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Ming Na

Ming- Na

Ming-Na currently stars as "Dr. Jing-Mei" on NBC's medical drama "ER". Ming-Na, who first won attention with her critically acclaimed performance as June in Wayne Wang's feature film “The Joy Luck Club,” plays attending physician Jing-Mei Chen. Born in Macau, China, Ming-Na and her family immigrated to New York City when she was 4. There she learned English and discovered that acting was a great way to be accepted by her new peers when she performed in a third-grade Easter play. Having moved to Pittsburgh when she was 9, Ming-Na later graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University with high honors and a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater. Her family remains in Pittsburgh, where they run a successful Chinese restaurant. Upon returning to New York, Ming-Na performed off-Broadway, where she was discovered and then cast on “As the World Turns,” in the first contract role for an Asian actor in daytime television. She also starred in the Tony Award-nominated Broadway production of David Henry Hwang’s “Golden Child,” in Lanford Wilson’s “Redwood Curtain,” in David Mamet’s “Speed the Plow” and in the world premiere of James Lapine’s “Luck, Pluck & Virtue” at the renowned La Jolla (California) Playhouse. Through her work, Ming-Na has traveled extensively. After completing “The Joy Luck Club” in Shanghai, she toured with her family for the first time, throughout China. She has also traveled to Paris, Brussels, Hong Kong, Manila and Mexico and worked in Thailand and Australia on the film “Streetfighter,” in which she played the female lead, Chun-Li, opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme and the late Raul Julia.

In 1995, Ming-Na was cast as Trudy in NBC’s comedy “The Single Guy.” Three years ago, she provided the title voice for Disney's animated feature film “Mulan,” where she won the inaugural Annie Award for best lead vocal performance in a feature-length film. She also co-starred opposite Wesley Snipes in “One Night Stand,” director Mike Figgis’ followup to “Leaving Las Vegas,” and recently was featured as the lead voice of ‘Aki’ in “Final Fantasy,” a computer-generated image/animated feature film. A few years ago, Ming-Na was included on People magazine's list of the 50 Most Beautiful People and was recently named as one of the 100 most influential Asian-Americans of the past decade by “A” magazine.

Ming-Na was born on November 20, 1963. Ming-Na (translated her name means "enlightenment") was born on the island of Macau, a Portuguese territory located 40 miles from Hong Kong that was returned to China last year. Her mother Lin Chan Wen divorced her father when Ming-Na was only a toddler. She has an older brother named Jonathan. After the divorce, they moved to Hong Kong where her mother became a nurse. There her mother met Soo Lim Yee, a Chinese-American businessman. They soon married and at age 4, Ming-Na moved with her family to Queens, New York. Five years later, they transferred to Yee's hometown of Pittsburgh where his family runs the Chinatown Inn restaurant. Jonathan and half-brother, Leong, now manage this restaurant. Struggling to fit in at school, she changed her name to Maggie & Doris. She found a love for acting while appearing in a third grade Easter play, where she played a "klutzy" bunny. Her mother was not excited about her desire to pursue acting, She preferred that she go into medicine. Nonetheless, Ming-Na graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in theater. She got her first acting job in 1988 on the soap "As The World Turns". Her big break came when she was cast in "The Joy Luck Club" (1993). When she needed a ride to the premiere of the film, her acting instructor sent one of his students, Eric Michael Zee. The two started dating in 1994 after Ming-Na moved permanently to LA and married in 1995. Ming-Na dropped her last name, Wen, at that time. She says she is now like Ann-Margret. Zee is a screenwriter and with Ming-Na, manages At Last, an Asian boy band.

She was one of the very first Chinese American actress to have a contract role on the TV Series "As The World Turns." Ming-Na won $10,000 for the charity she was playing for after she won the World Poker Tour: Hollywood Home Game.

Thiessen, Ming-Na Birth Pilot Roles

"Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Saved by the Bell" alum Tiffani Thiessen and Ming-Na, who recently departed "ER," have lined up pilot work in the latest round of casting.

Thiessen has signed on to the CBS comedy "Stroller Wars," while Ming-Na and Jonathan Cake ("The American Embassy") have joined the NBC drama "Inconceivable," the showbiz trade papers report. Aunjanue Ellis ("Ray") has also snagged an NBC role.

