Since she was a toddler, Ming-Na Wen has been a “Star Wars” fan. “To this day, whenever I get on a plane,” she says, “I still pray to God, Buddha and The Force.”
And whereas could be cliché to open a profile of Wen by saying The Force is robust along with her — when Lucasfilm’s personal Dave Filoni invokes the phrase, it could be unsuitable not to take action.
Long earlier than Wen was taking part in bounty hunter Fennec Shand on “The Mandalorian” or its spinoff “The Book of Boba Fett,” she and Filoni attended the identical highschool in a Pittsburgh suburb. And he says each have at all times cherished “Star Wars.” Says Filoni, “Working with Ming-Na Wen has been full of surprises. The Force is definitely strong with her. Always has been.”
Other actors can boast about being a part of the “Star Wars” universe or taking part in a Disney princess or having characters in each the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Universe. But few, if any, can lay declare to being concerned with all of them of their profession. And Wen isn’t simply an actor — she’s a self-proclaimed fan. One who can’t cease grinning from ear to ear when she talks about seeing Mark Hamill on the set of “Boba Fett” and calls successful the Saturn Award, awarded to sci-fi and style work, her Oscar.
“Can I show you proof of my geekiness?” Wen asks throughout a Zoom dialog earlier than panning her pc digital camera to show a wall lined with motion figures of her characters from the completely different fandoms. “And this isn’t narcissism, this is just me being so freaking excited. I still pinch myself; it doesn’t make any sense. I mean, I won the Golden Ticket.”
Adding to her many honors and achievements, Wen might be receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on May 30. And it’s an occasion she will’t fairly wrap her head round. “I’m so honored but I don’t feel worthy of it,” she says. “I’m literally having anxiety dreams about it.”
When she began out, Wen briefly puzzled if she ought to anglicize her title. Becoming a mom shifted her priorities from being so targeted on profession, and he or she hasn’t had a private publicist in additional than 20 years. So, whereas she feels a little bit unusual having the highlight on her, Wen additionally is aware of it’s about extra than simply herself.
“I have to take myself out of it and see the bigger picture of what this really means,” she says. “If someone is walking over that star and they see it’s an Asian American name, a Chinese name, what does that represent? How can it inspire others?” She factors to the latest Academy Awards, the place the Asian immigrant story “Everything Everywhere All at Once” swept the present. “We’ve come a long way, and thank goodness, because it’s been a long time coming,” says Wen.
Wen acknowledges that rising up, she didn’t see many names like hers on tv or in films. Born in China, she and her household moved to New York when Wen was solely 4 years previous. She began doing faculty performs and might keep in mind being on stage in third grade and making folks snicker. “That’s when I was hooked,” she says. Just a few years later, the household moved to the Pittsburgh space, which Wen describes as a tradition shock.But Mount Lebanon High School additionally had a superb theater program after which Wen was accepted into the celebrated Carnegie Mellon University, the place she majored in theater.
After working in New York theater and a three-year stint on daytime drama “As the World Turns,” Wen was solid in her main profession breakthrough position. She performed June Woo in “The Joy Luck Club,” the 1993 adaptation of the bestselling ebook by Amy Tan centering on the relationships between 4 Chinese American girls and their moms. Wen refers back to the film, a crucial and field workplace hit on the time, as “my citizenship into Hollywood.”
The film “opened up a whole other world that I didn’t realize existed, let alone was available,” she says now. “Everything from meeting all these other incredible Asian actors to this community that I didn’t even know about. I was living the dream.”
She additionally fashioned lifelong friendships with the three different actors who performed the daughters — Rosalind Chao, Lauren Tom and Tamlyn Tomita. Chao remembers her preliminary impression of Wen all these years in the past. “From day one, on set and off, she exuded confidence and a great business sense,” remembers Chao. “In fact, my husband played poker with the girls off set and Ming cleaned them all out.”
Wen would completely be on board for Hyde Park Entertainment Group’s just lately introduced sequel to “The Joy Luck Club.” “It would be very exciting,” she says. “Although, if you get the four of us together, I don’t know if we’ll get anything done because we’ll be laughing so much.”
After “The Joy Luck Club,” Wen joined the solid of the hit collection “ER” as Dr. Jing-Mei “Deb” Chen and have become the primary Disney princess of Asian descent by voicing the lead in “Mulan,” just lately making a cameo look within the 2020 live-action adaptation. She joined different standard fandoms with roles in initiatives akin to “Street Fighter,” “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and voiced Detective Ellen Yin in “The Batman.”
And then there’s her position as Fennec Shand, an integral “Mandalorian” character additionally seen within the animated collection “Star Wars: The Bad Batch.” Though Filoni has lengthy been concerned with the ‘Star Wars’ universe, he made his live-action directing debut with episodes of “The Mandalorian.” Says Filoni, “Ming-Na and I would sit together and discuss each line, her backstory, where in the galaxy she had been, and where she might be going. She wanted to know everything about Fennec.”
In truth, Filoni reveals, “Originally the character of Fennec was going to die, but after working with Ming-Na we decided that couldn’t happen. She was too valuable to ‘Star Wars’ both on- and off- screen. We found a way for her to survive and I’m happy to say the character lives on.”
Wen pauses when requested about her largest challenges earlier than noting that taking part in expertise agent Janet Stone on the hit comedy “Hacks” initially “terrified” her. “It had been a while since I’d done comedy and I was such a huge fan of the show,” Wen reveals.
Lucia Aniello, the co-creator, co-showrunner and director of “Hacks,” says that was a part of the attraction in casting Wen. “On ‘Hacks’ we love to showcase actors in ways they’re not usually known for,” Aniello reveals. “We were looking for someone who had the gravitas of a ball-busting Hollywood heavyweight, and she came to set knowing exactly who this woman was. Maybe it was because she’s been in the business long enough to know these women, but it felt so perfect — banging tables, laughing with her mouth open — it was so fun to watch her be so free and play.”
In addition to her work as an actor, Wen is at present at work on a cookbook with Simon Element, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. The daughter of cooks, Wen was a foodie lengthy earlier than the time period existed. “It’s going to also be a journey through my culture, my food and my family through all these dishes,” she notes.
But first, she’ll need to get by way of that star ceremony, one thing she nonetheless is struggling to simply accept. “I’m being honored in the most remarkable way,” she says. “And all I’m doing is living out my biggest nerd dreams.”
What: Ming-Na Wen receivesa star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
When: 11:30 a.m., May 30
Where: 6840 Hollywood Blvd.