HONG KONG – Kenneth Tsang, a Hong Kong actor known for his tough supporting roles as cops, crime bosses and kung fu masters, and as a ubiquitous hair dye TV host, died Wednesday while in hotel quarantine in the city. He was 87.
His death was confirmed by his manager, Andrew Ewe. A cause of death was not immediately reported. Mr Tsang underwent mandatory quarantine as part of the standard requirement for travelers entering Hong Kong from abroad and had tested negative for the coronavirus a day before he was found dead, public broadcaster RTHK reported. Hong Kong requires most arrivals to spend at least a week in hotel quarantine.
Tsang has appeared in more than 200 Hong Kong and Hollywood films, often cast as a tough mob boss, a police officer or a military official, including a North Korean general in the 2002 James Bond film “Die Another Day”. also had several roles in John Woo movies, and appeared as an ex-con-turned-cab driver in 1986’s “A Better Tomorrow”; a police sergeant in ‘The Killer’, 1989; and a crime boss in ‘The Replacement Killers’, 1998.
His roles in Mr. Woo’s action movies led to opportunities in Hollywood, where he appeared in 2005’s “Memoirs of a Geisha” and the 2001 action comedy “Rush Hour 2”, in which he played a Hong Kong police captain alongside Jackie Chan and Chris. Tucker.
“Kenneth was a pioneer emerging from the golden age of Hong Kong cinema, and his intrepid talent helped break down the barriers for Asians in Hollywood,” said Mr. Ewe. “We stand on his shoulders and those who have gone before him.”
He is survived by his 28-year-old wife, Taiwanese actress Lisa Chiao Chiao, and a daughter from a previous marriage, Musette Tsang.
Kenneth Tsang Kong was born in Shanghai on October 5, 1934 and immigrated to Hong Kong in 1949. He studied architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, but said he felt his skills were underused in the construction industry in Hong Kong. He turned to film and television with the help of his younger sister, Jeanette Lin Chui, who was already an actor.
He later worked for some of the biggest studios during the film industry’s heyday in Hong Kong, including Shaw Brothers and its television subsidiary TVB. His breakthrough role in Hong Kong was in 1983 in the television version of the kung fu series ‘The Legend of Condor Heroes’.
mr. Tsang won a Best Supporting Actor award at the Hong Kong Film Awards for playing a crime family boss in the 2014 film ‘Overheard 3’.
But for many in Hong Kong, his most iconic role was in advertisements for Bigen hair dye that appeared on television every night for years. His catchphrase: “It can get darker gradually, and darker right away.”
He continued to act, appearing in commercials into his 80s. And he continued to be interested in architecture, working for the preservation of State Theater, a historic movie theater in the North Point neighborhood of Hong Kong with distinctive concrete arches on its roof.