Learn about Disney Legend Ming Na-Wen, born 11/20/1963.
Let’s get down to business: To learn about Ming-Na Wen. This incredibly talented Chinese actress has had a remarkable career that seems to only gain steam as it progresses—a rarity in Hollywood that proves how talented Ming-Na is.
Many people may know Ming-Na from her long-running role as Deb Chen on the medical drama series ER, but you’d definitely recognize her voice as that of Fa Mulan in the 1998 Walt Disney animated film.
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In 2019—nearly two decades after starring in Mulan—Ming-Na was inducted into the prestigious Disney Legends Hall of Fame. As a self-proclaimed lifelong geek, she was thrilled to receive this honor.
To celebrate her numerous achievements, let’s look back at this talented actress’ career and learn five fascinating facts about Disney Legend Ming-Na Wen.
Lead photo courtesy of D23
1. In the Neighborhood
Before graduating from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1986 with a degree in theatre, Ming-Na made her first on-screen appearance in a well-known PBS children’s television show.
In 1985, Ming-Na had a brief role on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as a fanfare musician alongside two other young ladies. The royally robed trio played some brief fanfare for King Friday in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.
Although her time on screen lasted less than 60 seconds, it provided Ming-Na with a foot in the door to future television roles, including a four-year run (1988-1991) on As the World Turns as Lien Hughes.
2. “My Name Is Mulan!”
Ming-Na Wen was forever solidified in our hearts when she gave Fa Mulan a voice in Disney’s 1998 animated epic. Her work on the film earned her a prestigious Annie Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Female Performer.
Whenever Fa Mulan has made a cameo appearance in other Disney productions, it’s no surprise that Ming-Na Wen has returned to provide her voice.
This started with her reprisal as Fa Mulan in the best-selling video game Kingdom Hearts II in 2006. The game was released shortly after the direct-to-video sequel Mulan II, which Ming-Na Wen also starred in as the titular heroine.
Other instances in which Ming-Na returned to voice Fa Mulan include the movie Ralph Breaks the Internet, the children’s show Sofia the First, and the video games Disney Infinity 3.0 and Disney Magic Kingdoms.
3. Ming-Na and the Mouse
Fa Mulan isn’t the only character that Ming-Na Wen has played in Disney-owned productions. She’s appeared in many other universes as a wide variety of memorable characters.
Her current major role is as the elite mercenary Fennec Shand in the Star Wars universe. Her first appearance was in The Mandalorian episode “The Gunslinger.” Fennec returned in the animated series, The Bad Batch, for which Ming-Na provided the voice. The actress also will reprise her live-action portrayal of Fennec in the Disney+ spinoff series The Book of Boba Fett.
Before that, Ming-Na Went spent over eight years portraying Melinda May—nicknamed “The Cavalry”—a lead character in the Marvel Studios television series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Other Disney collaborations include Phineas and Ferb, Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors, and the 1993 Disney-produced film The Joy Luck Club, which started her relationship with the Walt Disney Company.
4. An Imaginary Actress
Apart from her involvement in Mulan, Ming-Na Wen has done voice work in dozens of other productions, but the most fascinating entry on her resume is undoubtedly her participation in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
Although the 2001 computer-animated film itself isn’t that memorable, the protagonist Aki Ross is. Voiced by Ming-Na Wen, Aki Ross was a fascinating anomaly: the world’s first photorealistic computer-animated actress who was marketed like a real-life virtual person. It’s definitely worth looking into if you’ve never read about it.
Square Pictures intended for Aki to “act” in multiple films in different roles, with Ming-Na providing the voice in all of her appearances—including off-screen interviews. Although those ambitious plans didn’t pan out, Ming-Na Wen proved that she liked taking risks and staying on the cutting-edge of the film industry.
5. An Esteemed Return
Although Ming-Na Wen did not play Hua Mulan in the 2020 live action remake (the role was inhabited by Liu Yifei), she did make a brief appearance in the motion picture.
Did You Know? Mulan’s surname in the original was Fa, which is Cantonese, but was changed to Hua in the remake, which was the originally more accepted version. “Fa” is how you’d pronounce Mulan’s family name in Cantonese, but it is pronounced “Hua” in Mandarin Chinese.
After Hua Mulan saves the kingdom, she is brought to the emperor’s court to meet him. If you recognize Ming-Na Wen, you’ll appreciate this little Easter egg: Ming-Na is the woman who presents Hua Mulan to the emperor for the first time near the end of the film. Ming-Na is credited in the film as an “Esteemed Guest.”
As the director suggested in a behind-the-scenes interview, it’s like the original Mulan was passing the torch to the new Mulan.
In 2022, the celebrated Chinese actress will be receiving her own Hollywood Walk of Fame star—and she absolutely has earned it. The talented trilingual actress has broken through barriers for Asian performers and gifted us with many enjoyable performances in the process.
Through her brave actions and selfless sacrifices, Fa Mulan has been deemed a Disney Princess—even though she isn’t royalty. Which is your favorite Disney princess?