“I'm very interested in Asian-American stories because there's just not enough of them. We're part of America. We're not foreigners. My parents' restaurant has been in Pittsburgh for three generations.” Ming Na
Actress Ming Na is perhaps best recognized by television audiences for playing medical student Deb Chen (eventually Dr. Chen) on the NBC popular series “ER” (1995, 2000-2004). She has also played roles on “As the World Turns” (1988-1991), “The Single Guy” (1997), “Vanished” (2006) and “SGU Stargate Universe” (2009-2011). In 2005, she starred in “Inconceivable” (2005), but it was axed after two episodes. On the big screen, Ming Na is known for her roles on “The Joy Luck Club” (1993) and “Street Fighter” (1994). In addition, she voiced Fa Mulan in the Disney animated films “Mulan I” (1998) and “Mulan II” (2004). Other voice credits include HBO's “Spawn” (1998-1999), “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” (2001) and “The Batman” (2004-2005). Ming Na has acted in several stage productions, including “Golden Child” (1998) on Broadway. Apart from acting, Ming Na founded Innovazian Records, which promotes and produces Asian-American musical talent. She also manages the Asian boy band At Last.
One of People Magazine's “100 Most Beautiful People in the World” (2008), Ming Na has been married twice. She was married to Kirk Aanes from 1990 to 1993. Married in 1995, Ming Na and her present husband, Eric Michael Zee, have two children together (Michaela and Cooper Dominic). The family lives in Calabasas, California.
Childhood and Family:
Ming-Na Wen was born on November 20, 1968, on Coloane Island, Macau, China, to Cantonese parents. After her parents divorced, she lived in Hong Kong with her mother, Linchan Chan Wen, who worked as a nurse, and her older brother Jonathan. Upon her mother's marriage to Soo Lim Yee, the family immigrated to the Unites States in 1972. They first settled in New York City and then Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, five years later. In Pittsburgh, her stepfather operated a restaurant called Chinatown Inn, where she worked during her teen years. Ming Na graduated from Mount Lebanon High School in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, in 1981. She then attended Carnegie-Mellon University, from which she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drama. After college, she moved back to New York City to pursue acting.
On May 19, 1990, Ming Na married American film writer Kirk Aanes. The couple divorced in 1993. On June 16, 1995, she married Eric Michael Zee, whom she met on the premier of “The Joy Luck Club.” They welcomed their first child, daughter Michaela Zee, on November 21, 2000. Their second child, son Cooper Dominic Zee, was born on October 12, 2005.
Ming Na's stepfather passed away in October 1995. Her brother Jonathan and half brother Leong now manage the Chinatown Inn restaurant.
The Joy Luck Club
Armed with a degree in drama, Ming Na left Pittsburgh and made her way to New York City in pursuit of an acting career. Once there, she joined Playwrights Horizons and The Ensemble Studio Theatre and performed in various off-Broadway productions. Some of her stage credits include David Mamet’s “Speed the Plow,” Lanford Wilson’s “Redwood Curtain” and James Lapine’s “Luck, Pluck & Virtue.” Ming Na soon attracted the attention of TV producers and after appearing in Fred Rogers' children's television series “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” (1985), she scored her first break by landing a role on the CBS soap opera “As the World Turns,” where she played Lien Hughes. At the time, Ming Na became the first Asian performer in a contract role in a daytime soap.
After leaving the show, Ming Na made her feature film debut in “Rain Without Thunder,” starring Betty Buckley and Jeff Daniels. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on September 15, 1992, and was released theatrically on February 5, 1993. It was not long before the actress gained public attention with her critically acclaimed performance as Jing-Mei 'June' Woo in the film adaptation of Amy Tan's novel “The Joy Luck Club” (1993). Produced by Oliver Stone and directed by Wayne Wang, the film enjoyed extensive praise from critics and was well received by audiences. It was nominated for a 1995 BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay - Adapted and a WGA Award for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published. At the box office, “The Joy Luck Club” grossed over $32.8 million in the U.S. against a budget of $11 million. Also in 1993, Ming Na appeared with Joanne Woodward, Laura Linney and Reed Diamond in the Emmy Award nominated drama “Blind Spot.”
