Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times


Film: North side of the 7000 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born Makoto Iwamatsu on Dec. 10, 1933 in Kobe, Japan
Died July 21, 2006 of esophageal cancer in Somis, CA

In the early days of Mako's acting career, when most roles offered to Asian American actors were caricatures or stereotypes, he took just such a part and used it to open the doors of Hollywood and Broadway to others.

In the 1966 film "The Sand Pebbles," Mako played the Chinese character Po-han, who spoke pidgin English, called the white sailors in the movie "master" and treated them as such. But through the power of his acting, Mako transformed Po-han and compelled the audience to empathize and identify with the engine-room "coolie."

In an acting career that spanned more than four decades, Mako was a familiar face in film and television. His TV roles included appearances on "McHale's Navy," "I Spy," "MASH," "Quincy," and "Walker, Texas Ranger." In films, he was a Japanese admiral in "Pearl Harbor" and a Singaporean in "Seven Years in Tibet." He was Akiro the wizard in "Conan the Barbarian" and "Conan the Destroyer" with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But Mako had a larger view of the possibilities for Asian American actors.

As artistic director of East West Players, Mako trained generations of actors and playwrights. He staged classics such as Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," Chekhov's "Three Sisters," and lesser-known contemporary works. He devoted the entire 1981 season to works pertaining to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The series coincided with the opening of a national discussion on internment reparations. It was a risky endeavor, but Mako said it was crucial.

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    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1966 Best Supporting Actor The Sand Pebbles Nomination

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