Avatar: The Last Airbender credits
- Character information: Iroh
Selected other credits
- Rise: Blood Hunter (2007)
- TMNT (2007)
- Genndy's Scrapbook (2005; video documentary short)
- Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
- Cages (2005)
- Bulletproof Monk (2003)
- Pearl Harbor (2001)
- Conan: The Destroyer (1984)
- Conan: The Barbarian (1982)
- Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Burning Earth (video game)
- Medal of Honor: Rising Sun (video game)
- Samurai Jack: The Shadow of Aku (video game)
- Secret Weapons Over Normandy (video game)
- True Crime: Streets of LA (video game)
Mako was born in Kobe, Japan, the son of noted children's book author and illustrator Taro Yashima. His parents moved to the United States when he was a small child. He joined them there after World War II, in 1949, joining the military in the 1950s. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1956. When Mako first joined his parents in the USA, he studied architecture. During his military service, he discovered his theatrical talent and trained at the Pasadena Community Playhouse while on leave.
Mako was married to actress Shizuko Hoshi with whom he had two daughters, who are both actresses, and three grandchildren.
Mako's first cinema role was in the 1959 film Never So Few. In 1965, frustrated by the limited roles available to himself and other Asian American actors, Mako and six others, including James Hong, formed the East West Players theater company, first performing out of a church basement. The company is one of the earliest Asian American theater organizations, and not only provided a venue for Asian American actors to train and perform, but nurtured many Asian American playwrights. Mako remained artistic director of the company until 1989.
He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1966 film The Sand Pebbles and for a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for the 1976 musical Pacific Overtures. Other roles include the Chinese contract laborer Mun Ki in the 1970 epic movie The Hawaiians starring Charlton Heston and Tina Chen, the sorcerer Nakano in Highlander III, the Wizard Akiro, opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the two Conan movies Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, Kanemitsu in Robocop 3 in 1993, Kungo Tsarong in Seven Years In Tibet, and Admiral Yamamoto in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor. He also had a role in Bulletproof Monk. In 2005, he had a cameo role in Memoirs of a Geisha. His last leading role was in the 2005 film Cages, written and directed by Graham Streeter.
He appeared on the TV show McHale's Navy several times, playing Japanese soldiers. He also later appeared on the TV show M*A*S*H, playing multiple roles such as a Chinese doctor, North Korean soldier, and South Korean major. He was the blind philosopher Li Sung in two episodes of the TV show The Incredible Hulk. In an episode of The A-team he was the team's former POW camp cook Lin. Mako appeared in an episode of the TV show F Troop, and also fought Bruce Lee in an episode of The Green Hornet. He played Jackie Chan's uncle/Sifu in Chan's first American movie The Big Brawl. Mako voiced Commander Shima in the video game Medal of Honor: Rising Sun. He also was a guest star in an episode of Monk and in the TV series Charmed. He guest-starred in an episode of The West Wing as an economics professor and former rival of President Bartlet.
He was the voice actor of the evil demon Aku in the animated series Samurai Jack, and Achoo (a parody of Aku) in Duck Dodgers. He had a guest appearance in the Nickelodeon movie Rugrats in Paris: The Movie as the boss of Coco. He also provided the voice for Master Splinter in the animated film TMNT.
Mako has a motion picture star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7095 Hollywood Blvd. He was among the actors, producers, and directors interviewed in the 2006 documentary The Slanted Screen, directed by Jeff Adachi, about the representation of Asian and Asian American men in Hollywood.
Mako died on July 21, 2006, aged 72, after a brief period of suffering from esophageal cancer. One day prior to his death, Mako had been confirmed to star in the film TMNT as the voice of Splinter. The film's director Kevin Munroe confirmed that Mako had completed his recording before his death. The finished film was dedicated to Mako.
During the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Tales of Ba Sing Se", the segment titled "The Tale of Iroh" features a dedication to Mako as he was the voice actor for Iroh for Books One and Two. He was also featured in the Memoriam Montage in the 79th Academy Awards.
- 2002: Won a Big Bear Lake International Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award
- 1994: Earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Motion Picture; 7095 Hollywood Blvd.)
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