7 Highlights From Ke Huy Quan’s Nearly 40-Year Acting Career
Ke Huy Quan‘s epic Hollywood comeback was the cherry on top of this year’s history-making award season. On March 12, the 51-year-old took home the Oscar for best actor in a supporting role for his performance as Waymond Wang in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Over the span of his nearly 40-year acting career, Quan has starred in a wide variety of movies and TV shows that laid the foundation for his award-winning ascent.
Quan made his acting debut in 1984 – when he was 12 years old – as Short Round in Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” opposite Harrison Ford. One year later, Quan returned as Data in “The Goonies” alongside fellow child actors Sean Astin, Jeff Cohen, and Corey Feldman. Though both projects were some of the highest-grossing films for their respective release years, Quan struggled to book additional roles. “It was tough,” he told People in 2022. “I was waiting for the phone to ring, and it rarely did.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but I feel I have a responsibility to do something good.”
At the time, opportunities for Asian actors to see themselves on screen were especially scarce. Following his breakout roles, Quan appeared as a series regular in sitcoms like “Head of the Class” and martial-arts films, including “Breathing Fire” and “Second Time Around,” but opportunities to expand his résumé remained scant. In 2002, disheartened by the lack of auditions he was receiving, Quan made the “very difficult decision” to step away from acting. During his time away from the camera, he graduated from the film program at the University of Southern California and became a successful assistant director and stunt coordinator.
After watching “Crazy Rich Asians” in 2018, Quan decided it was time to get back in front of the camera. “I was happy working behind the camera but I had serious FOMO,” he told People. “I wanted to be up there with my fellow Asian actors!”
Following his “EEAAO” success, Quan is set to appear in three completed projects: Disney+’s “American Born Chinese,” the second season of Marvel’s “Loki,” and the Russo brothers’ upcoming sci-fi adventure, “The Electric State,” featuring Millie Bobby Brown and Chris Pratt. Since filming for “EEAAO” wrapped, however, Quan notably hasn’t received offers to appear in additional projects.
Hollywood has a long history of sidelining actors of color, including Asians and Asian Americans. Though Quan is deeply familiar with the industry’s pattern of excluding Asian actors, he’s not quitting this time; like Alpha Waymond, he’s pulling out all the stops, and he’s not about to back down anytime soon.
When asked if he’s worried about not having any projects lined up, Quan told Variety, “I attended an event recently and sat next to Cate Blanchett. I told her that I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but I feel I have a responsibility to do something good, and that I don’t want to disappoint all the people that have supported me. And she said, ‘Just go with your heart and be irresponsible: Don’t worry about what other people think. Choose something that you believe in, choose something that you love, and things will work out.'” Your move, Hollywood.
Read more about Quan’s impressive acting history ahead.