstoppable, with a lineup of several upcoming action movies, including a new Karate Kid adaptation and Rush Hour 4.

Lucy Liu

Source: Instagram/lucyliu/

Best known for her performances in the action movies Kill Bill, Kill Bill Vol 2, as O-Ren Ishii or Cottonmouth and as Alex in Charlie’s Angels, Lucy Liu has also delivered amazing performances in comedies (The Trouble with Bliss), rom-coms (Set It Up), and thrillers (Presence). Liu’s career began with a commercial she starred in when she was just 19. Then, in 1992, she got her first role in a Hong Kong film called Rhythm of Destiny. But her biggest breakthrough was in 1998 when Lucy starred in the TV show Ally McBeal. Her performance as Ling Woo in that show also earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination. Her next big role was playing the lovely Dr. Watson in Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock in Elementary.

In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, Lucy, reflecting on her 30+ years long career in the industry, said, “I feel so proud of the things I’ve created and what I’ve been able to share and, really, who I’ve become as a human being, that I’ve been able to challenge myself and learn and just sort of understand what it is to really have fun in this world that I get to play in.”

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Michelle Yeoh

Source: Instagram/michelleyeoh_official/

If we are talking about Asian actors paving the way in Hollywood, Michelle Yeoh deserves a special place as she recently became the first Asian to win an Academy Award for Best Actress! In her 40-year-long career, Yeoh has done some amazing things. Her career actually started with her winning a beauty pageant in 1983 which led to her starring in a commercial with Jackie Chan. She earned her first role in the 1984 Hong Kong film The Owl vs. Bumbo. Along with Michelle’s performances in action films, including Tomorrow Never Dies and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, she also received a lot of praise for her performances in drama and rom-coms – mainly, Crazy Rich Asians.

When Yeoh won her Academy Award for the film Everything Everywhere All At Once, in her award-receiving speech, she was quite candid about her happiness in achieving her dreams. She said, “This is proof that dreams… dream big, and dreams do come true. And ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime. Never give up.”

Sandra Oh

Source: Instagram/iamsandraohinsta/

Enjoying a highly successful career in both film and television, Sandra Oh’s acting journey began in 1994 with the Canadian film Double Happiness. While she even won the Genie Award for her performance in that film, her biggest international breakthrough happened when she starred in the popular American TV show Grey’s Anatomy. Along with that, her lead role in the British thriller TV show Killing Eve has earned her a lot of praise. Her performances in both these shows also got her some prestigious accolades, including Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards, and BAFTA and Primetime Emmy nominations.

George Takei

Source: Getty Images

Commander Sulu is George Takei and George Takei is Commander Sulu. His most notable role on the iconic Star Trek TV series sealed Takei’s reputation as an artist with acting chops. He began his career with voiceover roles, with the first one being for a Japanese film, Rodan, in 1954. After that, he appeared in a few films and television shows. Then, in 1964, George earned a Master of Arts in theater from UCLA. But come 1965, and Star Trek really put him on the map. Taking “Live long and prosper” to heart, Takei has continued his lively film career, even at the age of 87. Recently, he lent his voice to an animated feature, Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank.

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