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SYFY WIRE obituary

Nathan Jung, actor known for 'Star Trek' and 'Big Trouble in Little China,' dies at 74

By Josh Weiss

Nathan Jung, an actor known for playing Ghengis Khan in a 1969 episode of the original Star Trek TV series, has unfortunately passed away at the age of 74. The news was confirmed to SYFY WIRE by Jung's close friend and official attorney, Timothy Tau, but no specific cause of death was given.

"Nathan was like the crazy uncle/big brother I never had (and served that role to a small group of us in the LA Asian American entertainment industry)," Tau wrote on Instagram. "He was also truly larger than life, in every sense of that phrase (both figuratively and literally — towering at maybe 6’4” above just about everybody). His heart was as big as his stature however, and he treated all of his 'juniors' like we were all his younger siblings or relatives, imparting brutally honest wisdom in his caustic, no-filter manner, speaking to us (and FB posting) in his cryptic, unique and highly creative 'secret code,' and demonstrating his comprehensive and encyclopedic knowledge of all the best Asian food spots in the Los Angeles area."

Jung's turn as Khan in Star Trek was only his second acting role after a 1963 guest spot in the long-running medical soap opera, General Hospital. The 1969 episode of Trek (co-written by series creator, Gene Roddenberry) was entitled "The Savage Curtain" and found the Enterprise crew joining forces with historical figures — like Ghengis Khan and Abraham Lincoln — in an experiment conducted by rock-like aliens who want to understand the concepts of good and evil.

Nathan Jung

Jung's career took off from there, spanning almost five decades with roles in Kung Fu, John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China, The Amazing Spider-Man (the late '70s TV show, not the movie), The A-TeamLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Sam Raimi's Darkman. The actor's final project came in 2016 when he narrated Nathan Jung v. Bruce Lee, a short documentary about his real-life encounter with Bruce Lee on the set of Here Comes the Brides in the late 1960s.

"This was during 1969. I was getting established as 'The Asian Villain,'" Jung (a native of Bakersfield, California) remarks in the documentary. "When I would go to wardrobe, they would make me wear the Coolie outfits with the fake pigtail, the silk cheongsam and I said, 'Man, is that racist.' It was just like, 'How can they make me wear something that I've never seen in my life?' Except when you go to Chinatown and you look in one of these shops and you see a mannequin with all this [attire]."

The actor is survived by his nephew, Keith Jung.