"Stroller Wars," from the "King of Queens" team of Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa, is about a New York City couple adjusting to parenthood. Thiessen will play the new mom.
Thiessen starred in the FOX series "Fastlane" in 2002-03 and had a recurring part last season on NBC's "Good Morning, Miami." Her credits also include "Hollywood Ending" and ABC's "Two Guys and a Girl."

NBC's "Inconceivable" centers on the staff of a fertility clinic. Ming-Na, who voiced the title character in "Mulan" and has appeared in "The Joy Luck Club" and "The Single Guy," will play a co-owner of the business. Cake, currently working on the ABC miniseries "Empire," will play one of the clinic's doctors.

Final Fantasy's Dr. Aki Ross

MING-NA WEN

Gorgeous Asian actress Ming-Na Wen may be best known as Dr. Deb Chen on the popular t.v. series "E.R." but this summer, she's the voice of another "doc", Dr. Aki Ross, the "hyper-real", computer-animated star of the state-of-the-art CGI film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Ming-Na won the first Annie award for best lead vocal performance in an animated film for voicing Mulan. When our AGW reporter met with her recently in L.A., we learned that she's much more than a voice. With her incredible porcelain skin and black hair, jeans and a gauzy, violet delicately-beaded top, she looked like an exquisite china doll but this bright, feisty lady is nobody's toy.

AGW:: Final Fantasy cyber-star Aki is making her way into magazines alongside Lara Croft. Who do you think is hotter and why?

Aki isn't like this physically strong heroine. She's a scientist so it's more in the brains. She has more smarts there. So, I think for the guys who like a smart, feisty woman, she would win out.

AGW:: Which character did you feel personally more connected with, Aki or Mulan?

Definitely I would have to say Mulan, I felt a great connection because it's a story I grew up with and it has a special place in my heart. She was a woman coming of age, a much younger woman and Aki, she's been around, seen a lot of ups and downs so in the sense of what she was trying to accomplish and do with her life, I was able to relate to her more on a mature level.

AGW:: Aki is very spiritual. So is the whole movie. Are you a very spiritual person?

Yeah. I've always believed because of my religion, Buddhism, the whole concept that we are connected to the earth and that we can come back and that karmic energy binds us. You can't explain a lot of these feelings but as you get older and experience more…. certain people you have an instant connection with. It's like why? There's a past life or energy that makes you feel you know them.

AGW:: Did the message of this film confuse you? Do you totally understand it?

I try to make this analogy…what's confusing is "completing the wave (weapon)". It's like when they find an antidote for some kind of virus they inject you with the same thing in order to cancel or cure that particular bug, that's how they cure you, get the antidote. That's how I equate it. The wave comes from the same organic element as the (enemy) and that's what they are trying to find. When (Dr. Sid) says they are trying to find each spirit within organic matter, it's tying in with the whole of Karmic energy and when he finds those particular elements, that ties it all together and creates the antidote.

AGW:: Had you ever played the "Final Fantasy" game before you were approached to do the film?

No, I played after. I hadn't played it.

AGW:: This film is one generation away from being "really" real. Are you worried that computer-animated characters will one day put you out of a job?

No. I love technology. More power to this technology. If I could have all these virtual reality characters work for me so I could be at ten different places at once and get ten different paychecks at once…. yeah, go for it. The voices will still have to be done.

AGW:: Was the process for recording voices the same for this Computer-animated film and Mulan?

It's the same. You go in and they lay down the voice first. They videotape you and then the animators take all that information and piece it all together and..magic happens! It's amazing. It still boggles my mind. People used to come up to me and go "I don't know how you do it. How can you remember all those lines and conjure up these emotions and make it seem so real and be these different characters. I look at these animators and I don't know how they do it. How they take a blank piece of paper or computer screen and suddenly invent or draw something and make it come to life. It's awesome. I'm amazed.

AGW:: Were you ever in the same room with any of the other actors while recording?

No. It was really difficult in the beginning but once I got into her space and knew who she was…I worked on her for three years, it became a lot easier. The relationship between her and Dr. Sid (voice of Donald Sutherland), it was really important to me that it came through. And her past with Gray (her love interest in the film), I wanted you to feel for their characters. Even though it's animated, they're very real. You want to make it real. It's a very hard discipline because you don't have anybody to play off of. But, I love the whole process.

AGW:: Aki may be Eurasian but there aren't any Asian characters in this film. Did that bother you?

Yeah, I know. I have to be honest. It did bother me a little bit. I saw one technician that was Asian. It's hard to tell, if she's Eurasian. You'll have to ask the animators.