The following year, Ming Na worked with Steven Bauer, Emma Samms and Brenda Bakke in the science fiction movie “Terminal Voyage” and Robert Patrick, Brion James and Tim Thomerson in Albert Pyun's “Hong Kong 97.” She then starred as Chun-Li Zang in the commercially successful action film “Street Fighter,” directed and written by Steven E. de Souza. Costars of the latter film included Jean-Claude Van Damme, Raúl Juliá, Kylie Minogue, Damian Chapa, Simon Callow, Roshan Seth, Byron Mann and Andrew Bryniarski. She also portrayed Mai in the television films “Vanishing Son II” and “Vanishing Son IV” and guest starred in the ABC comedy series “All-American Girl,” starring Margaret Cho.
Ming Na's career gained another boost when she joined the cast of the NBC medical series “ER” in the recurring role of Doctor Chen in January 1995. She left the show in April that year. She then played the supporting role of gallery owner Trudy on the NBC sitcom “The Single Guy,” starring Jonathan Silverman as struggling New York City writer Jonathan Eliot. The show ran from September 21, 1995 to April 14, 1997.
Ming Na returned to the big screen when she was cast as the wife of Wesley Snipes in Mike Figgis' drama “One Night Stand” (1997). She followed it up with the notable voice role of Mulan Fa in Disney's huge hit animated movie “Mulan” (1998), from which she won a 1998 Annie for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Female Performer in an Animated Feature Production, and a small part in “12 Bucks” (1998), a drama directed by Wayne Isham that starred Matthew Fishman, Nick Bentley and Alexandra Paul.
From 1998 to 1999, Ming Na provided the voice of Jade/Lisa Wu on the HBO animated series “Spawn” and reprised the role for the direct to video animated film “Spawn 3: Ultimate Battle.” Also in 1999, she was cast as Dr. Sara Kwan on the short lived series “Outreach.” On stage, Ming Na made her Broadway debut in David Henry Hwang's “Golden Child” (1998).
In 2000, Ming Na returned to the NBC hit series “ER” as Dr. Chen. She would remain on the show until 2004. For her work in the series, she jointly nabbed a 2001 Screen Actors Guild nomination in the category of Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
In 2001, Ming Na provided the voice of Doctor Aki Ross on the CGI animated feature “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within,” directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi. She then voiced the character Mei-Ling on the 2002 animated film “A Ribbon of Dreams,” by director Philip W. Chung. Also in 2002, she acted in the television film “I Got You,” opposite Burt Bulos and Eric Kan, and the Harry Shearer film “Teddy Bears' Picnic.” She next voiced Mulan in the 2004 sequel “Mulan II” and Detective Ellen Yin in the animated series “The Batman” (2004-2005). Her voice was also heard in episodes of “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” (2004, as Peggy Tsu) and “Robot Chicken” (2005, as Mary Kate Olsen). In addition, she played Li Mei in an episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” called “Debt” (2004) and starred in “Inconceivable” (2005), a soon canceled series on NBC.
After having a two episodic role in “George Lopez” (2006), Ming Na returned to series TV as a regular on “Vanished,” where she played Agent Lin Mei. The series aired on Fox from August to November 2006. In 2007, she played the recurring role of Linda Harris in the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men” (4 episodes), a role she would reprise for an episode in 2010. 2008 saw Ming Na guest star in “Private Practice” and “Boston Legal” and portray Dr. Elisha Crowe in the slasher film “Prom Night,” starring Brittany Murphy.
In 2009, Ming Na landed the role of Camile Wray on the science fiction series “SGU Stargate Universe,” which premiered in the United States on Syfy on October 2, 2009. On the big screen, she played the supporting role of Emily Hu in “Push” (2009), a thriller directed by Paul McGuigan that starred Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis and Djimon Hounsou, and was cast as Judy Roberts in Jon Artigo's comedy “BoyBand,” starring Michael Copon, Ryan Pinkston and Robert Hoffman.
Annie: Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Female Performer in an Animated Feature Production, “Mulan,” 1998