A character actor known for his intense, often unnerving portrayals, Ken Leung not only impressed audiences, but virtually every director who had worked with him. After years of stage work and several small roles in indie films and on television, he found a powerful advocate in director Brett Ratner, who first cast him in the action-comedy "Rush Hour" (1998) and later in the thriller "Red Dragon" (2002). He went on to exhibit extraordinary dexterity in projects as diametrically opposed as the horror movie "Saw" (2004) and the family drama "The Squid and the Whale" (2005). Counted among the filmmaker's favorite actors, Ratner brought Leung onboard once again for the final chapter of the superhero franchise, "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006). One year later, the Asian-American actor gave such a magnificently raw performance as a mental patient in a final season episode of "The Sopranos" (HBO, 1999-2007), that producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse created a role specifically for him on their hit series "Lost" (ABC, 2004-2010). The fact that the character Miles became a fan favorite after being dropped into such an established ensemble cast was a true testament to Leung's ability. Equally capable of deeply nuanced dramatic turns and disarmingly comic performances, Leung was a true actor's actor.
Ken Leung was born on Jan. 21, 1970 in New York City. Raised in the Two Bridges section of the Lower East Side, his family eventually moved to Midwood, Brooklyn, and he graduated high school in Old Bridge, NJ. During his junior year at New York University, Leung fell in love with acting, especially with the guidance of his mentors Catherine Russell, Nan Smithner, and HB Studio's Anne Jackson. The city's downtown acting scene exposed Leung's talents to the public, with underground performances and with the help of groups such as Ma-Yi, New Perspectives, and a traveling group of performers based in Mount Sinai Hospital called STAR. It did not take long for the New York native to get minor acting roles in independent movies like the 1995 quirky comedy "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and also in an episode of the TV series "New York Undercover" (Fox, 1994-98). One of Leung's many fans was director Brett Ratner, who cast the actor in several projects, including the martial arts comedy "Rush Hour" in 1998, the Hannibal Lecter thriller "Red Dragon" in 2002, and the final installment of the "X-Men" trilogy four years later, "X-Men: The Last Stand," where he played the porcupine-skinned villain, Kid Omega.
Leung not only worked with Ratner, but a handful of other seminal filmmakers during his career. Steven Spielberg cast him as Syatyoo-Sama in "Artificial Intelligence: AI" (2001), and Spike Lee offered him parts in "Sucker Free City" (Showtime, 2004), and again in the police drama "Inside Man" (2006). Getting quite a few lessons on the job, Leung worked alongside major A-list talent in his films, including Tom Cruise in "Vanilla Sky" (2001), Robert Redford in "Spy Game" (2001) and Anthony Hopkins in "Red Dragon." The theater world was in awe of Leung's talent as well. In 2002, he made his Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie," where he got to showcase his vocal abilities. He appeared on the show's soundtrack, which was actually the second time he recorded songs for an album. Two years prior, Leung performed two songs for the soundtrack of "Keeping the Faith" (2000), a comedy from director and star Edward Norton.
The last season of HBO's superb series "The Sopranos" gave Leung the opportunity to be a part of one of the most acclaimed shows in TV history. In the episode titled "Remember When" that aired in April 2007, Leung played the mentally unstable protégé of Dominic Chianese's character Uncle Junior. The remarkable performance wowed fans of the show, including "Lost" producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, who knew they wanted to hire the actor the day after his "Sopranos" episode aired. Leung was added to the show's explosive fourth season as Miles Straume, a hotheaded ghost talker who was one of the key puzzle pieces needed to unlock the mysteries of the show's island. Self-serving, acerbic and viciously funny, fans found themselves rooting for Miles, despite the fact that he could be a class-A heel much of the time. Post-"Lost" work for Leung included guest turns on such notable series as the legal-potboiler "The Good Wife" (CBS, 2009-16).
Cast (Feature Film)
Had a minor role in quirky indie comedy "Welcome to the Dollhouse"
Made screen-acting debut as a shopkeeper in "Pictures of Baby Jane Doe"
Made television debut on an episode of "New York Undercover"
Cast in Brett Ratner's "Rush Hour"
Had a minor role in Cameron Crowe's "Vanilla Sky"
Appeared in Steven Spielberg's "A.I. Artificial Intelligence"
Re-teamed with Ratner for "Red Dragon"
Teamed up with Ratner yet again for "X-Men: The Last Stand"
Appeared in thriller "Inside Man"
Had breakout role as Miles Straume on J.J. Abrams' "Lost"
Had a recurring role on "Person of Interest"
Played Father Reggie on "Zero Hour"
Cast as Donald Cheng on the short-lived series "Deception"
Played Dr. Topher Zia on "The Night Shift"
Re-teamed with Abrams for a minor role in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
Cast as Karnak on "Marvel's Inhumans"