Trailblazing Asian American actor of stage and screen and co-founder of the Los Angeles-based theatre group East West Players Soon-Tek Oh died on April 4 after a battle with Alzheimer’s. He was 85.
Oh was born in what is now South Korea. He attended high school in South Korea and went on to Yonsei University in Seoul. When he came stateside he attended the University of Southern California and later received an MFA from UCLA.
The Korean-American actor is known as the actor who provided the voice of Fa Zhou, the father of the titular character in Disney’s 1998 animated feature Mulan. He went on to voice the character in Mulan II. In addition, he appeared in the 1974 James Bond installment The Man with the Golden Gun. He had a long list of other TV and film credits in the past decades including many pop culture staples such as MacGyver, M*A*S*H, Charlie’s Angels, Magnum, P.I., Hawaii Five-O, Kung-Fu, Zorro, and Touched by an Angel. In film, he starred in the Missing in Action: The Beginning opposite Chuck Norris as well as the Chris Chan Lee-directed indie Yellow.
In particular, Oh was a pioneer as an Asian American actor in theater world appearing the original cast of the Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures. In 1965, he was one of the earliest members of the aforementioned East West Players, a theater organization championing artistic voices in the Asian Pacific American community and providing educational programs. In 1995, he went on to create the Korean American theatre group, Society of Heritage Performers, which later turned into the Lodestone Theatre Ensemble. Since 2005, he had been a professor at the Seoul National University of Economics.