Jack Ong is an American-born Chinese actor, writer and activist with a professional background in print journalism, marketing, advertising and public relations.
Jack is a licensed minister with the Missionary Church and executive director of The Dr. Haing S. Ngor Foundation, which he established in 1991 with the late Oscar-winning actor of “The Killing Fields.”
The primary mission of the Haing Ngor Foundation, Jack says, is to develop programs fostering diversity and multicultural understanding through education and outreach. Another Foundation commitment is preserving the legacy of Haing Ngor and his human rights work in Cambodia and America, as well as the history of those who survived the genocidal regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979).
Jack is a past board member of the Screen Actors Guild, an active member of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and served as chair of the SAG/AFTRA Ethnic Equal Opportunities Steering Committee. He organized the Asian American Coalition for Total Inclusion on the Networks (AACTION), and is part of a national multi-ethnic coalition working for diversity throughout the media industries. He has directed the drama ministries of the Venice Vineyard Church and the Pacific Christian Center in Manhattan Beach, CA.
2000, Jack was honored as the first recipient of the Ammy Action! Award (sponsored by A.Media, A. Magazine and the Asian Professional Exchange) for his part in the crusade to bring more ethnic diversity on screen and behind the scenes in network television.
Born and raised in Arizona to immigrant parents, Kam Fong and Jeung Shee Ong, Jack earned his B.A. at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. In college, he was already a staff reporter-photographer with the Mesa Daily Tribune, which had recruited him before his high school graduation. Jack moved to Los Angeles after college, then served as a Navy photojournalist during the Vietnam War, assigned to the Commander, Seventh Fleet, in the Philippines. His reporting and photography were published in Stars and Stripes and frequently circulated by the global wire services.
After his stint in the Navy, Jack worked as an advertising executive, writing and creating print, radio, TV, point-of-purchase and billboard campaigns for the International Hotel (now the Hilton) in Las Vegas, where he also worked on publicity for such entertainers as Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee and Bill Cosby. He also worked on marketing and promotional campaigns for Galpin Motors, the largest and most successful automobile enterprise in the world; and Topanga Plaza, America’s first mega-shopping mall.
A dramatic as well as comedic actor, Jack created the role of Wellington Po, “eccentric billionaire,” on the Showtime series, “Hoop Life”; and improvised the “Funky Peasant” dance before his close-up death scene in the horror movie, “Lep in the Hood: Leprechaun 5.” His credits also include guest starring roles on such TV shows as “ER,” “Friends,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” “Still Standing,” “Dharma & Greg,” “Touched By An Angel,” “V.I.P.,” “Chicago Hope,” “The Simpsons,” and “Beverly Hills 90210.” He was seen as a veggie-chopping, attitude-copping chef on the Kan-Tong Fried Rice commercials. His acting and ministry careers crossed when he married couples on TV’s “The Young and the Restless” and “Hunter,” and in the film “For Keeps”; he also plays a minister in “Cannes Man.” Other movie credits include “Art School Confidential,” “Akeelah and the Bee,” “Next,” “National Lampoon’s Gold Diggers,” “China Cry,” “The Iron Triangle,” and “Godzilla 2000,” in which he dubbed one of the starring voices for the Japanese movie’s American release.
Jack’s voice acting credits also include several Time-Warner audiobooks: “Rich Dad’s Success Stories”; “The Art of Profitability,” which won an Audie Award for best business/education audiobook; and “100 Most Loved Poems,” which won a Grammy nomination for best spoken word recording in 2001. In “The Diamond of Jeru,” an audiobook scheduled for release in 2008, Jack is the voice of “Inghai.” “The Diamond of Jeru” is a full dramatized audio production in the style of classic radio shows. It is based on a short story by Louis L'Amour, with a script written, produced and directed by the late author's son, Beau.
On stage, Jack appeared in the hit production of Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical, “Follies,” at East West Players, America’s first and foremost Asian American theatre company. He also portrayed a Vietnamese Minister of Trade in the world premiere production of “The Reunification Hotel” by Julian Barry, Tony Award-winning author of “Lenny.” He regularly performs in a series of one-act roadshow dramas focusing on human rights; this ongoing project is in collaboration with the award-winning playwright Henry Ong (no relation). The series includes “Voices of Hiroshima” (testimonies of A-Bomb survivors), “The Rape of Nanking” (staged excerpts from Iris Chang’s best selling book on the “forgotten holocaust of WWII”), and “The Courage to Stand Alone” (staged excerpts from Wei Jingsheng’s book of essays and letters from a Chinese gulag). In the emotional and politically charged weeks during which Wei Jingsheng was finally released from prison in China and granted political asylum in America in 1997, Jack was invited to read excerpts of “The Courage to Stand Alone” before an audience which included Wei himself. The next evening, they met again at the Holocaust Museum in Beverly Hills, where the world-acclaimed freedom fighter was being honored. Those few moments he had in the company of the Chinese activist, Jack feels, are among the most humbling and enlightening of his life.