AGW:: Do you work with any groups to prevent Asian stereotypes (Kung-Fu fighters and drug dealers)?

I'm producing an Asian-American boy band called "At Last". They're gonna come out with an album at the end of the year and it is a fantastic group. They write their own music and play their instruments. I speak a lot at universities. I'll be doing a lot more of that next year. People say 'I see you were voted one of the 100 most influential Asians' and I'm like 'oh, yeah?' But I do take it seriously now. I used to be like "Oh, please don't call me a role model" but now I have a real purpose with my daughter and all.

AGW:: If you do more live-action film work, would you have liked, for example the Lucy Liu role in Charlie's Angels?

Oh, sure. Action is great. I'm one of the first people to go and see an action film and I love seeing strong female roles where they are kicking butt and all that stuff. One of the characters I played in Streetfighter was like that. But, I tell you, it was hard work being in that. Being strapped to those harnesses and rolling in dirt and stuff and jumping off of ledges. It was kind of nice to just go to a sound booth and let them do a lot of the work.

AGW:: What advice would you give to teens and pre-teen girls who want to be actors?

I think it's really important to know in your heart that you love acting and you love the art of it. That's key because if you're just trying to go after the fame or the money and you think it's an easy job, forget about it. The most successful people you see out there whether it's a Britney Spears or whether it's Kirsten Dunst or Haley Joel Osment, any of those successful people out there work very, very hard and that's key and good training. Get a lot of training.

AGW:: What is your dream role and what directors would you like to work with?

My dream role…I think any part that Katherine Hepburn has ever been in, whether it's Philadelphia Story or …anything. I just love her so much and I think as for directors, Ang Lee and I would love to work with Ridley Scott, Woody Allen. I would love to work on something where I speak Chinese, my first language. I would have to probably study very hard to really do it well but it would be really interesting to act in my own language for an entire film.

We spoke briefly about science fiction. Turns out Ming-na is a huge science fiction fan of both literature and films…."I grew up with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Bradbury, Asimov, "Dune", Robert Heinlein. I was President of my Science Fiction Club in high school. Now it's cool to say it. I never thought in my career I'd be proud to say this but now I am!"

From CGI Figure To E.R. Doc: The World Of Ming -Na

One of America's most beautiful Asian stars, Ming-Na (formerly Ming-Na Wen)was recently voted by America's A-Magazine as "one of the 100 most influential American Asians of the past decade". High praise indeed for one of the stars of TV's E.R, who is currently lending her voice to the all computer-generated character of Aki in Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within. Add to that her role of recent mother and producer of a new Asian American boy band, and Ming-Na is clearly more than a pretty face, as Paul Fischer recently discovered when he spoke, one-on-one, with the talented actress.
As successful as Ming-Na is, the actress also concedes that roles for Asian Americans, still remain limited. "Knock on wood I've been in the right place at the right time, but I've been in Hollywood now since Joy Luck Club, seven years ago, and you see SOME momentum going in one direction and then it stops. It's really challenging and still a constant struggle". Yet Ming-Na continues to delve in this uncertain profession "because I love it so much. Maybe I'm masochistic but I just love the challenge of it, just to prove that they're wrong, to try to change people's narrow perceptions of what Asian Americans are".

Originally credited as Ming Na-Wen, she first received critical acclaim for her lead role in the hit movie The Joy Luck Club, based on the best-seller novel by Amy Tan. An honours graduate in Drama from Carnegie-Mellon University, Ming-Na began her career in Pittsburgh before moving to New York. She continued her stage training there and appeared in several plays. But it was when she moved to California that she landed a role on the daytime drama As the World Turns. After the TV comedy The Single Guy was cancelled, she continued with her film career garnering strong reviews in Mike Figgis' One Night Stand with Wesley Snipes. Her other credits include Street Fighter and Rain Without Thunder. Ming-Na also supplied the voice of Disney's Mulan, and loved the idea of returning to animation territory in hyper-realistic Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Though animated, Ming-Na sees her character, Aki as being "a very complex woman with so many mysterious qualities about her. She's also really strong". Not to mention the fact that "she wants to save the world, which is a little bit of an A-personality for me", she adds laughingly.

