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Soon-Tek Oh, Voice of Mulan’s Father and Asian-American Theater Pioneer, Dies at 85

Soon-Tek Oh, a pioneering figure in Asian-American theater who voiced Fa Zhou in two “Mulan” films and acted with Roger Moore in “Man with the Golden Gun,” has died. He was 85.

The Korean-American actor died Wednesday in Los Angeles after a long fight with Alzheimer’s, according to actor Chil Kong. Kong co-founded the Lodestone Theatre Ensemble in Los Angeles under Oh’s guidance.

In addition to his voice credits in “Mulan,” Oh acted in numerous television series throughout his career, beginning in the ’60s with credits on series like “It Takes a Thief” and “I Spy” and spanning through the ’90s with repeat appearances on shows including “Hawaii Five-O,” “M*A*S*H,” and “Charlie’s Angels.” He also acted in “Magnum, P.I.,” “Cagney & Lacey,” and “Hill Street Blues” and the mini-series “East of Eden.”

In 1974, Oh appeared as Lieutenant Hip in “Man With the Golden Gun.” In the film, Hip arrests James Bond after Christopher Lee’s Francisco Scaramanga kills a scientist, but turns out to be on Bond’s side.

Perhaps one of Oh’s most lasting contributions was as a founder of the East West Players, one of the first Asian-American theater companies the U.S., which helped pave the way for other theater companies that followed. Notable alumni of the organization include B.D. Wong, John Cho, Daniel Dae Kim, and Kal Penn.

After the 1992 L.A. riots, Oh created the Society of Heritage Performers with the hope of elevating Asian-American voices while counteracting stereotypical depictions of Asian-Americans as immigrants and victims of violence. The group evolved into the Lodestone Theatre Ensemble, which disbanded roughly a decade later.

Oh also taught in Korea for around a decade before moving back to Los Angeles towards the end of his life.

“He awakened within me a life-changing cultural and community awareness; and while we continually performed and interacted with Korean American partner organizations over the next five years or so, Mr. Oh constantly coached and mentored me,” wrote Tim Lounibos in a tribute.

“I will never be able to re-pay him for what he did for me,” remembered Kong. “How he shaped me as an artist, as a community leader, and as a parent. All I can do is promise to stay true to my artistic self just as Mr. Oh strived to do all his life.”

(Pictured: Soon-Tek Oh, third from left, with the voice cast of ‘Mulan’ at the film’s premiere)

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