Nathan Jung, who was best known for his roles in “Star Trek: The Original Series” and “The A-Team” has died. He was 74 years old. According to Variety, his lawyer and close friend Timothy Tau confirmed that Jung died on April 24th. The cause of death has not been released yet.
Jung started his acting career with a role in “The Original Series.” In the iconic episode, “The Savage Curtain,” Jung played one of history’s most notorious villains, Genghis Khan.
From there, Jung went on to appear in some of the most popular television shows of the 70s and 80s. He appeared in “Sanford and Son,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “CHiPs,” “M*A*S*H,” “Magnum P.I.,” “Falcon Crest,” and “The A-Team.”
‘Star Trek’ Career
Though he only appeared in the “Star Trek” universe once and didn’t even have any lines, Jung made an impact. He was one of the few actors of Asian descent in the show. At the time, he was the only actor of Chinese descent on the show.
Jung didn’t remain as immersed in the “Star Trek” universe as some other Trek guest stars. It’s common for guest stars, even those who had smaller roles, to make a career out of appearing on the “Star Trek” convention circuit. Though Jung’s career went in a different direction, he did appear at Star Trek Las Vegas in 2018.
Jung’s Incredible Acting Career
Jung’s career spanned four decades. His Chinese descent and his size often earned him roles as the “muscle” in films and television shows. He was often cast as a member of the Japanese mob organization, the Yakuza. He was also a regular in Kung-Fu movies.
The same year that Jung appeared in “The Original Series,” he got the opportunity to work with martial arts and film legend, Bruce Lee. Jung talked about his experiences working with Lee on an episode of “Here Comes the Bride” in a 2016 documentary entitled “Nathan Jung vs. Bruce Lee.”
Jung said that he was intimidated to work with Lee, who was already a big star at the time. Jung also admired Lee quite a bit because he was also a martial artist. Before their scene, the two spent time chatting about their martial arts lineages and the new disciplines they were learning, especially Wing Chung. Lee even showed him a few techniques before the cameras started to roll.
In the same documentary, Jung discussed the racism of the entertainment industry, especially in the 70s and 80s. He said that almost all of his roles were written as very stereotypical, generic Asians without any respect for the actual heritage of the character or the actor.
“They would make me wear these coolie outfits with a fake pigtail, the silk [martial arts uniform], and I said ‘Man is that racist!’ And it was just like how could they make me wear something that I’ve never seen in my life, except like when you go to Chinatown and look in one of these shops and see a mannequin. To me, it was this goofy-a** Chinese wardrobe.”
Though Jung wasn’t a fan of these stereotypically racist depictions of East Asian characters, they kept him employed for several decades. He played these kinds of characters in major films like “Big Trouble in Little China,” “Showdown in Little Tokyo,” “American Yakuza,” and “Beverly Hills Ninja.”
Jung’s career slowed down in the 2000s and he retired from acting altogether in 2014.
According to Variety, Jung’s nephew, Keith Jung is his sole surviving relative.