Far more surrealistic and philosophical than what one might expect from a video game movie, it is precisely those elements, which are so specifically Asian, that appealed to Ming-Na when she signed on to voice Aki. "The philosophies and influences of the Asians' ideals are definitely intact in the movie, and that was obviously a great appeal. The whole idea of just how we relate to the earth and to each other are all interesting to me". Ming-Na also admits to being "a huge sci-fi geek. When I was little, Star Wars and The Force - were a religion to me. I used to pray to Buddha, God --- and The Force". Now this ex-president of her high school science fiction club, has a chance to live out her own fantasies. "What a cool way to make a living".

When not supplying voices to strong female characters, Ming-Na is busy on television. She initially appeared in the first season of the hit series E.R as Dr Chen, and was enticed back to reprise her character. "It was the right timing and the right place for me to come back. I've always loved the people in the show. They called me up out of the blue and asked me if I wanted to come back with the same character. It's still the number 1 show, still great writing and at that point I felt I wanted to do more television and have a stable life, rather than travel all the time. So it worked out". Even to the point of including her real-life pregnancy as an E.R plot line "which was very cool and gave me a lot to do with Chen".
As successful as Ming-Na is, the actress also concedes that roles for Asian Americans, still remain limited. "Knock on wood I've been in the right place at the right time, but I've been in Hollywood now since Joy Luck Club, seven years ago, and you see SOME momentum going in one direction and then it stops. It's really challenging and still a constant struggle". Yet Ming-Na continues to delve in this uncertain profession "because I love it so much. Maybe I'm masochistic but I just love the challenge of it, just to prove that they're wrong, to try to change people's narrow perceptions of what Asian Americans are".

This is why Ming-Na and her husband, Eric Michael Zee, a writer and actor, are going in a different direction. "We're producing an Asian American boys band. I mean, when they do the last 50 years of rock 'n' roll, the only Asian who crops up is Yoko Ono. We realise that music is a good way to touch the masses and change people's minds". The band, which is about to record its first album, is called At Last, "which we took from Martin Luther's famous 'Free at Last' speech, because it epitomises the challenges that lay ahead in this country of opportunity". Opportunity continues to knock for Ming-Na, with her E.R gig, boy band venture and she has just started working on Disney's Mulan II. "I'm so excited about that. She is off to fight another adventure and it's going to be great. What a role model!" Much like the actress who has given her a voice.

 

Ming-Na Takes an "ER" Discharge

ER's Dr. Jing-Mei "Deb" Chen is checking out of County General--again. After an on-and-off tenure spent playing doctor, Ming-Na decided she was ready to bring her time in television's version of the emergency room to a close for good. And, as they have done in the past, the show's writers and producers were willing to make it happen.

In Thursday night's episode, Jing-Mei is set to storm off the job in a huff, citing a need to care for her father who was injured in a car accident that killed her mother earlier in the season.

It's the third time Ming-Na has ousted her small-screen doc alter-ego from County.

"Once again, she's a quitter," the thesp told TV Guide. "She's just a spoiled brat who can't handle the pressure."

However, Ming-Na said the real reason she was leaving the show was that she felt her character had reached a natural conclusion.

"I think it was a mutual decision," she said. "The producers definitely talked about running out of stuff to do with the character. I felt like it's been that way for the past year; I wondered if there's anything left. We both decided it's time to finish the character."

Jing-Mei is just the latest doc to exit County, which has traditionally had a high-turnover rate among its staff, er, cast.

Even Noah Wyle, who as Carter, is the only original member of the show's cast to have lasted all 10 seasons, has said that this season will be his last, though recent published reports have suggested that his exit may not be set in stone.

Another recent discharge is Alex Kingston, aka Dr. Elizabeth Corday, who left the show unwillingly after her contract was not renewed.

Ming-Na, on the other hand, is ecstatic at the thought of shaking up her career prospects a bit.

Currently, she's promoting an Asian-American boy band called At Last, developing a sitcom prospect and is working on combining her television experience with her cooking prowess and seeing what comes of it.

"I'm going to pursue my own cooking show," she told TV Guide. "I grew up in a Chinese restaurant and both my parents are chefs. You know 'Jenny from the Block?' Now there's Ming-Na with a wok!"

The actor doesn't seem to have many qualms about departing from her high-drama gig.

"I want to do comedy!" she said. "No more kids being thrown out the window, no more blood and gore."

Currently in its 11th season, ER is the eighth most watched show of the year, averaging 17.3 million viewers an episode, per Nielsen Media data.



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