James has graced both the big screen and Television for over 60 years and continues working to this day. His current projects include reprising his role in the third installment of DreamWorks Animation “Kung Fu Panda 3” released this past January. Recently he had an appearance on Marvel’s “Agents of Shield” opposite Ming Na playing her father. His voice can be heard on many animated shows and video game characters such as Diablo 3 and the Reaper of Souls expansion as Covetous Shen, aka: The Jeweler.
His voice is recognizable as well as his acting talent. Being no stranger to conventions, he continues to delight his fans with quick TV and movie quotes for everyone’s delight.
To keep up with James and his many projects, join him on Facebook at JamesHongPage or Twitter @TheJamesHong.
Corine Cohen: Tell me about the process involved in voicing Ping. Do you do it with Jack Black and other cast members in a studio or do you do it on your own?
James Hong: When I went into the voiceover session, I was alone. The directors did a great job in getting what they wanted.
However, I put myself into the situation of the script and imagined what Po and the other characters are doing. And then I tried different ways of responding to those imaginary people in the room. Therefore, it was like acting in front of the camera when all the actors are present.
Corine Cohen: I found your role to be pivotal in all three films. I found you especially hilarious in 3. What do you like most about Ping?
James Hong: Thank you. There were many more lines for Mr. Ping, for instance, Mr. Ping had some edgy confrontations with Po’s panda bear father in which Mr. Ping expresses that he knows what is best for Po, his son. This confrontation then gives the character more frustration and bite when he gets to the village of the panda bears. He then has to adjust to the situation as the themes developed.
Corine Cohen: Do you think there will be a Kung Fu Panda 4 and if so, would you like to be in it?
James Hong: I would love to be in Kung Fu Panda 4 because I have fallen in love with Mr. Ping. as he is much like me and a lot like my father who loved to cook noodles, and he owned several restaurants in which I worked when I was a young man. I learned how to make noodles there from scratch!
Corine Cohen: You are Mr. Ping! What is next for you?
James Hong: I’ve done an episode of “Elementary” and a couple of episodes of “Rush Hour” the TV series. These will be airing soon. And I have finished a couple of TV animation series. So I’m constantly doing voiceover jobs plus acting jobs. However, I’m very busy preparing a couple of scripts soon to be produced. I shall be the producer and actor in these films. A couple of these projects may involve shooting in China.
Corine Cohen: Fantastic! I wish you could share! I have seen you in many other films and TV. I loved your role on Seinfeld, what was that like?
James Hong: Seinfeld was unforgettable; working with those wonderful, talented actors .was a joy, especially since it was done early in the TV series. The beauty of that episode was that the story took place all in one place, the Chinese restaurant.
I was kind of disappointed that I was not a reoccurring character in a couple of other episodes. After all, the Chinese restaurant episode was considered one of the top five episodes.
Corine Cohen: It was one of the funniest! That and the Soup Nazi! (No soup for you!) What do you think about diversity and the Oscars?
James Hong: It is a total shame, although I’ve gotten used to it because there are never any Asian Pacific actors in the slate of nominees. If any, it can be counted on one hand for all the years the Academy has been in existence.
.Corine Cohen: They need to change this! If DreamWorks made an animated series called “Ping and Po” would you be up for that? (I would love it!)
James Hong: I wish you would start writing the pilot. It would make a wonderful series. As you can see many reviewers have given me and Mr. Ping special mention.
Corine Cohen: Ping happens to be one of my favorite animated characters. He is very lovable! I would love to write it, tell FOX!Your character “Ping” is a great noodle and dumpling Chef. Watching the film made me crave dumplings!
James Hong: I was practically born in my father’s Chinese restaurant. So I was the cooks go to when I was very young, and I watched my mother cook every day when I was a kid. As a child in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I did not go out to play very often because we lived in downtown Minneapolis, and my mother was afraid that I would get kidnapped if I went out on the sidewalk and played. My mother used to make wonderful dumplings for Chinese New Year’s and special occasions, and this is from scratch. I’m thinking of opening a restaurant called “HONG PING NOODLE HOUSE.” Would you be my first customer?
Corine Cohen: If you opened it in New York City, I would be there every week! Maybe, we can be partners! If you could play any other character in any film or theater what would be your role and why?
James Hong: I think I would like to play a powerful businessman in a big corporation because I played so many evil villains and sympathetic Chinamen characters that I would like to play a principal character in a good screenplay. In real life in America, the one who started Yahoo was an Asian, and there are many prominent scientists, lawyers, doctors and top businessmen who are Asians. You do not see them represented as such on TV or in movies!
Corine Cohen: I saw that you also teach acting. Can you tell my readers about that?
James Hong: Yes, I have studied acting with some very good teachers when I started in 1954. They follow the Stanislavski and the Meisner method. Throughout my over 60 years of experience in the motion picture industry, I have developed my own method based upon my teachers methods and what I have learned in front of the camera. Next to acting I would have to say that my talent lies in directing and producing. I can’t help it because my mind is operating all the time and focusing on what is going on in the story and in front of the camera. I have put my soul into acting so, therefore, I cannot help but learn from it. This knowledge and the feelings behind it, I would like to transfer it to my students. Also my daughter, April Hong, has grown up learning my method of acting; and now she’s teaching it also. I guess the next thing would be to write a book about my method… and about my life experiences.
Corine Cohen: It is said you were up for the original role of Sulu in Star Trek, how did that happen?
James Hong: I would say that I actually went to the audition for the role of Sulu. As I was going into the gate of the studio, George Takei was coming out, and I asked him how was it, and he said something like Oh, it’s nothing much. Of course the results were obvious, he got the role. The rest is history, and I got to play approximately 10 movies or TV shows per year during those days. So that experience of playing all those different roles but for me as an actor. I have to say to myself I can play any role. And I think I’ve done that after approximately 500 roles and still going strong.
Thank you very much for your attention and happy year of the monkey!
Thank you for doing this interview. It was a pleasure. I hope you open the restaurant in NYC, I promise to eat there every week and maybe we can work on ” PING and Po” over dumplings and Peking duck, just kidding. (No duck ever!) You can catch James Hong in Kung Fu Panda, it is a wonderful movie and he is extra special in this version. See 1,2 and 3.
Twitter – TheJamesHong